Apple met with suppliers who produce components required for augmented reality glasses at CES this week, according to a new report.
That tidbit of information was buried in a story published by Bloomberg on Friday. Reportedly, Apple representatives met with firms that manufacture the “nuts and bolts” required to make AR glasses a reality, but the publication gave no additional information about the meeting, what was discussed, or which companies Apple met with.
Along with Apple, Bloomberg noted that representatives from Google and Facebook also met with AR parts suppliers at CES.
Despite the lack of details about the meeting, Bloomberg’s report is yet another piece of evidence that corroborates previous rumors of an augmented reality platform under development at Cupertino. Those rumors have been swirling the tech industry for years, but the pace of reports has picked up in the last few months.
Last November, Bloomberg reported that Apple was working on a “breakthrough product” that could eventually leapfrog the iPhone as the company’s flagship device. That device would be a standalone augmented reality platform that would have its own display, processor and even a custom operating system internally dubbed “rOS” (for reality operating system).
At the time, Apple’s engineers were reportedly refining how a customer would interact with the AR glasses and its OS, exploring everything from hand gesture-based controls to touch panels and Siri voice activation. Presumably, the company has made progress on the UI and UX elements of the product by now.
Engineers were also testing prototypes of a wide variety of applications, including virtual meeting rooms and 360-degree video playback. When it launches, the AR headset could even have its own version of the App Store.
Apple’s rOS team, which also worked on the company’s ARKit platform for iOS, is also said to be working on several other projects under the internal code name of “T288.” But if the reports are true, then it’s worth venturing that an AR product could the most important project they’re developing.
But while Apple’s engineering teams are hard at work developing the software and operating system, Apple has also made recent modes to built out the hardware for its augmented reality device.
A supply chain report published by Nikkei in November suggested that Apple had tapped one of its metal casing suppliers, Catcher Technologies, to help it produce the frames for its AR device.
Also in November, another Apple supplier hinted that a breakthrough AR device was on the horizon. Quanta Computer, which assembles MacBooks and Apple Watches for Cupertino, announced that it was working on the optical technologies for an AR product.
Again, we’re not sure what suppliers Apple met with at CES this week, but the fact that they did suggests that the company is already laying the groundwork for the production of its AR glasses.
The timing of such a device hitting the market is still a bit hazy at this point. Sources familiar with Apple’s plans, market analysts, and supplier comments all seem to suggest a tentative launch date in 2019 or 2020.
Bloomberg reported that Apple would have the underlying technology ready by 2019, but added that the actual device would be unlikely to hit shelves until 2020. With recent reports, however, it’s certainly seeming like an Apple AR headset is on the way — and could hit shelves sooner than later.