More evidence points to Apple building AR glasses
We had strong indications that Apple was investing in new screen technology, but now we have a better idea what it’s going to be used for.
A report suggests that Apple’s microLED tech — a new type of display that’s similar to OLED screens but is brighter and consumes less energy — won’t just be something for Apple Watches and iPhones. The next-gen screen technology will also serve as the display for a new kind of product: Apple-made augmented-reality glasses, at least according to a report from DigiTimes.
Apple has chosen Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) as its manufacturing partner for the displays, the report says. Interestingly, it also says Apple will make both small and large versions of the displays, the smaller ones for the Apple Watch and AR glasses, and the larger ones for some unnamed product “much larger” than MacBooks.
That could mean microLED-sporting iMacs, monitors, or even some kind of monster iPad. Though it could also just mean Apple is experimenting with different kinds of prototypes while it readies its new generation of computers.
For the small displays, Apple is reportedly making 1.4- and 1.3-inch sizes for a future Apple Watch (which would actually be slightly smaller screens than the current models), and 0.8- and 0.7-inch screens for the so-far-mythical Apple AR glasses. The DigiTimes analyst, Luke Lin, says the small panels may enter mass production in late 2018 or 2019, whereas the larger ones are scheduled for 2019 — also qualified with a “may.”
Which is to say don’t hold your breath for Apple AR glasses or a microLED-powered iMac. We might see those products in late 2019 at the earliest, but they also may not come at all.
While Apple has thrown tremendous support into AR over the last year with its ARKit development platform and the advanced camera system in the iPhone X, it’s all been based on tools for iPhone and iPad. Augmented-reality glasses do make sense for some specific applications, particularly in the enterprise, Apple designs and creates products for the mass market. Tim Cook himself once remarked that glasses, as a tech wearable category, didn’t make a lot of sense.
Then again, that was years ago, and companies like Magic Leap and even Facebook are getting the public used to the idea of headgear that can “mix” realities. If that train keeps running, you can bet Apple will get on board at some point.