Rumors about an Apple-branded Augmented Reality headset have been circulating for a while, but they appear to be coming to a head. According to Tianfeng International Securities analyst Guo Minghao, the device will launch next year.
In fact, Minghao said in an investor meeting that the device could even come late this year. Unfortunately, though, the device may not be the full-blooded experience previous rumors have suggested.
Minghao says the AR headset will require an iPhone to run, though it may be very slim. The device will allegedly look more like glasses than a traditional headset, using the iPhone's sensors, networking, and hardware.
This could, in turn, allow Apple to sell it at a reasonable price. So far, AR headsets like HoloLens and Magic Leap haven't really reached consumer pricing. They're firmly in the enterprise of enthusiast category, and too expensive to spur mass adoption.
True Augmented Reality or HUD?
Of course, some will also argue that this device wouldn't truly be augmented reality. If its functionality is limited to mirroring iPhone apps, it could be considered more of a Heads Up Display (HUD).
Augmented Reality is usually defined by a device's ability to interact with the environment. They add to the information that's already there, rather than displaying images separate to the real world.
However, Apple is slowly building Augmented Reality capabilities into its phones. ARKit lets developers build augmented reality experiences into their apps. It's likely the glasses would tap into those capabilities to provide true AR.
In the past, Apple acquired AR display startup Akonia Holographics and has published several related patents. As Thurrott points out, one of those describes a real-time navigation and metrics overlay while driving, which would prove very interesting.