Apple Augmented Reality Devices Could Help Shape All Future Computers

A respected Apple analyst recently made a startling prediction about mixed reality/augmented reality (MR/AR): “We believe that MR/AR products could replace all display-equipped electronics in the long-term,” said analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. He expects Apple to play a big part in taking these emerging technologies mainstream.

He predicts that Apple will build several MR/AR products, eventually leading to augmented reality contact lenses. Because of these predictions, he believes that MR/AR could be the default human-machine interface in the future.

Part of Kuo’s job as an analyst for TF International Securities is to make projections about future technology. Often, he looks no farther ahead than the next iPhone, but a note sent to investors recently covers forecasts for at least a decade of change.

He believes Apple is committed to augmented reality because “MR/AR will be the next critical technology to define the innovative human–machine interface for electronic products,” according to the analyst. It will “redefine human behavior in creating, processing, and receiving information.”

For a look at what this prediction would mean in everyday life, a concept artist dreamed up a future Mac that uses AR to replace physical displays.

Kuo uses the term “MR/AR” in his research note, but both mean nearly the same thing. Each term has its fans. Whatever the acronym, the tech involves combining computer-generated images with reality to present additional information.

As the company that popularized the mouse and the multitouch screen, Apple has a long history of redefining the human–machine interface, which Kuo says gives it a leg up in making AR a mainstream technology.

AR Products Coming in Three Phases. Apple put a Lidar scanner in the iPhone 12 and the iPad Pro for enhanced AR, but these haven’t exactly taken the world by storm. Kuo says Cupertino won’t be successful in this area until it makes “standalone devices designed for MR/AR applications.” But the analyst believes Apple is committed to rolling out dedicated MR/AR devices over the coming years, though not as quickly as some have predicted.

Kuo says the first will be a headset. This will use “Sony’s Micro-OLED displays and several optical modules to provide a video see-through AR experience,” according to Kuo. But it might also include virtual reality capabilities and be integrated with Apple Arcade and Apple TV+.

A drawback of current VR headsets is that they are bulky. Kuo indicates Apple is trying to get its product down to between a quarter-pound and just less than half a pound (100g to 200g).

Kuo predicts the headset will launch in 2022 for about $1,000. This is in-line with a previous prediction from analysts at JPMorgan Chase.

Phase 2 will be AR glasses. And despite promises that these will debut soon by other sources, Kuo sees them launching “in 2025 at the earliest.” There’s allegedly not even a prototype yet, and the analyst didn’t guess at a price.

The headset is intended to be used in the home or workplace, but the AR glasses are for on the go. And that’s why they might not replace future headset versions in Apple’s product lineup.

And Apple augmented reality development won’t stop there. Kuo forecasts that the eventual culmination of Apple’s efforts in this area will be AR contact lenses. They will “bring electronics from the era of ‘visible computing’ to ‘invisible computing,’” according to Kuo.

Of course, this product is well beyond current technology. That’s why the analyst will only predict, “We expect this product to be available after 2030.”

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