Why the rumor that Apple will launch AR glasses in 2017 is ridiculous

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This guy claims Apple's AR headset is nearly ready.
This guy claims Apple's AR headset is nearly ready.
Photo: Robert Scoble

It’s one of the more ridiculous rumors we’ve heard in a while: Apple is teaming up with Zeiss to create augmented-reality glasses that will be unveiled later this year, according to long-time tech blogger Robert Scoble.

Don’t believe him.

Scoble’s silly scoops

hololens by microsoft
All Apple has to do is making something that looks less dorky than this.
Photo: Microsoft

During his visit to CES last week, Scoble says he visited the Zeiss booth in the augmented-reality section of the massive tech trade show in Las Vegas. Strangely, the company didn’t have any AR tech on display. This led the guy who showered with Google Glass to start asking Zeiss employees what they were doing there.

“A Zeiss employee confirmed the rumors that Apple and Carl Zeiss AG are working on a light pair of augmented reality/mixed reality glasses that may be announced this year,” Scoble wrote in a Facebook post. “I thought it was next year but now that I saw this I believe it will happen this year.”

You probably shouldn’t believe a word Scoble says about Apple and AR. First, the post says the employee confirmed rumors that Apple and Zeiss are working together, but that wasn’t a rumor until Scoble created it. CES booths aren’t always the best sources of information, either. Many times, only a few of the people at the booth actually work for the company.

Scoble hasn’t been a reputable source for years and his pulse on tech has been a bit off lately. Not only was he wrong about the success of Google Glass, he also thought the Yo messaging app was going to be huge.

He inhabits one of those elevated tech spots like Woz does: He did some amazing stuff in the past, so now he gets to say whatever the hell he wants while still retaining an aura of credibility for some reason.

Scoble’s latest “exclusive’ isn’t even the first time he’s put out crazy theories about Apple and augmented reality. In October, he wrote that the next iPhone was going to be completely clear. That way you would be able to attach it to a headset and look through it to see information overlaid on top of the real world. And it’s coming out this year!

Sounds amazing. But it’s not possible. All the chips inside the iPhone would have to be transparent for Scoble’s magical AR iPhone to work. Yet he claims he has “several sources” confirming this, according to a lengthy Facebook post that I assume was the product of a late-night ayahuasca session:

Apple and AR

Apple is definitely working on AR. Tim Cook has expressed serious interest in augmented reality, and journalists with legit sources have reported that secret teams of Apple engineers are exploring both augmented and virtual reality headsets.

Virtual reality has been all the rage in the tech world the last two years, but Cook says he sees more promise in augmented reality, so the company is supposedly working on a Google Glass type headset you’ll actually want to wear.

While Google Glass proved to be a bust, Snap is proving smart glasses can be non-intrusive and stylish: Its Spectacles pack a video camera and connect to your iPhone. As awesome as it would be to see an Apple AR headset in 2017, it would be a miracle if Apple pulls it off.

Apple’s likely next step toward AR

iphone camera
iPhone’s camera could play a big role in augmented reality.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Ming-Chi Kuo, widely regarded as one of the world’s best Apple analysts, doesn’t expect Cupertino to launch an AR product until at least 2018. Apple might “generate preliminary results for AR in the next 1-2 years at the earliest and working with iPhone may be the first step,” he wrote late last year.

It seems pretty unlikely that we’ll see a full Apple AR headset in 2017 (unless Apple reinvents the laws of physics and makes the iPhone 8 invisible). However, we may see Apple dip its toes into the AR world this year by integrating an augmented-reality SDK into its camera app.

The new AR mode in the camera app would lay a foundation for Apple’s glasses. Third-party developers could then start dreaming up amazing applications before the AR glasses even get revealed.

Details on how the AR SDK would work are slim, but it seems likely Apple will start with the software while working on the headset and making sure the technology is ready for prime time. We’ll probably have to wait until 2018 to see if Zeiss is even working with Apple on such hardware.

The bottom line: Apple needs a new hit product, but AR glasses in 2017 is so farfetched its sad that people are acting like Scoble’s rumor is legit. It’s still unclear what features Apple’s smart glasses will pack to make them indispensable, or when we might actually see them. But if anyone can make you want to wear a computer on your face, it’s Jony Ive.

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  • C0C0tva

    I worked for Zeiss many years ago and used to travel constantly going to different trade shows. They have fat profit margins and an enormous marketing budget so it wouldn’t surprise me that they were just there to have a presence while the higher-ups held meetings. I can tell you though that the executives are extremely protective of the brand and would never allow a non-employee work the booth. That being said, i have no doubt that a rep in the optics division or similar, was bored (seriously those things are almost as bad as digging ditches in August) and decided to screw with Scoble. Zeiss rivals Apple when is comes to secrecy (with an amazing German efficiency) and no employee that is out on the floor is privy to any information that you couldn’t find already in a trade rag.

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