Apple’s AR glasses have been rumoured for a number of years, but a flurry of recent leaks and rumours suggest things could be moving along nicely behind closed doors at Apple HQ.
Jon Prosser, who rocketed to internet fame in 2020 with a flurry of predictions of which many were accurate, took to YouTube to detail everything he knows about the upcoming glasses.
In a video report, Prosser provides key details about what he claims will be called Apple Glass, including main features, design elements, pricing and release information.
It’s a treasure trove of information for Apple fans, and combined with other recent rumours - including whispers of a 2022 release from display manufacturers - we break down all you need to know about Apple's high-end AR glasses, tentatively dubbed Apple Glass.
Apple Glass design rumours
When it comes to AR glasses, there’s one product that comes to mind: Google Glass. But while Google’s option was a little too sci-fi for consumers and was subsequently canned, Prosser claims Apple’s option is meant to look like an everyday pair of glasses, and as such, can be used with your glasses prescription (if you have one).
While there’s not much detail about the dimensions of the glasses, Prosser saw a prototype with a plastic body, but he’s confident that the material will change before public release.
Crucially, the Apple Glass won’t have that weird glass block featured on Google Glass, according to Prosser. Like the futuristic movies from the 90s all predicted, Apple’s AR glasses will feature displays within both lenses. These displays are apparently only visible to the wearer, meaning those around you can’t snoop on incoming messages when talking to you.
According to Japanese publication Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun, it's Sony that has been tasked with supplying Apple with OLED microdisplays for the upcoming AR glasses. Per FRAMOS, a supplier of embedded vision technologies, Sony's OLED microdisplays are small but mighty, offering ultra-fast response rates, a wide colour gamut and low reflectance, making them ideal for use in AR glasses.
Importantly, Prosser claims there’s no onboard camera like Google Glass, which became the focus of privacy issues within days of the Explorer Edition being launched, and will instead use a LiDAR sensor like that of the latest iPhone and iPad Pro ranges to sense the world around it. It’s a high-tech bit of kit that can accurately detect depth by bouncing light at a subject and recording the amount of time it takes for the light to return, and is similar to the tech used in prototype self-driving cars. We explain what LiDAR is and what it does on the iPhone separately for those interested.
Per Prosser’s report, Apple’s Glass team is using all the data generated by iPad Pro LiDAR scanners to improve the AR experience and should broaden now the iPhone 12 Pro also has the tech.
Along with the ability to properly place digital artefacts in the real world, it’s likely the LiDAR will also be used to detect front-facing gestures for input, along with touch gesture input on the glasses.
The only downside to the Glass displays, at the current stage of prototyping, is that they can’t work with tinted glasses, meaning you might not be able to get a pair of Apple SunGlasses at launch.
The glasses aren’t big or techy, so how are they powered? Prosser has said that it’ll feature a built-in battery (charged via a wireless charger, not when folded but extended and placed upside down) but when it comes to powering the Glass’s Starboard UI, it’ll all be done via your iPhone.
That’s not a huge surprise, given the same thing happened with the first-gen Apple Watch, and it’s likely that this will change with subsequent versions of Apple Glass over the years. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here!
That's backed up by a Bloomberg report claiming that the upcoming AR glasses will run "rOS", or Reality Operating System, based on Apple's iOS system for iPhones, and also suggests that the iPhone will do most of the legwork despite allegedly featuring an Apple Watch-esque SoC.
Apple Glass pricing rumours
The ability to power the Glass via iPhone means Apple can keep the price down - way down, in fact. It’s easy to assume that futuristic tech like this will cost upwards of £1000/$1000, especially in a world where high-spec iPhones and iPads sell for the same prices as a MacBook Pro, but Prosser claims it’ll be surprisingly affordable at just $499 (likely £499 in the UK).
That’s for the ‘base’ model, suggesting there might be more expensive variants - possibly with different materials, like the Apple Watch range - but it’s unknown whether there will be differences in features like the iPhone range.
Regardless, that’s an incredibly low price that’ll allow Apple to strengthen its position as one of the biggest providers of AR content on the market - after all, the App Store is already full of AR content that’d arguably suit a pair of glasses more than an iPhone or iPad.
However, that does fly in the face of rumours about the precursor to Apple Glass, Apple's yet-unnamed AR/VR headset, which Bloomberg claims will be a “pricey, niche” option.
Apple Glass release date rumours
Of course, the biggest question revolves around release: when are we likely to see the Apple Glass officially revealed? Prosser claimed that Apple was keen to initially introduce the Apple Glass as a “One More Thing” announcement alongside the iPhone 12 in October 2020, but as we now know, that didn't happen.
According to Prosser, the issue is that Apple wants members of the press to be present to see the new product in person - something that wasn't possible in October due to COVID restrictions - and thus, the surprise reveal might be pushed back to between March and June 2021.
Regardless of when it’s revealed, Prosser is certain that it won’t be made available at the same time. Like when the Apple Watch was first revealed, there will be a period of about 6-9 months before general release. That’s likely at the end of 2021 or Q1 2022 according to Prosser’s source, and that aligns with Ming-Chi Kuo’s prediction too.
That release was backed up by Ross Young, suggesting that the Apple Glasses will arrive in the first half of 2022 and will use Sony 'microOLED' technology in a 0.5in display with a 1280x960 resolution.
We have heard from multiple sources that Apple is pursuing AR/VR glasses using Sony microOLEDs. 0.5", 1280x960 resolution, 1H'22 intro. Thoughts?— Ross Young (@DSCCRoss) October 22, 2020
However, it's worth noting that Bloomberg sources suggest the glasses are still in the very early stages of development and have been described as being "several years away" despite Apple's initial plan to release the AR glasses as soon as 2023.