Apple May Be Working on Simpler Smart Glasses

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The most pervasive and interesting series of Apple-related rumors over the past few years have been about Apple’s work on augmented reality “Apple Glasses.” While more recent reports have revealed that this dream may still be years away, Apple might be considering building a simpler set of smart glasses in the short term.

For a number of years, we heard reports that Apple was working on a product that seemed too good to be real: a set of regular everyday spectacles that would provide advanced augmented reality features, beaming information directly into your eyeballs to overlay maps, photos, and other information from your iPhone without requiring the bulk of a typical headset.

In late 2019, it seemed Apple’s plans were beginning to solidify, with reports that it was, in fact, working on two mixed-reality products: a full AR/VR headset code-named N301 and a set of AR glasses dubbed N421. Optimistic reports suggested the headset would appear in 2022, with the glasses arriving a year later.

Of course, we now know in hindsight that Apple’s headset ambitions culminated in the Vision Pro, which debuted a year later than originally anticipated and didn’t go on sale until earlier this month. Meanwhile, Apple’s AR glasses are nowhere in sight.

That’s probably not surprising, considering how much time and effort went into developing the Vision Pro over the years. It’s amusing that the rumor mill once believed the headset would launch in 2019.

By most reports, Apple shelved the glasses project entirely at some point so that it could put all of its focus on the Vision Pro. However, it seems that Apple never got much beyond the preliminary “architecture” stage in the first place — the point at which it’s merely researching the underlying technologies to see if something is even doable.

However, several sources have reported that Apple’s decision to put the glasses on the back burner wasn’t just about prioritizing the Vision Pro. The reality was that the technology simply doesn’t exist to pull off what Apple’s engineers have in mind — at least not yet.

After all, the Vision Pro was enough of a challenge, and it’s substantially bulkier than a pair of eyeglasses. Despite some really far-out rumors, there’s no way Apple will be able to pull off a full set of AR glasses anytime soon — at least not unless it has a Stargate buried in the depths of Apple Park.

Smart Glasses

In his latest Power On newsletter, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reveals that Apple’s engineers and designers may be setting their sights on something considerably less ambitious: a basic pair of smart glasses similar to what Amazon and Meta have done recently.

The glasses, meanwhile, are in an exploratory phase known as “technology investigation” within Apple’s hardware engineering division. The company also is looking into other ideas, such as equipping AirPods with cameras.

Mark Gurman

True augmented reality glasses are a moonshot project, but the technology exists to create smart glasses that can perform basic functions like taking videos, playing music, and even leveraging AI features to help identify real-world objects.

While Gurman notes that the initial versions of Amazon and Meta’s smart glasses didn’t do so well, the second-generation Echo Frames and Ray-Ban Smart Glasses have sold surprisingly well. “It seems that consumers are increasingly comfortable with using smart glasses for taking video, playing music, and giving voice commands to chatbots,” Gurman says, while adding that Meta is already rolling out features that will let the glasses “identify objects and answer questions based on what a wearer is looking at.”

Apple has reportedly had some internal discussions about creating glasses that could serve as an alternative to AirPods, providing audio capabilities along with more powerful batteries and visual and health sensors, plus even “broader AI capabilities.”

Such glasses could also act as a stepping stone toward the true dream of “Apple Glass,” getting folks more comfortable with the concept while still providing useful features such as cameras, speakers, and health sensors at a much more affordable price tag than the beefy and uncomfortable Vision Pro headset.

However, such a product is likely still a couple of years away from appearing, as it seems to be one of several ideas Apple is tossing around internally. Another possibility is that Apple may forgo full glasses in favor of simply adding cameras to its AirPods. This would provide many of the benefits of smart glasses without needing lenses and frames and could be appealing to Apple as it would be a more unique approach than simply following what its rivals are already doing.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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