Is Apple about to jump into the world of augmented reality? That’s the word according to veteran tech journalist Robert Scoble, who claims that the Cupertino tech giant is working with German lens specialist Carl Zeiss, and that a pair of AR/mixed reality smart glasses will arrive in 2017.
Writing on his Facebook page, Scoble stated: “A Zeiss employee confirmed the rumors that Apple and Carl Zeiss AG are working on a light pair of augmented reality/mixed reality glasses that may be announced this year. (I thought it was next year but now that I saw this I believe it will happen this year).”
This isn’t the first time that Scoble has been vocal on Apple’s AR plans. At WebSummit, back in November, he said: “Tim Cook and Steve Jobs, I believe, sat down and talked about the future of TV and in 11 months they are going to show you the future of TV – because they are building the PrimeSense sensor right into the television, into the iPad and into the iPhone… so you can do this kind of mixed reality.
“I interviewed the guy who runs PrimeSense and they have 600 engineers in Israel working on just the 3D sensor. What’s coming in 11 months is going to blow even my mind.”
PrimeSense is a 3D sensing company, who created the tech for the original Xbox Kinect, which was acquired by Apple in 2013.
Augmented reality is different to virtual reality. The latter, which the likes of HTC, Oculus and Sony are making big waves in with their VR headsets, is a fully immersive digital world whereas augmented (or mixed reality) overlays digital aspects over the real world.
It was AR that Google’s Glass project used and it’s now a huge buzz area in tech thanks to the likes of Microsoft’s Hololens and the mysterious Magic Leap startup.
If Apple does announce an AR device in 2017 it would be a huge shock. However, Tim Cook, the company’s CEO, has praised AR in the past, calling it a “core technology”. He has stated that AR will be a bigger business in the long term than VR.
“There’s virtual reality and there’s augmented reality – both of these are incredibly interesting,” Cook told Good Morning America in September. “But my own view is that augmented reality is the larger of the two, probably by far.”
“Virtual reality sort of encloses and immerses the person into an experience that can be really cool,” he said, “but probably has a lower commercial interest over time. Less people will be interested in that.”
In the last few months there has been numerous reports of Apple employing AR and VR specialists, including former Magic Leap employee Zeyu Li and ex-Oculus research scientist Yury Petrov.
Doug Bowman also joined Apple in 2015, moving from his post as director of its centre for human interaction at Virginia Tech. He’d previously won a $100,000 grant from Microsoft to work on a mixed reality data study centred around its HoloLens holographic headset.
So while Scoble’s claims might not be concrete evidence, it’s obvious that Apple is cooking up something new in its labs.
This article was written by Paul Lamkin from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.