Apple AR glasses: News and rumors about ‘Project Mirrorshades’

Apple AR glasses: News and rumors about ‘Project Mirrorshades’

Why it matters to you

Apple’s Project Mirrorshades will try to do what Google Glass couldn’t: make augmented reality glasses stylish.

Apple talked about ARKit, a new augmented reality platform, at its annual Worldwide Developer Conference earlier this year, but the iPhone maker might have far more interesting tech plans up its sleeves. According to three alleged Foxconn employees who published details about upcoming Apple products recently, the Cupertino company’s skunkworks has been working on Project Mirrorshades, its term for Google Glass-like AR glasses with motion detectors, transparent displays, and integrated touch panels. Apple AR glasses, it would seem.

Here’s everything we know so far.

Specs

According to the alleged employees, Apple’s prototypical AR glasses are constructed from Kopin NED Acetate frames, “polarized or prescription [lenses],” and Zeiss optics. Tiny projectors beam images onto a 428 × 240 glass prism in front of the lenses, and DC motors produce sound by vibrating through the small bones of the user’s ears, like Google Glass.

Project Mirrorshades allegedly has a touch-sensitive strip on the arm that allows users to accept calls and control the volume, but it’s said that motion is the primary means of navigation. A combination magnetometer and light sensor detects when a wearer shakes his or her head, and responds accordingly — a Tinder app user, for example, could shake her head for no, or nod for yes.

When it comes to the materials in Mirrorshades, Apple has reportedly spared no expense. The frames are rumored to be “cellulose acetate injection mold frames [in] an aluminum mold” with a P3 frame design, and come in two sizes: men’s and women’s. At least three color options are in the works, including crystal, black, and champagne, in addition to seasonal updates.

The alleged Foxconn employees note that the material cost for the glasses would total roughly $150, and that Apple would likely price them around $600. But they caution that the fate of Mirrorshades was uncertain because of its “expensive” design and difficult-to-produce batteries.

Patents

Apple files and is awarded numerous patents in any given year, most of which amount to little or nothing. But sifting back through the company’s back catalog may reveal tidbits of information about Apple AR glasses. For example, MacRumors notes a 2008 patent for a video system contained within what looks like ski goggles. Within them, two video modules allow for 3D vision; the patent was for an entertainment device, but it could be used for augmented reality as well. Drawings in the patent application also show the headset connecting to an iPod with a scroll wheel, which is good for a chuckle.

iPhone enabled AR?

One other possibility for Apple’s rumored augmented reality headset, is leveraging the next iPhone to enable it. With an expected resolution of 1,125 × 2,436 pixels for the next iPhone’s display (as per Verge), the phone itself could act as the display for a headset of sorts.

Such a design would technically be considered more of a virtual reality headset than an augmented one, as the screen itself would be the user’s viewpoint to the virtual world. But it’s possible that using the phone’s camera as a pass-through to the real world could offer augmented reality functions, too.

Generating a true stereoscopic 3D view of the world for users would require two cameras, so this doesn’t seem the most likely outcome, but it certainly remains a possibility that the next iPhone could be used in some form of reality-bending headset.

Name and release date

Apple has been rumored to be working on augmented reality hardware for some time. Over the past three years, it has acquired companies with an expertise in AR, 3D mapping, and computer vision — including the 2013 purchase of PrimeSense, which pioneered the depth-tracking technology behind the Kinect, Metaio and Flyby.

In September 2016, Apple hired two VR veterans from Oculus VR and Magic Leap, companies with a pedigree in augmented reality and virtual reality technologies. And in November 2016, Bloomberg reported that Apple was working on a pair of glasses that blended an augmented reality display with a standard pair of glasses. It was said to have begun talks with potential suppliers for components like near-eye displays, with the goal of developing a pair of glasses that could connect wirelessly to an iPhone and overlay information on the wearer’s field of vision.

The earliest time frame for release was said to be 2018.

“AR can be really great,” Tim Cook said when asked about Pokémon Go during an earnings call in 2016. “We have been and continue to invest a lot in this. We are high on AR for the long run, we think there’s great things for customers and a great commercial opportunity.”

Updated: Added information on rumored next iPhone screen resolution.

Published at Tue, 22 Aug 2017 13:35:23 +0000

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