A top Apple analyst has hinted at the possibility that the iPhone maker might come out with an augmented reality (AR) headset much sooner than expected.
TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has been covering Apply technologies for years, said the tech giant might begin manufacturing the long-rumored AR glasses as early as the fourth quarter of 2019. However, it might not end up as a stand-alone device.
Apple AR Glasses
Kuo said the first-generation of AR glasses will not have its own CPU or graphics processor. Instead, the device will have to rely on an iPhone for data processing.
"We think, due to technology limitations, that Apple will integrate its head-worn AR device and iPhone," Kuo noted. "The former is in charge of the display, and the latter is in charge of computing, Internet access, indoor navigation, and outdoor navigation."
Kuo admits that Apple AR glasses still need much more room to improve. However, he believes the headset will provide consumers with all-new user experience and help define the augmented reality user interface.
The veteran analyst also suggested that Apple's competitors might even end up copying the company's design if they were to release their own AR products in the future.
With Apple's AR glasses depending on the iPhone for processing, it might mean that the device will be lighter and easier to wear than other headsets. Most VR or AR headgears in the market, such as the HTC Vive or the Oculus Go, are bulkier and much more difficult to put on.
This might prove to be an issue for users since relying on an iPhone to power the AR glasses could quickly drain battery life. There is also the challenge of fitting the headset with built-in depth sensors and display.
Apple has yet to confirm Kuo's reports of such an AR device.
In November 2017, Apple revealed that an AR headset was indeed in the pipeline for the company. This headgear was slated for mass production by 2019 and shipping by 2020.
In October 2017, Apple chief Tim Cook talked to Vogue UK about what the tech company believed augmented reality would be about.
Cook acknowledged rumors about other tech companies developing their AR technology while Apple does not talk about its own devices. He said that augmented reality itself "doesn't exist to do that in a quality way."
The Apple chief clarified that the company does not care whether it is the first to come up with AR devices. It is more interested in creating the best experiences for people.
"Something that you would see out in the market any time soon would not be something that any of us would be satisfied with," Cook noted.
Bar-Zeev's Exit From Apple
Apple appears to be on track with its planned release schedule for the AR glasses, despite losing VR/AR engineer Avi Bar-Zeev in February. Bar-Zeev was a pioneer in augmented reality technology, who co-created Microsoft's HoloLens.
In his LinkedIn profile, Bar-Zeev said his responsibilities at Apple included leading the company's experience prototyping (XP) team and developing prototypes to prove concepts, explore, educate and build support. He also developed technical requirements and user stories for Apple's AR projects.