Apple Employees Are Quietly Meeting AR Glasses Firms and Filing Patents

The headsets could be Apple's next big wearable product.

Apple employees have been secretly meeting with augmented reality technology companies, a Sunday report claimed. The representatives met with firms developing products that could work as part of a future headset. It comes as rumors suggest the company could launch a set of glasses as early as next year.

The news comes as a patnet filed last week shows a headset displaying 3D content, following on from a previous filing that shows a means of measuring a user’s gaze. AppleInsider states that a group of over half a dozen employees of Apple and subsidiaries met with augmented reality waveguide suppliers at CES 2019 in Las Vegas this month. Waveguides can guide electromagnetic spectrum waves along a desired path, making them useful for glasses as companies can shape light coming from a source display and properly direct it to a user’s eyes. It’s a technique used by products like Magic Leap, but Apple has expressed interest in alternative technologies: in August 2018, it purchased Colorado-based Akonia Holographics that uses a simpler setup to display information through thinner headsets.

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Apple has previously experimented with augmented reality-based emojis.

See more: Apple AR Glasses Are Set for a ‘Revolutionary’ 2020 Launch, Report Claims

Augmented reality has become an area of increased focus for Apple, after it released iOS 11 in 2017 with an “ARKit” developer toolkit encouraging app makers to create new worlds. Some of the first uses were an Ikea app that could overlay furniture in a house and a virtual tape measure. Apple uses augmented reality to power “Animojis” on iPhones with a front-facing TrueDepth 3D-sensing system. A rumor last month claimed Apple was exploring putting a similar sensor onto the rear of the iPhone.

Amid these expansions to the iPhone line, rumors suggest Apple is laying the groundwork for a more ambitious set of glasses under the codename “T288.” An April 2018 report stated Apple was looking to use an 8K display for each eye, far higher resolution than the 1,200-pixel-wide screens found on the HTC Vive. It would use 60GHz WiGig transmissions to communicate with a box housing a five-nanometer processor. Last week’s patent shows a similar setup with a processing unit on the floor.

A launch could come sooner than expected. Ming-Chi Kuo, an analyst with an impressive track record, has suggested 2020 as a likely launch date.

More news could arrive at the next annual Worldwide Developers Conference. Discussion at last year’s Augmented World Expo suggested a lot of industry heads predict Apple will jump into the space soon.