Apple’s biggest manufacturer is building AR glasses of its own

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Apple’s first AR headset could launch in 2022, AR glasses in 2023
Apple is also reportedly developing its own AR glasses.
Concept: Taeyeon Kim

Foxconn, Apple’s biggest manufacturing partner, is reportedly developing its own augmented reality (AR) smart glasses. These will be used in retail, smart factories, and smart medical care.

The AR glasses will utilize micro LED displays, one of the next-gen display technologies that Apple plans to use in future products. Apple is also said to be hard at work on its own AR glasses, tentatively dubbed “Apple Glass.”

Foxconn’s AR glasses are supposedly being developed by Electronic and Optoelectronic System Research Laboratories (EOSRL). The micro LED technology that will be used could come from U.S.-based startup eLux. Foxconn invested in eLux back in May 2017. A Wednesday report by Digitimes notes that:

“EOSRL has developed blue-light micro LED of 5 microns in size and will match them with QD (quantum dot) technology to make panchromatic displays of over 2,000ppi in resolution, the sources said. Such displays are expected to be available in first-quarter 2021, and EOSRL will keep modifying the optical architecture to improve display effects and integrate eye-tracking sensors and other ICs, the sources noted.”

The report continues that using micro LED displays in AR glasses is a complex procedure. This is because it involves “more complicated design in optical architecture, which will take three years at least to complete.” Foxconn reportedly aims to release its AR glasses in 2022.

Apple’s plans for AR glasses

Apple has frequently been reported to be working on AR glasses. However, reports are conflicted. In May, Apple leaker Jon Prosser released a video with alleged details about the Apple Glass project. According to Prosser, Apple Glass will use a Lidar sensor for scanning, but no camera. Prosser claims the glasses work via gesture controls. He suggested they could be shown off as early as the end of 2020.

But fellow Apple leaker and reporter Mark Gurman suggests Apple is wrong. According to Gurman, Apple is working on two headset devices. One will combine the “best of” VR and AR in a headset capable of overlaying AR images. The second is “a lightweight pair of glasses using AR only.” In a June Bloomberg report, Gurman wrote that Apple could announce the first headset in 2021 and release it the year after that. Meanwhile, Apple’s AR glasses will arrive “by 2023” at the earliest, according to Gurman.

In a 2017 interview, Tim Cook said that Apple will only ship an AR headset when it can do it in a “quality way.” He continued that Apple doesn’t “give a rat’s about being first. We want to be the best, and give people a great experience.”

Unlike Foxconn’s plans, Apple’s AR glasses will almost certainly be aimed at consumers. Foxconn’s, from the sound of things, will be focused on the enterprise market.

Source: Digitimes