Also at this early stage in a product's development, Apple very carefully controls and compartmentalises information. The software team wouldn't have any idea what the hardware looks like, or who is working on it. If you know the people in other teams, there's more likelihood of cross-leaking. There's no way their whole road map would be shared with the entire team.
They may well have had some sort of meeting, but I suspect this is a case of extrapolating way too far from piecemeal and confusing scraps of information, combined with a fundamental misunderstanding about how Apple approaches projects like this.
I think it's worth extrapolating ;)
We're probably not going to see Apple AR tech in soldier HUDs on the battlefield. Or in the F-35. I could be wrong, but it may not be a cultural fit.
The enterprise customer here is the AutoDesk / Adobe client who wants seamless 3D design integreted into digital content creation workflows and even additive manufacturing. And that is very exciting. Being able to animate and composite 3D models with live action video in a holographic environment will make creating movies just as fun as watching them.
But the driver for consumer adoption I believe is entertainment. That's where Ocuclus and Magic Leap seem to be placing company bets. Hit games like Beat Sabre and Vader Immortal give an inkling. Someone is going to create a phenomenon like Avatar for VR and content will never be the same.
Avatar was a milestone for 3d movies. Would you say movies have never been the same since then?
Instead, for a peak into a possible near future I'd look to new immersive experiences such as teamLab's borderless
Visitors to Yayoi Kusama's Infinite Mirrored Room at David Zwirner gallery in Chelsea get exactly one minute each to experience the sensation. And it's expected in excess of 100K+ will make the pilgrimage ;)
A Look Inside Yayoi Kusama's New, Eye-Popping NYC Exhibition
I'm sure Apple has been long hard at work here but I would be surprised if this grew beyond a niche product given the state of VR now, so they definitely aren't in a rush.
Or Apple learned from their apparently terrible management which caused software quality to plummet. If you announce plans well ahead, more people can say if these plans are feasible.
On the other hand, expecting that more people having a say very early on if something is feasible will actually lead to better products, is approximately the second worst management idea ever. Towards the end of the product development life-cycle yes, there is an argument for that because more people can try out use cases and situations that are hard to anticipate. But early on, the wisdom of the crowd is your enemy. If large numbers of people thought something was a good idea, everybody would be doing it. Innovations always orriginate from individuals or very small teams.
Consensus will lead you to mediocrity. Innovation by its very nature requires that you must do something unusual and likely dismissed by the consensus. It's not that being different is better by itself, but being the same can't be better by definition.
Just a few weeks ago both Kuo  and Gurman  predicted early 2020 for the AR glasses. Tim Cook's public statements, ARKit and all the rumors have suggested that AR is Apple's focus so I would be very surprised if an Apple VR headset came out first. Curious reporting by The Information
Given the wild swings of rumors (launching 2020! Canceled! Launching 2023!) it’s almost like Apple is deliberately seeding the market with leaks in order to confuse its real intent. Which would be smart.
My guess with no insider information is they launch smartglasses in 2020 or 2021. First version may not have optical display but still does something cool with a camera.
My reasoning is basically,
1) Snapchat spectacles are getting closer to normal glasses, all you need to do is miniaturize those ridiculous bug eyed lenses
2) ergo Apple needs to get in the market with something fashionable and useful before someone else steals their lunch
2022 is too late, IMO.
Like, say, Apple could have an AR department with several parallel hardware R&D efforts, where they're constantly cancelling projects when they realize they're dead-end concepts, and putting the staff from them onto new projects.
However I don’t think that’s the case here. You have to believe that they have their best resources working on wearables/smartglasses. Look at how Apple Watch and even more so AirPods are just crushing it. Because laptops are the past and wearables are the future. I would wager that this level of dysfunction is kept far from AR.
You can research Human-Computer Interaction just like any other research subject, and I wouldn't put it past Apple to have all their best industrial-design staff working on dozens of different AR design prototypes to feed this HCI research, in the hopes of discovering something that creates a whole new AR wearables market segment, rather than just competing in the existing one.
Once they actually "pick an approach" to AR wearables from the firehose of internal HCI R&D projects, then it'd probably be a project of a year-or-so to get it built and shipped (given their existing manufacturing and logistics relationships.) So, when a project is "3-4 years off", I'd expect that to mean—if true—that they're planning on spending the next three years running a tournament of AR approaches; and then build the thing right at the end.
This isn't to say that having a tournament of approaches isn't a viable way to figure out a new product. But it speaks to a different, less visionary approach.
The modern tablet, for example, was essentially designed by the prop designers of Star Trek. The proposed HCI for the device category was entirely laid out by actors fiddling with the prop. No one at Apple needed to have much “vision” to see that if they could pull off something like that without technical constraints forcing any compromises, it’d be a great design.
Most of computing for the last 50 years has been like that in one way or another. We’ve had SF writers, artists, and movie-makers leading the way, and industrial designers cribbing as closely to them as they could. (You can still see this today with driverless-car control-panel designs. You think these designs aren’t just directly copying the “cool car” genre from the 80s?)
(If you’re wondering: “so what made Apple a visionary company, then? That word must mean something...” It’s mostly that they evolved or “massaged” technology in the directions required to get these hypothetical designs built. Rather than building the designs that were possible with commonly-available tech, they invested capital into “operationalizing” previously research-level tech, in order to put it into their devices. A phone you can turn to watch movies in landscape? Better turn “accelerometers” from a weird replacement for mercury switches into a one-cent part!)
But AR is a bit different, in that, while speculative fiction has been somewhat concerned with what AR does (and even more on what VR does), writers in the genre haven’t spent nearly as much time (that I know of, at least) trying to figure out what an AR device that people would be willing to wear would look and work like. So, in this case, the industrial design isn’t just “laying around” waiting for an ID artist to pick it up and say “yes, I’ll make it look like this.” And, on the other side, no audience has been pre-conditioned by this material to think “I want something that looks like the thing I know from book/movie X.”
And, even worse for our intrepid industrial designer—even in the movies based on books that do feature AR wearables, in the movie version, the wearable doesn’t tend to appear at all. AR experiences still exist in such movies, but AR devices, if they’re there at all, are implicit; and most of the time, aren’t even supposed to be there, with AR instead literally an augmentation of reality (using holograms or something) rather than an augmentation of perception. (This is usually a choice by the director: actors act better when they can be in the same room as one-another, reacting to a common “thing” they’re seeing; individual-perceptual AR kind of ruins that, just like cell phones kind of ruin slasher movies.)
Now, mind you, I’m ignoring the elephant-in-the-room of AR in speculative fiction: cyberpunk. But I don’t think Apple could really sell its consumers on perception-changing brain implants, could they? ;) At least, not in 2019...
I was in the market to upgrade, I love OS X and I was willing to pay a premium... but with crappy keyboards and systems that can't be upgraded it's just was not worth the price tag. I recently switched from my macbook pro to a thinkpad X1. I have to say the first week was hard -- especially the trackpad -- but the adjustment so far has been fine. I'm struck by how much better windows has gotten. Even more, I'm impressed by how innovative it and the eco-system has become again. I think that's the challenge for Apple. How can they stay big and remain innovative? Right now it seems they are coasting on good management and design... but they are missing that element that presumably Jobs brought to the table by directing those elements towards a new innovative vision of a product line.
Anyway, I could be wrong but it seems to me that Apple is coasting. These announcements seem more like a big company flailing around to get in on the next big thing. On the other hand, Apple is great at the self-contained devices (ipad, iphone, etc.) with no moving parts. These products seem rock-solid and I think this is where the real revenue is. My concern is that this money is going to allow everyone to hide from the fact that the company is not as innovative as it used to be.
Interested to hear from others though. My work is elsewhere so I don't track this company closely.
The big question mark with Apple isn't hardware, its software. iOS 13 and Catalina were both pretty ambitious and deeply flawed.
>Right now it seems they are coasting on good management and design
Are you saying Apple has poorly designed keyboards yet their design is still good?
Looks-only designers are almost entirely useless. While it's not true absolutely anyone can sketch nice-looking things, people who can sketch nice-looking things and also have an understanding of the practical constraints that can make the nice-looking thing a practical product (or not) are very rare indeed.
Apple used to excel at both. Under Cook/Ives, the balance shifted to style over substance. Arguably it's still stuck there, especially in software, where the UX and the reliability have both become increasingly poor.
So a pre-announcement of a revolutionary product is nice, but the suspicion is it's primarily there to pump up the stock price and deflect from some of the recent missteps.
Unfortunately the recent missteps have been most obvious in software, so I think it's reasonable to be skeptical about Apple's ability to craft a reliable and outstanding UX for not just one but two completely new classes of products.
I mean, if Apple can't bolster the market for such a thing, perhaps no one really wanted it after all.
I can picture Jony Ives cutting glasses out of the cereal box. Hopefully those will be thin enough for him.
That was true of Apple under Jobs but Tim Cook's legacy is one of terrible quality assurance and superficial design over considering function. Apple is coasting on their legacy.
As a counter-example to yours, the faux stitched leather of Find My Friends was all Steve Jobs, whereas the Apple Watch is all post-Jobs.
Meanwhile, AirPods are a phenomenal product. Up there with the best work Apple has done.
The AirPods are a good first step in showing they can make small, lightweight devices that are easy to use. The glasses will probably need a charging case in the same way. Also, they are keeping their high end phones a bit overpowered for normal smartphone usage which means they can use that extra power to do the required rendering. This allows them to offload it all from the glasses to the phone. I believe we are some time off from standalone glasses.
The wearables unit of Apple does seem like it’s where the big innovations are happening, even if a lot of that innovation is in materials and just perfecting the user experience of something basic like charging.
A real tech fatigue seems to be setting in with lots of people and the last thing many of us want (including many here) is more tech in their lives. I think it's especially true of tech that isolates you like AR and VR does.
Most importantly it needs to be packaged in a way that you don’t need to be a motivated techie to pick apart the offerings, understand specs, setup a bespoke system, and just generally try so hard to get onboard.
I’m not sure about the thesis that people want less tech in their lives. Look at the widespread adoption of “smart speakers” which to me seems like the ultimate expression of superfluous technology.
As a technology person, I tend to agree with you that these devices fall short of real life changing functionality, yet obviously many people out there love it.
I think smart speakers aren't fatiguing because they are so passive. They sit idle, doing nothing until you call for them. Then they respond and return to idle. If using an Apple HomePod required special headphones, it wouldn't have sold at all.
That said, I think there's a decent market for AR/VR devices but I don't think it's gigantic. It might be Playstation big (10^8), but probably not iPhone big (10^9).
It looks like they already “sold” just shy of 5000 units, with estimated delivery in mid-2020.
I do think Apple are the best placed to come to market on this though. Everything we’re currently seeing from them, like their over-powered mobile chipsets, seemingly premature ARKit, and Face ID sensor array are IMO all part of the push to cranking the price/performance of their hardware and software specifically for these upcoming headsets rather than addressing the current market. Which is genius, using the momentum of the iPhone to propel them into this new market.
I wonder if we’ll see them pull away in capabilities the same way the Watch has.
In the same way that in early 2000s, yes, Dell definitely moved us forward with a great line of laptops, but the Sony Vaio (and, later, MacBooks) are what brought laptops to consumers in a real way, and yes of course, Motorola and Nokia et al made the first real push at mobile, but Apple made mobile phones a mass-market accessory item.
I wonder if Apple will end up being the Dell / Nokia of the AR world, and some company we haven’t yet considered ends up really owning the revolution.
You are correct, in general, that firms that are successful because of an innovative technology, typically get surpassed by the next innovative technology to come to the market. See Clayton Christensen’s The Innovators Dilemma.
However, Apple is one company that seems to have broken the trend, several times, in fact. Past success is not always an indicator of future success, but I’m personally not willing to bet against Apple at this point.
The same predictions of Apple creating and dominating a mass market have been made over and over. While they do dominate, they aren't necessarily as widespread as the iPhone and instead serve as status signifiers for the brand and their technological prestige over the competition.
The iPad was predicted to herald in the post-PC revolution, and while it had an impact, it failed to completely displace the PC, and its once surging growth has plateaued due to its limitations as a convenient consumption device.
Apple infamously increments in features over time so I expect their AR solution to be presented as a step towards the future that the Apple Watch was presented as. I'm still waiting for that touted smartwatch-enabled future. Apple Watches are present here and there but smartwatches are still niche from being too expensive for an impulse buy and do not outweigh their use value compared to a smartphone.
AR holds a lot of promise, but if it does disrupt anything, I would not expect it for a long time due to VR's difficulties in attracting and maintaining the mainstream from cost, ease of use, technological limits, and a vibrant ecosystem of killer apps. I would instead expect it to perform similarly to the Apple Watch until I can see for myself that they can deliver on great innovative changes in AR technology and demonstrable use cases to justify AR. Apple can make great quality products, but they're not going to forge a future out of nothing like the Apple Watch was hyped to be capable of doing. Perhaps at best, AR could perform as well as the iPad.
If you just do a cursory analysis of the potential competitors and what they're good at, it becomes actually very easy to say that Apple will own this market.
Is it just the ability to drive cultural adoption to avoid "glasshole" stigma?
Apple is in a unique position to get an edge on the AR/VR market.
Without an external vendor to make the breakthrough in displays, Apple is in the same position as everyone else - talking about an AR future that looks great until you get there.
Manufacturer maybe not, but inventor? They have all kinds of patents and inventions of their own, their own CPUs and processing units, etc...
>they assemble parts wonderfully with, on occasion, some customization
They order custom parts more often than not, with very heavy customization.
Does anybody think that the displays for a 2022 Apple VR device (assuming the rumor is true) would be seen anywhere outside of Apple labs, and be e.g. available as off-the-shelve parts with merely "some customization" required on top in 2019?
But that's absolutely not the case in the iOS, Apple Watch, etc space. They make their own everything, from best of breed mobile CPU designs, to custom DSPs that are the 2019 1000x equivalents of the Amiga of yore (remember Paula, Denise, Agnus?), own boards, and everything in between.
They have also invented technologies like FaceID, TouchID, 3D Touch, MicroLED, LTPO etc.
The idea that they merely assemble other companies is just laughable.
Not by a wide margin. They have a reputation of paying for the development of unusual/new production methods, and the bank account to go with it.
For example, ‘everybody’ can think “I’ll use CNC milling machines to make by laptop bodies”, but few have the perseverance and the money to perfect that at scale.
If there is a display that’s even a quarter good, they will be willing to spend millions or even billions, to perfect it and work on manufacturing it at scale.
On your desk > on your lap > in your pocket > on your wrist > on your face > on your eyes > in your body.
IDK about the timeline, but inevitable that they'll want to do it.
A heads-up display enables larger displays and smaller devices, and seems inevitable to me, too.
Google Glass seemed to fail because of privacy. But subtracting the camera was too much for Google engineers to bear... in contrast, Apple has a history of subtracting features when necessary. They can also design cool eye-wear.
The only problem with my theory is that, without a camera, it isn't "AR"...
EDIT It was 640×360. 360p is low, but typical for mobile youtube not so long ago. You can get an 80x45 xterm, with an 8x8 font.
20-30 years ago, there was a flurry of VR devices...
Hasn't ML been caught in fraud a couple of times now?
The Oculus Quest is self contained, a great product, but a bit heavy. I expect an AR headset would also work in VR mode and I hope Apple makes it light and comfortable. It is amazing what functionality is packed into the Apple Watch and AirPods and I have confidence Apple will get it right with a headset. Then the question is, will people want them.
Apple has to make AR standalone. Smartwatches faced flack for not initially being standalone for being so expensive. While it did become more and more standalone, it still isn't a compelling use scenario for the masses to go out and spend that money.
AR could have more promise than what Google Glass had, but it would have to be far more compelling than what the masses can already get from their iPhones. As a point of comparison, VR right now is within 1% of the entire Steam population, which is then a fraction of the world's masses. There's interest but people at large aren't biting yet for various reasons. Apple's AR could end up in a similar situation where it would be nice to have but remains out of reach.
That said, there's a lot of potential for comfortable wearables replacing a phone in your pocket for many purposes. We tolerate carrying wallets everywhere just as we tolerated carrying wallets and keys everywhere because that's just the way things are. But it doesn't need to be that way forever.
I have a lot of questions about how AR will progress. I can imagine having essentially a high fidelity HUD but I'm not sure either how close we are to enabling something like that technically and how hard it will be to get mainstream consumers over the Glasshole effect of having omnipresent connected video (or maybe even if they should get over it).
Could anyone provide more information about this publication and why the price is so steep?
The founder Jessica Lessin spent years at WSJ (as Jessica Vascellaro), but got into trouble for getting too close to her sources; for example traveling to private parties with them. The Information takes more of a utilitarian, service model to their work, where ethical concerns about source relationships are less important than the quality of the information you provide to subscribers (hence the name).