Apple has updated its Siri design patent in the European Union and Hong Kong to also cover “smart glasses” as a category.
Ahead of a WWDC event where Apple is rumored to be introducing a standalone Siri speaker to take on the Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers, the news suggests that Siri could also be a key part of Apple’s future augmented reality plans.
The news doesn’t come as a massive surprise. Earlier this year, Apple filed continuation patents for a possible future AR or VR headset that described voice control as one of its interface elements.
Siri is a service Apple has been heavily focused on as of late. After being debuted with the iPhone 4s back in late 2011, in recent years it has fallen behind other rivals such as Google Now. With Siri control in Apple’s successful AirPods, Apple TV remote and, now, an apparent standalone speaker, it’s clear that Apple wants to be a leader in voice assistants once again.
As with the aforementioned AirPods, it makes perfect sense that voice would be a key component in controlling AR, since it is largely a hands-free experience.
Tim Cook has hinted that Apple is highly interested in augmented reality. According to Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo, Apple is likely to introduce AR technology within the next 1-2 years; first as a feature of the iPhone and then as its own standalone headset.
Apple reportedly has hundreds of engineers developing both AR and VR headsets. It also scooped up a number of augmented-reality companies such as Metaio and hired some big names in VR and AR.
The combined AR and VR markets may be worth as much as $150 billion by 2020, with AR taking the bulk of the revenue.
Word of caution
As exciting as it is to see “smart glasses” be added to Apple’s existing design patent, however, it’s worth being cautious — and remembering that this is no guarantee.
It’s tempting to look at stories like the fact that that Apple registered the iPhone.com domain name years before making an iPhone, and use this to extrapolate the future, but Apple has also filed plenty of patents in the past (such as the mini gaming joystick that would hide under the now-disappearing Home button of a “future” iPhone) that wind up not amounting to anything.
Often, Apple will use such filings simply to stop assets falling into other company’s hands — as happened when rival watchmaker Swatch decided to trademark Steve Jobs’ iconic “One more thing” catchphrase, shortly after Apple began competing with it in the watch business.