Will Apple introduce AR glasses this month?

It's not clear yet whether Apple actually plans to hold an event this month to unveil new hardware. If it does, one surprise announcement could include augmented reality glasses.

Apple, iOS, macOS, voice, Voice Control, AR, ARKit, Apple glasses

Apple may or may not hold an October Apple event – where it may or may not introduce its long-in-development augmented reality (AR) glasses. That's the current sense of the company's plans based on new claims from TF Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

First there’s the rumor…

 Kuo now says Apple will ship its long-awaited AR glasses during the second quarter of 2020; his report does seem to cast a little shade over expectations of another Apple event this month. That’s because he also says we shouldn’t expect new iPad Pros until Q1 2020, when Kuo also expects us to see some form of replacement for the iPhone SE.

The iPads may feature the same 3D time-of-flight sensor introduced with the iPhone 11, according to Kuo.

There has been speculation Apple might introduce new Macs this year, in part because the company has promised to release the Mac Pro this fall and, in part, because of a previous claim (again from Kuo) that the company intends to launch a 16-in. MacBook Pro.

Kuo’s latest note doesn’t mention that product specifically, but does present a timetable that suggests many of the new Macs (which will abandon Apple’s failed butterfly keyboard) won’t appear until next year.

Expectations in flux

New AirPods, Apple TV+ and a potential Apple TV upgrade might not be enough on their own to justify an October Apple event, said CNBC Technology Editor Steve Kovach. But Joe Rossignol at MacRumors disagrees.

“If the Apple Headset ships in the second quarter of 2020, as Kuo says, there is a good chance it could be announced at an October event. Apple has a track record of months-early announcements for new product categories, including the original iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, HomePod…,” he wrote in a Tweet.

Setting the scene

It is worth noting Ming-Chi Kuo has speculated on a 2020 launch for Apple’s AR glasses in the past. Last March, he predicted these would require an iPhone to handle the content streaming, processing and rendering of content for the glasses, though the glasses would connect wirelessly.

Apple has been working on AR glasses for years and now holds numerous foundational patents, technologies and services to support the business case for them:

  • Apple Arcade for games.
  • Appe TV+ for television/movies.
  • Apple Music for music.
  • Look Around in Maps – which relates well to a previous Apple patent.

These consumer-level implementations will be supported by third-party solutions, particularly around health, security and engineering.

The company has also built an ecosystem to support third-party AR development. And it continues to search for strategic investments to help make ARKit more powerful and compelling.

Now in its third iteration, ARKit has been described as the “future of app creation across all Apple platforms,” by Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president for software engineering.

Wait, the ‘future of Apple platforms’?

Think about user interfaces and Apple glasses.

The idea, at least at first, will be to market these devices as an iPhone accessory, like an Apple Watch (which has become more independent over time.) Consumers will be interested in exploring the mixed-reality usage cases opened up with the introduction of these new products, but enterprises must consider how these systems can be used in business.

In terms of what you can do with them, there are already clear implications for retail, design, architecture, agriculture, distribution, logistics, training and the medical industry.

That’s quite a reach and suggests there may also be implications for other businesses.

But what these glasses also usher in is a change in how user interfaces work. Apple’s Voice Control for iOS and Mac shows how Apple thinks about this. You can now control Pixelmator, Photos or Photoshop using only your voice on a Mac, iPad or iPhone.

Soon you’ll be able to do the same thing through the glasses that you wear.

(I consider it likely voice will be supplemented by movement, gesture and limited physical touch).

Innovative systems like Tap also show how we might interact with these things, while Apple’s Catalyst frameworks suggest it will be possible to use the same app on glasses as we do on an iPhone, iPad or Mac.

So to sum up where we are: We don’t know if Apple will hold a special event this month. I still see it as plausible, given the importance of Apple TV+ and the Mac Pro.

And if it does, the company might stress the importance of its voice first UI. But even if it doesn't, every business owner (in almost every industry) should consider how this user interface migration will impact their business and change their customers' journeys.

I mean, look at the profound impact multitouch had on your industry. Or the GUI, come to think of it.

It's that big.

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Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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