Apple to launch AR/MR helmet in 2022, top analyst predicts; glasses, contact lenses, come much later
Mixed reality and augmented reality have to date met mixed success at best, certainly among consumers. Despite a world of hype over several years, virtual reality hasn’t fared much better. (Don’t tell my teen son Sam who loves the Oculus Quest VR headset I recently bought him for his birthday).
There are those of us who think it will take Apple’s entry into the standalone MR/AR product space—and perhaps VR too--to give these immersive markets the kick in the virtual fanny that is severely lacking.
Less than a week after forecasting his outlook for the next iPhones, highly respected Asia-Pacific tech analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of TFI Asset Management, weighed in with predictions for Apple’s entry into standalone MR/AR. It’s a market, he believes, that will eventually go mainstream and become “the next critical technology that defines the innovative human–machine interface of electronic products.”
Apple has already released ARKit, and equipped some of the latest iPhones and iPads with LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology. But as Kuo outlines in his report, the launch of standalone Apple devices will be a key to success. Apple brings substantial advantages to the market, notably through its vast and deep ecosystem integration.
“We expect MR/AR to replace all display-equipped electronic products in the long run, and the potential business opportunities are enormous,” Kuo writes.
Apple’s AR/MR product roadmap will roll out over the next decade and beyond in three-phases, Kuo predicts, moving from a helmet-type product, to glasses, to contact lenses.
*2022. Apple will launch a helmet by mid-2022. If some technical issues are resolved, this first-generation helmet will be significantly lighter than current VR headsets. It will be equipped with Sony's Micro-OLED displays and several optical modules to provide a video see-through AR experience.
Kuo estimates the helmet will command a sum in the ballpark of a high-end iPhone, perhaps $1000 or so.
“Although Apple has been focusing on AR, we think the hardware specifications…can provide an immersive experience that is significantly better than existing VR products,” Kuo writes in his report. “We believe that Apple may highly integrate this helmet with video-related applications (e.g., Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, etc.) as one of the key selling points.”
*2025. Kuo isn’t aware of an existing prototype yet, but he believes optical see-through AR glasses from Apple will launch mid-decade at the earliest. These glasses will have independent computing power and storage, and likely operate in parallel with the helmets Kuo expects will still be relevant.
“While the helmet provides a great immersive experience, the glasses focus more on providing a "mobile + AR" experience,” he writes. Kuo also foresees some kind integration between the glasses and an Apple Car.
*Contact lenses; 2030 to 2040. This far out, Kuo doesn’t provide many details on an Apple contact lens offering. He does predict, however, that the lenses will probably not have independent computing or storage capabilities, suggesting that you will need some other device, a phone or whatever, in your pocket, bag or on your person. What Apple contact lenses very well will do though, is help “bring electronics from the era of `visible computing’ to `invisible computing.’"