Apple closes down AR glasses project

According to insiders, Apple has canned its augmented reality (AR) glasses project.

A DigiTimes report says that the company disbanded the AR hardware development team in May and transferred team members to other projects – and links this to the departure of Microsoft HoloLens co-creator Avi Bar-Zeev in January.

Despite Apple never officially confirming the AR project, it is widely believed to have existed since 2016, when it was first reported that the firm was working on a digital glasses product.

In 2017, it was reported that Apple had joined forces with Carl Zeiss to develop a pair of lightweight artificial reality glasses. Subsequently, an AR-related patent linked to Metaio – an AR start-up that Apple acquired in 2015 – was registered.

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook called AR something “as big as the iPhone” on more than one occasion. To walk away from the project now seems very strange.

Why would Apple terminate the project at a time when the AR headset market, in which it is also invested, is still in its infancy? According to Business Insider Intelligence, this market will be around 2.5 million units by 2024, while shipments of virtual reality headsets should reach 22 million.

One possibility is that the company found it difficult to come up with an AR glasses design that it believed would excite enough consumers to push the technology into the mainstream market.

The firm might also be reluctant to start a new device segment now. Compared to the iPhone’s huge success, Apple has encountered problems in the secondary device market recently. While the Apple Watch, for example, is a hit with early tech adopters, it could never break into the mainstream market.

It could, therefore, be that the company fears that the same would happen with AR glasses. On top of that, these glasses would have shared numerous features with the iPhone, so Apple might have ended up with two products competing against each other for sales.

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