Apple Increasing Focus on Augmented Reality Eyewear, Any Launch Still Over a Year Away

Apple is "stepping up" its augmented reality eyewear efforts, with an eventual goal of releasing a consumer-facing product, according to the Financial Times.

Apple first began to build a team to examine the feasibility of a head-worn device more than a year ago. Now, it is devoting more resources to its augmented-reality efforts, with the aim of taking it from a science project towards a consumer product, according to people familiar with the company’s plans.

Don't expect to be wearing a pair of Apple-branded augmented reality glasses in the near future, however, as the report said any potential launch remains at least a year away, or "perhaps much longer."

Bloomberg was first to report that Apple is exploring digital glasses that would connect wirelessly to iPhones and "show images and other information in the wearer's field of vision." The report said the digital glasses, which may use augmented reality, would not launch until 2018 at the earliest.

One person who expects a sooner launch is tech evangelist Robert Scoble, who insists that Apple is working on a pair of "mixed reality" glasses that will debut alongside the 2017 iPhone lineup, according to his sources. He also said Apple and German company Carl Zeiss are working together on augmented reality optics.

Scoble's information has yet to be corroborated by other sources, so 2018 or later remains a more likely timeline at this point.

While a standalone product appears to remain far off, most analysts agree that Apple will start incorporating AR-related features into its existing products in the near future. A future iPhone camera, for example, could be able to detect faces and apply Snapchat-like filters using augmented reality.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has shown significant interest in augmented reality over the past few years, calling the technology everything from "profound" to a "big idea like the smartphone" in recent interviews. He also believes that augmented reality is essentially more important than virtual reality.

Last year, Cook said that Apple continues to "invest a lot" in augmented reality, and the company has filed several patents related to the technology over the past decade, confirming its interest in the field. However, Apple routinely tests new products and technologies that are never publicly released.

Apple's augmented reality efforts have been preceded by the Microsoft HoloLens, a cordless, self-contained Windows 10 holographic headset that mixes virtual reality with augmented reality. Microsoft began shipping the HoloLens Development Edition in March 2016 for $3,000 in the United States and Canada.

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