Apple’s September 10 special event once again triggered speculation that the company was going to unveil an augmented reality headset that would (finally) usher in a big breakthrough for AR. This rumor circulates all the time, including and Robert Scoble’s 2017 bold (but inaccurate) prediction. Of course, as we now know, Apple did not unveil an AR headset. And yet, industry watchers like Engadget (iOS13 & AR article) are still hopeful that one is coming.  But why the persistent hope for Apple to join the race? Well, three main reasons stand out as we think about what the Apple brand is and what it means:

Apple Sets Us up to Believe

When Apple makes its mind up to go after a market, it’s clear that they do it, and do it extremely well by taking usability issues out of the equation – whether thinking about table stakes or next-gen products. As we think about AR, Tim Cook in particular continues to sing the praises of AR. And he’s been doing so for quite some time. For instance, in a 2017 earnings call, Tim Cook said that AR is mainstream and that

“Apple is the only company that could have brought this because it requires both hardware and software integration, and it requires making—or giving—the operating system update to many people at once.”

Beyond that earnings call, Cook has gone on record many times to articulate a vision for AR and to position Apple as the leader to make AR take hold. More recently, on an HBO special, he said,

“In a few years, we’re not going to be able to imagine our lives without [AR]. It’s that profound a platform.”

Image Source: Image by HBO/Axios

Apple Launched Content and Developer Tools

Apple has invested steadily into AR, including the development of ARKit, Apple’s AR development platform for iOS mobile devices, as well as Reality Composer and RealityKit. ARKit is the toolkit that developers use to create AR apps that will work on your iPhone. Millions of ARKit-only installs have resulted, most of them games at the moment, but overall a step in the right direction for consumers to warm up to these experiences.

Image Source: Apple

Apple is, at Heart, a Hardware Company

The Macintosh. The laptop. The iPhone. Apple Watch. Time and again, Apple, has made its biggest, boldest moves through hardware. Most recently, the Apple Watch has defied expectations, become a fast-selling health and wellness device after critics scoffed at Apple entering the crowded wearables market. So, it stands to reason that Apple will eventually unveil an AR-ready device, including, perhaps a headset. Not to mention, when it comes to industrial and ergonomic design for consumer electronics, Apple is at the top of the game!

Video Source: Apple

Where Is Apple Headed?

At Moonshot, we’ve speculated that Apple might be developing a suite of AR products that one might postulate would be released with AR headsets.  And while many observers continue to speculate that it’s only a matter of time before the AR headsets become a reality (including the Verge, which notes flatly, “It’s no secret that Apple’s been quietly trying to build an augmented reality headset”), we should also understand the effect it will have.

For a perspective, look again at how Apple has relied on the Apple Watch to enter the healthcare space. The Apple Watch is not just a toy for the affluent. It’s a device for monitoring your health. As such, Apple is making inroads into both the consumer and corporate world (including health insurers and healthcare providers).  With that in mind, Apple is likely not going to simply unveil an AR headset and expect the world to buy them for no apparent reason. Rather, we’ll look for Apple to introduce a product to solve a real-world problem such as a more effective way to understand your surroundings. The real question is not when Apple will unveil an AR headset – but for what purpose?

Ultimately, if/when Apple creates an AR headset, it will bolster the AR marketplace and create a new standard for how AR headsets should look, feel, and be interacted with.

Mark Persaud

Mark Persaud

Practice Lead, Immersive Reality