Foxconn has reportedly started trial production on polarized, semi-transparent AR lenses that could be used for Apple Glass, according to The Information.
The Friday paywalled report says the lenses are between one and two years away from entering mass production. However, they have already passed the prototyping phase, having been in development for three years.
The Information says this time frame fits Apple’s acquisition of Akonia Holographics. Founded in 2012, Akonia originally pursued advances in holographic data storage. It then pivoted to augmented reality headsets. At the time Apple acquired the company, Akonia had a portfolio of more than 200 patents related to holographic systems and materials.
Today’s report says the lenses are slightly bigger than the ones in regular glasses. Foxconn is reportedly using a production line at one of its factories in Chengdu in southwestern China. (This factory manufactures most of Apple’s iPads.)
The future of Apple Glass
In May, Apple leaker Jon Prosser released a video with alleged details about the Apple Glass project. Prosser claimed that the AR glasses will start at $499 (plus a charge for prescription lenses, if needed). They will not feature a front-facing camera, but will come with a lidar sensor for scanning. Prosser said the glasses will display information inside both lenses and work via gesture controls. He even said that Apple was planning a Steve Jobs edition modeled after the Apple co-founder’s round, John Lennon-style spectacles. According to Prosser, Apple could show off its AR glasses as soon as the end of 2020.
However, veteran Apple reporter Mark Gurman poured cold water on some of these rumors. Gurman said Apple is working on two devices. One is a project code-named N301, which would combine the “best of” VR and AR in a headset capable of overlaying AR images. The second device, code-name N421, is “a lightweight pair of glasses using AR only.” In a June Bloomberg report, Gurman wrote that Apple could announce the first headset next year and release it in 2022. Meanwhile, Apple’s AR glasses will arrive “by 2023” at the earliest, according to Gurman.