A respected Apple analyst just made a startling prediction about mixed reality/augmented reality: “We believe that MR/AR products could replace all display-equipped electronics in the long term.”And Ming-Chi Kuo expects Apple to play a big part in taking these emerging technologies mainstream.
He even sees Apple making augmented reality contact lenses eventually, and a variety of AR products before then.
AR could be the default human-machine interface in the future
Part of Kuo’s job as a analyst for TF International Securities is make projections about future technology. Often he looks no father ahead than the next iPhone, but a note sent to investors on Sunday covers 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 “MR/AR” in Sunday’s 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 as a way to present additional information.
As the company that popularized the mouse and the multitouch screen, Apple has long experience redefining the human–machine interface, which Kuo says gives it a leg up in taking AR mainstream.
Apple augmented reality 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 AR/VR devices over the coming years, though not as quickly as some have predicted.
Kuo says the first will be a helmet. This will use, “Sony’s Micro-OLED displays and several optical modules to provide a video see-through AR experience,” according to the analyst. But it might also include virtual reality capabilities and be integrated with Apple Arcade and Apple TV+.
A drawback of current VR helmets is that they are bulky. Kuo indicates Apple is trying to get its product down to between 0.22 pounds and 0.44 pounds (100g to 200g).
It will launch in 2022 for about $1,000. This is in-line with a previous prediction from analysts at JPMorgan Chase.
The next phase 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 helmet 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 helmet versions in Apple’s product lineup.
And Apple augmented reality development won’t stop there. 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.”