Google Glass, following its failure to capture interest on the consumer market, found new life with the release of its Enterprise Edition, a retool of the augmented reality headset designed with commercial applications in mind. Microsoft’s HoloLens, while still in its preliminary stages, promises to bring augmented reality tech to the public at large, with the company actively pushing for developers to experiment and develop third party apps for the product. Not to be outshone by their competitors, it appears tech giant Apple is poised to release their own take on augmented reality eyewear.
It was recently revealed that Apple has a standing patent for a glasses-style piece of hardware designed to convey useful information to the user via an overlay. The patent actually originates with augmented reality firm Metaio, though Apple purchased the company back in May of 2015, thus giving them control of the company’s assets and intellectual properties. The tantalizing look at the project came after Patently Apple, a web community dedicated to discovering and speculating on Apple’s registered properties, discovered the patent.
Tim Cook, the current CEO of Apple, has publicly spoken several times of the company’s growing interest in augmented reality devices and software. The eyewear described in the patent is evidently designed to work in conjunction with the user’s smartphone, and given the sheer dominance of Apple’s Iphone in that market, there is huge potential for synergism. This is further supported by Apple’s ARKit project, a publicly available development framework designed to support Apple’s push to create augmented reality software for their line of smartphones and tablets. Thanks to the popularity and success of ARKit among both amateur and professional developers, experts estimate that Apple may have up to 400 million augmented reality-enabled devices by the end of 2018.
For Apple’s part, the technology innovator has remained cagey on the subject, with a spokesperson declining to release a comment regarding the hypothetical eyewear. However, when taken with the collection of other augmented reality-related patents registered by the company over the past few years, and their public acquisition of Metaio, a revolutionary startup that specializes in the field, it’s clear the company has something special in the works. With Google’s device primarily relegated to commercial use, and the exact intent and future of Microsoft’s HoloLens project vague, Apple is in a position to capture the consumer market for augmented reality devices. It’s unlikely Apple would squander such a lucrative opportunity.