Apple may be lagging behind the folding smartphone game but it's reportedly working on a new kind of smart wearable that could revolutionize how we see the world.
Are you familiar with augmented reality technology? It's a way to superimpose computer-generated images in the real world, delivering one-of-a-kind experiences. Remember how Iron Man, the Terminator or Robocop saw their world through their digitally augmented eyes? Yep, that's how cool and useful this technology could be.
Google may have failed spectacularly with its Google Glass experiment but it looks like Apple may have a better chance of delivering smart glasses that the masses will accept. Read on and learn what Apple might have in store for us. And it's coming sooner than you think.
Apple's Smart Glasses might arrive earlier than expected
Is Apple's next smart wearable line almost here? The latest reports are indicating that the iPhone maker's rumored smart glasses may arrive as early as the middle of 2020.
According to an investor note from the ever-reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the mass production of Apple's augmented reality headset might start in the fourth quarter of 2019, although it could be pushed back to the second quarter of 2020.
With this manufacturing time frame, it is speculated that the glasses may arrive within 2020, a year earlier than the late 2021 release date suggested by other reports. However, Kuo admits that this is a somewhat optimistic timeline and that we should all take these rumors with a grain of salt.
It's more than an 'Apple Watch for your eyes'
Kuo said that the first generation of Apple's augmented reality smart glasses will only act as an extended display, with all the processing done by a connected iPhone. Similar to the first-generation Apple Watch, this means that the iPhone will do all the heavy lifting, including graphics rendering, data connections and location services.
However, unlike the Apple Watch which is connected via Bluetooth, it is still unknown if this accessory will be connected wirelessly via close-range communications or with a cable.
With all the major functions offloaded to an iPhone, Apple's smart glasses can be extremely light and unobtrusive. We all know how clunky and uncomfortable the current crop of mobile VR and AR headsets can be (think Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear) so this can potentially be a game-changing design direction.
A 2017 report from Bloomberg also suggested that Apple's smart glasses will run on a new chip and its own operating system internally called "rOS," short for "Reality Operating System."
The Bloomberg report also mentioned that Apple is exploring various ways for users to control the smart glasses, including Siri voice activation, touch panels and head gestures.
A number of augmented reality apps for rOS are said to be already in the works including virtual meeting rooms, "360-degree video playback" plus its own dedicated App Store.
All of this real-time video processing and data will certainly require an extremely fast connection, something that current Bluetooth connections will struggle to deliver.
This is why some are speculating that, together with 5G cellular connections, Apple's smart glasses might use the new WiGig standard for short-range communications instead.
WiGig is an ultra-fast short-range Wi-Fi standard that uses the higher bandwidth 60GHz spectrum. The higher bandwidth and lower congestion of 60 GHz spectrum allow for lower latency and real-time data transfers critical to VR, gaming and display mirroring technologies. Note: The theoretical speed of WiGi is from 8 Gbps and beyond.
Using WiGig has its own share of disadvantages, though. This means only future WiGig-compatible iPhone models will work wirelessly with Apple's smart glasses and older iPhones may need an adapter or yet another dongle to make them work.
Other rumors are also saying that Apple's smart glasses might use ultra-high resolution displays - a whopping 8K for each eye. With this kind of video data, a robust WiGig connection, not to mention an extremely powerful mobile processor, is certainly a must. Honestly, I think the chances of this happening are extremely low since this is still beyond what current consumer technology is capable of.
Is augmented reality the future?
With foldable displays and bendable phones starting to become mainstream, is augmented reality the other next big thing?
Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly said in 2016 that augmented reality will take some time to get right but thinks that it is "profound." In 2017, Apple's chief design officer Jony Ive also said that Apple has certain ideas about augmented reality and they are just "waiting for the technology to catch up."
Remember, Apple is not the only tech giant who's making strides in augmented reality. For example, Microsoft just unveiled its HoloLens 2 during the recently concluded MWC 2019, showing off its vision for its Mixed Reality technology.
But what do you think? Are Apple's smart glasses the next big thing in technology and will you even consider wearing them? Drop us a comment!
Bonus podcast: So far this year, the foldable smartphone is generating a ton of excitement. And why not? A radical new phone design hasn’t appeared in years. In this free Consumer Tech Update podcast, Kim looks at how smartphone manufacturers are racing to bring foldable phones to the market even though it's untested technology.
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