After years of speculation, Apple’s Reality Pro headset is expected to debut at WWDC in June. But an Apple Glasses launch is likely still years away, and the Xiaomi Wireless AR Smart Glasses have just given us a very good understanding of the reason for this.
While the role expected to be performed by Apple Glasses is technically achievable today, we’re nowhere near the kind of form factor we’d expect from an Apple product …
Reality Pro vs. Apple Glasses
Apple has long been rumored to be working on two different types of AR/VR wearables: a mixed-reality headset that may be branded as Reality Pro, and a much less-obtrusive AR device typically referred to as Apple Glasses.
The first-generation Reality Pro headset is expected to be previewed at WWDC, and to launch later in the year. It’s expected to be a very expensive ($2-3K) device primarily aimed at developers and other professional users. This is expected to be later followed by a more affordable model targeted at consumers.
Apple Glasses are a very different concept. What we’re expecting here is a wearable that looks somewhat like conventional prescription eyeglasses, and that can overlay augmented reality content like Apple Maps directions and notifications.
An Apple Glasses launch is years away
A report in January suggested that the Apple Glasses project has been “postponed” as the company focuses instead on the second-gen headset. I said then that this seemed nonsensical to me, as it was a very different product, and was always going to be years away yet.
Apple Glasses are currently a moonshot project. Making them do all the things expected of them, in a device that has all-day battery life, which has a form factor similar to prescription eye-glasses, and is affordable enough to be a consumer product (even an Apple one), is a massively ambitious project. One that was always going to take many years: It was never likely to follow on in quick succession to the Apple Headset, gen 1 or gen 2.
Xiaomi Wireless AR Smart Glasses show us why
Apple is, of course, not the only company to be working on an AR glasses project. XDA Developer’s Ben Sin got an early hands-on with a prototype of one contender: the Xiaomi Wireless AR Smart Glasses.
The official name of the product is Xiaomi Wireless AR Smart Glass Explorer Edition, and it looks like an oversized pair of Terminator sunglasses with a silver finish instead of being all black. The glasses feature a pair of Micro-OLED screens — one for each eye — that pump out full HD visuals at 1,200 nits of brightness. There are three forward-facing cameras on the front of the glasses that are used to map the environment immediately in front of the wearer.
Sin was impressed with them, but it’s not hard to see why Apple isn’t ready to launch anything like this. First, there’s the small matter of the 30-minute battery-life! But second … I mean, look at them! They are neat and light by VR headset standard, but they don’t look remotely like ordinary eyeglasses, and as for the aesthetics …
They look like they were designed by the Fiat Multipla team, after giving them the brief ‘Bring the same aesthetic to smartglasses, but like 400% fuglier.’
Xiaomi’s glasses can turn opaque for watching movies; personally I’d want them to turn opaque if I was wearing them and went anywhere near a reflective surface. Here they are in all their glory:
So, as we said before, don’t expect Apple Glasses anytime soon.
Photos: Xiaomi | Fiat Multipla Mick/Lumis (CC2.0) Cropped and levels adjusted
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