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Always one to play the long game, it looks like Apple’s augmented reality ambitions are even bigger than most of us ever dreamed of, with a new report suggesting that we could see augmented reality contact lenses by the end of this decade.
In a research note shared with MacRumors, renowned Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo laid out a revised timeline for when he thinks Apple’s current augmented reality products will see the light of day, while also predicting that Apple plans to eventually parlay that work into the ultimate “invisible computing” AR technology — contact lenses.
It may sound far out, but Apple wouldn’t be the first company working on adding technology to contact lenses. Back in 2014, Google announced that it’s “Google X lab” had been working for several years on adding blood glucose monitoring capabilities to “smart” contact lenses, and while the project was ultimately shelved in 2018 due to the measurements not being consistently reliable, it demonstrated exactly how much thought has been put into creating technology that melds more seamlessly into our daily existence.
In fact, Apple’s approach isn’t even a new idea — a startup called Mojo Vision has apparently already developed a very preliminary prototype of an AR contact lens that it showed off last year as a mockup, but the company still has a lot of work ahead and many things that it needs to figure out before it has a finished and marketable product.
After all, it’s one thing to embed a display inside a contact lens — that’s relatively easy with today’s technology. The hard part, however, is how to power the display and get information to it and from it. Apple Glasses are ambitious enough in terms of the massive levels of miniaturization required, but as of now trying to cram CPUs, wireless transceivers, and batteries into a contact lens most definitely seems like the stuff of futuristic sci-fi.
While Apple is doing everything it can to make its AR Headset a fully standalone device — no matter how much it costs to do so — Kuo acknowledges that AR contact lenses are “unlikely to have independent computing power and storage,” which means that they’d almost certainly be driven by an iPhone, Apple Watch, or other device, but even that’s a stretch based on today’s technology.
Kuo also acknowledges that there’s “no visibility” for this product, and while the veteran analyst rarely engages in idle speculation, this one is more of a moonshot than most of his predictions. Most likely Kuo is reading the market and supply chain and making an educated guess based on his intimate knowledge of Apple that this is where the company will eventually end up.
Even if it’s not based on any solid evidence from Apple or other industry sources, however, it’s a prediction that does make a lot of sense. We already know that Apple is working on an AR/VR headset that could come as soon as next year, and AR glasses that are due soon after, so the next logical step would certainly be to take that into the arena of contact lenses, and if there’s a way to get it done, there’s no doubt that Apple has the resources to find it and pull it off.
[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.]