Apple’s iPhones still generate a lot of buzz… and a lot of revenue. But it’s been a decade since Apple launched the original iPhone, and the company is reportedly trying to figure out what the next big thing is.
While Apple continues to be a major player in the tablet space, there are signs that the market for tablets is stagnating. It’s unclear if smartwatches will ever really take off. And then there’s virtual reality and augmented reality.
Google, Microsoft, Sony, and PC makers have all launched virtual reality hardware and/or software in the past few years. But Apple has yet to really get into the space. Bloomberg reports that could change… in a few years.
According to Bloomberg’s sources, Apple is working on an augmented reality headset that could hit the streets in 2020.
It sounds like Apple is thinking more Microsoft HoloLens and less Google Cardboard or Daydream. The device is expected to be a standalone product with its own processor, display, and operating system. And instead of immersing you in virtual worlds like most of today’s VR headsets, the upcoming device is said to offer an augmented reality experience that superimposes digital content on the physical environment you can see through the screen.
Apple is already taking its first steps into the augmented reality space. The latest versions of iOS include an ARKit SDK that allows software developers to create apps and games that blend the physical and digital on an iPhone’s screen by leveraging the phone’s camera, processing power, and software.
The iPhone X also introduced a new “TrueDepth” camera which offers more precise 3D depth sensing technology.
But a headset would provide a more immersive experience.
What remains to be seen is whether Apple can make a product that’s affordable, comfortable to wear, and capable of offering long battery life and decent performance. Oh… and it’s also unclear how big a market there actually is for this sort of product.
Microsoft’s HoloLens is basically a wearable face computer that offers some of this functionality today… but it’s only available as an expensive $3,000 development kit. Google Glass was probably the first widely publicized attempt at launching a wearable augmented reality product, but it was never particularly successful as a consumer-oriented product and now exists primarily as a niche gadget for enterprise use.
Anyway, it doesn’t sound like Apple is in any hurry to bring its new product to market. 2020 is a long time away (in tech years, anyway), and for all we know Apple could scrap the entire project by then. Or maybe the company could do what it did with the iPhone and take a bunch of ideas from existing technologies and combine them in a new way that drives the industry forward.