The January issue of Mac Life sports a fauxtograph of possible Apple augmented reality HMD glasses. It’s hard to know how much of this article is based on concept, but Apple working on an AR HMD would be a huge jumpstart to the nascent technology.
In mid-April of 2008, Apple published a patent for a “Head Mounted Display System.” The patent shows screens and fiber optics and vision imaging controls. Would the display use pico projection or utilize OLED displays? Pico displays could be used right now, but OLEDs might be a year out.
Would Apple make HMD goggle for augmented reality? Looking back at this 2006 interview on MacSimumNews, we can see that Steve Jobs was already considering it. Given that he also denies Apple is looking at a HMD practically guarantees they have something in the works.
Jobs: Yes, you want a nice big screen so that you can see lots of music and you can pick out what you want, versus a tiny little screen. But then again, you want the screen to be small so that you can put it in your pocket. Actually, discovering and buying music on a computer and downloading it to the iPod—in our opinion, that’s one of the geniuses of the iPod. So you can look at changing that—and maybe that will happen over time—but I think the experience you’ll get on a device optimized for putting in your pocket is going to be far less satisfactory than on a personal computer. You may still want to do that [on a small screen] occasionally, but I don’t think it’s ever going to mean that you can not have some other device that is your primary device for buying and cataloguing music.
Swisher: What would solve that? Can it be solved?
Jobs: Rollable screens, goggles you can put on; I don’t know. It’s not on the horizon.
Given Apple’s trademark secrecy, it’s a huge unknown if MacLife’s article is pure speculation or its based on some real knowledge. We do know that Apple has patented aspects of an AR HMD, so it’s not crazy to think they might come out with one. With tons of augmented reality applications hitting the market, I can’t imagine that Apple will wait too long to unveil their AR glasses to grab a critical market lead. All the pieces of the technology are available as we speak and I’m not the only one to notice this (read PatentlyApple).
Microvision, Vuzix and Lumus are telling us to wait until 2011 for AR HMDs, but if Apple gets involved, we just might see it happen in 2010.