When it comes to AR glasses, there’s one product that comes to mind: Google Glass. But while Google’s option was a little too sci-fi for consumers and was subsequently canned, Apple’s option is meant to look like an everyday pair of glasses, and as such, can be used with your glasses prescription (if you have one) While there’s not much detail about the dimensions of the glasses, Prosser saw a prototype with a plastic body, but he’s confident that the material will change before public release.
Crucially, the Apple Glass won’t have that weird glass block featured on Google Glass. Like the futuristic movies from the 90s all predicted, Apple’s AR glasses will feature displays within both lenses. These displays are apparently only visible to the wearer, meaning those around you can’t snoop on incoming messages when talking to you, and the privacy focus extends to the on-board sensors too.
Importantly, there’s no on-board camera like Google Glass, which became the focus of privacy issues within days of the Explorer Edition being launched, and will instead use a LiDAR sensor like that of the latest iPad Pro range to sense the world around it. It’s a high-tech bit of kit that can accurately detect depth by bouncing light at a subject and recording the amount of time it takes for the light to return, and is similar to the tech used in prototype self-driving cars.
Per Prosser’s report, Apple’s Glass team is using all the data generated by iPad Pro LiDAR scanners to improve the AR experience, and that’ll likely broaden later this year if Apple introduces a LiDAR scanner to the iPhone 12 Pro range as is currently rumoured. Along with the ability to properly place digital artifacts in the real world, it’s likely the LiDAR will also be used to detect front-facing gestures for input, along with touch gesture input on the glasses.
The only downside to the Glass displays, at the current stage of prototyping, is that they can’t work with tinted glasses, meaning you might not be able to get a pair of Apple SunGlasses at launch.
The glasses aren’t big or techy, so how are they powered? Prosser has said that it’ll feature a built-in battery (charged via a wireless charger, not when folded but extended and placed upside down) but when it comes to powering the Glass’s Starboard UI, it’ll all be done via your iPhone. That’s not a huge surprise, given the same thing happened with the first-gen Apple Watch, and it’s likely that this will change with subsequent versions of Apple Glass over the years. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here!
The ability to power the Glass via iPhone means Apple can keep the price down - way down, in fact. It’s easy to assume that futuristic tech like this will cost upwards of £1000/$1000, especially in a world where high-spec iPhones and iPads sell for the same prices as a MacBook Pro, but Prosser claims it’ll be surprisingly affordable at just $499 (likely £499 in the UK). That’s for the ‘base’ model, suggesting there might be more expensive variants - possibly with different materials, like the Apple Watch range - but it’s unknown whether there will be differences in features like the iPhone range.
Regardless, that’s an incredibly low price that’ll allow Apple to strengthen its position as one of the biggest providers of AR content on the market - after all, the App Store is already full of AR content that’d arguably suit a pair of glasses more than an iPhone or iPad.
Of course, the biggest question revolves around release: when are we likely to see the Apple Glass officially revealed? Prosser claims that Apple is keen to initially introduce the Apple Glass as a “One More Thing” announcement, possibly alongside the iPhone 12 and new Apple Watch at an event in October. The issue is that Apple wants members of the press to be present to see the new product in person - something that might not be possible by October depending on COVID restrictions - and thus, the surprise reveal might be pushed back to between March and June 2022.
Regardless of when it’s revealed, Prosser is certain that it won’t be made available at the same time. Like when the Apple Watch was first revealed, there will be a period of about 6-9 months before general release. That’s likely at the end of 2021 or Q1 2022 according to Prosser’s source, and that aligns with Ming-Chi Kuo’s prediction too.
That’s a huge leak for a product so far away from release, and is likely a devastating blow to Apple’s highly-secretive Glass team, but Prosser isn’t done yet. The analyst claims to have a video of the prototype Apple Glass in action, but it’s something that’ll have to be cleared by his lawyers beforehand. It’s a difficult life being an Apple product leaker!
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