Taiwanese news publication DigiTimes recently reported that Apple canceled its recent rumor about a hardware project based on AR technology.
The report mentions the problems that make the device too easy, as well as its high cost of production. But is it really? And if so, what exactly has Apple canceled?
What did Apple work on?
At the end of 2017, Bloomberg reported that the company is working on AR-glasses, which are prepared for release in 2020. The company did not provide any details about the product, except that the project name was T288 and that it could be released by 2020.
That same year, Apple acquired Akonia Holographics. Akonia was working on a new optics for AR based on holography. They called this approach “HoloMirror“ and claimed that it has a “significantly higher” field of view with lower production costs.
CNET announced last year that the T288 will be equipped with two 8K displays and will also be VR capable. Presumably, this would have been achieved with a video passport. The report stated that the headset will be wireless, powered by an external “battery” with a 5-nm processor.
In 2016, Microsoft launched HoloLens, the first real 6DOF AR headset available for purchase. The main architect of the project was Avi Bar Zeev, with his contribution, including “building the very first AR prototypes, demos and UX concepts”. He left Microsoft in 2012 and moved to Amazon.
Bar Zeev was also a co-founder of Keyhole, which was Google Earth. In the 90s, he worked on a virtual reality for DisneyQuest, including a trip on the Aladdin carpet.
In 2016, Bar Zeev moved to Apple, probably to work on the AR hardware project. The Linkedin page on his behalf says that he headed the “experience prototyping team (XP) for new projects”.
However, he left Apple earlier this year.
More than one project?
CNET’s 8K headset report with VR and AR capabilities doesn’t fit the idea of the AR light pair.
Design goals for such a product will be radically different from mixed reality headsets with VR and AR capabilities. A T288, as described in the CNET report, would probably be a very expensive and heavy device. Oculus technical director John Carmack recently said that creating a VR headset “with every hardware function that anyone asked for” will be “heavy and very expensive, so much so that consumers don’t buy it.”
ARKit is already built into every iPhone released since 2015, and every iPad since 2017. It is estimated that this amounts to up to 500 million devices. The platform has already attracted hundreds of AR developers, including such major names as IKEA, Edmunds and LEGO. The SDK is even used in Pokémon Go to more realistically place digital creatures in a real location.
Since Apple fully controls iOS hardware and software, the company can use the iPhone to power such glasses, as described in a recent extensive patent application.
If Apple uses the iPhone to power AR-glasses, adding hardware support to an existing ARKit application could potentially be trivial or even automatic. But some people doubt Apple’s intensive investment in ARKit and how much it pushes developers to work on technology.
Although we did not see any signs that Apple will compete with Facebook in VR space in the near future, the two companies are likely to compete fiercely when it comes to AR-points. If Google also enters the ring, and Microsoft changes its enterprise-first strategy, the 2020s may see the battle of four giants for control over the era that will begin after smartphones.
Although Apple has been canceling projects all the time, it’s likely that there are parallel developments in other augmented and mixed reality projects.
Stay with VRcue to keep up with the latest news on Apple’s VR and AR projects.