We’ve been hearing rumours for over two years that Apple is working on creating its own augmented-reality glasses, and while it seems hard to believe — and perhaps even shocking — given recent reports that the project is still on track, it now seems like Apple may be throwing in the towel.
According to a report by DigiTimes, via MacRumors, Apple has “terminated” development of its AR glasses, despite every other recent rumour that suggested things were actually humming along just fine.
To be fair, DigiTimes doesn’t have the most reliable track record when it comes to reporting on Apple’s future plans, as it relies primarily on supply chain sources, so this report may not be entirely accurate, or it may be based simply on a shift in direction on Apple’s part or a delay in the project timeline — for example, if Apple had been originally ramping up for production sooner, but then had to push the product off by a year or two, it may start cancelling orders in its supply chain, which could easily lead DigiTimes to assume that it had been cancelled.
Little other information is available from the DigiTimes report as of yet — it’s only appeared in the site’s paywalled “Before Going to Press” section — so it’s unclear what the news of the project’s termination is based on, but such a sudden cancellation wouldn’t be entirely unprecedented for Apple — the company infamously cancelled its AirPower wireless charger earlier this year, a year after actually standing up on stage in late 2017 and announcing to the world that it was going to be arriving the following year.
By contrast, Apple hasn’t publicly said anything about its AR glasses — all of the information we have has been gleaned from a long trail of various reports — so if Apple actually hit a roadblock in actually bringing its vision to market, we have no doubt that it wouldn’t hesitate to kill it. Apple often has very broad ambitions — as evidenced by the original iPhone — and doesn’t release mediocre, half-baked products.
The Story of Apple’s Glasses
Still, there’s been a long road of reports from reliable sources connected to Apple and it’s supply chain that have made it clear that Apple has been actively working on something in the realm of an augmented reality or virtual reality headset.
We actually first heard reports of Apple working on digital AR “spectacles” back in early 2017 from Bloomberg, which were originally expected to include Snapchat-like features. Back then, some had even suggested that they could be released that year, although what we actually saw was Apple’s debut of iPhone-enabled augmented reality with ARKit in iOS 11. However, even before that, however, Apple’s support staff let it slip that the company was working on something.
Still, that big push by Apple into AR only fuelled more speculation and reports that Apple was looking to do something even bigger than just do through-iPhone-lens AR, and by November of 2017, there were multiple reports that Apple was working on its first AR headset, and that it could arrive by 2019.
By the following year, the rumours had gained even more steam, with additional reports suggesting that the company was already developing an operating system for the new glasses, dubbed “rOS”, that it would include 8K displays, and that the first version would still be tethered to an iPhone, although likely wirelessly.
These reports were also accompanied by several patents describing how such a pair of glasses would work, including augmented reality and “mixed reality” applications, along with secretive meetings with AR experts, and a hiring spree of new employees in AR-related fields, including a new AR marketing chief and a leading virtual reality architect.
So there’s been a ton of evidence that Apple has been working on Apple Glasses, and if it’s suddenly decided to cancel the whole thing, it’s definitely not from a lack of trying. However, we really don’t think that Apple is going to give up this easily; while it’s possible that Apple’s first attempt at AR glasses hasn’t worked out the way the company had hoped, it likely simply means a return to the drawing board. Unlike the ill-fated AirPower, where Apple was basically trying to avoid the laws of physics, augmented reality glasses have been done before by other companies, and while many have failed, there’s every reason to believe that, given enough time and resources, Apple can come up with something that will blow us away.