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Apple’s AR glasses won’t launch in 2020, but they just got closer to reality

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Apple just took a very real leap in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality, acquiring VR content startup NextVR. It's also one small step for Apple AR glasses.

NextVR should help Apple's long-suspected efforts to release an AR/VR product, according to Bloomberg. The startup held content-licensing deals with sports leagues, including the NBA as well as Fox Sports, and Apple has recently been keen on expanding its content and services portfolio.

While the NextVR didn’t have a VR device of its own, its experience broadcasting content in virtual reality to users could help Apple design its own headsets or glasses, which the company has been rumored to be building for years.

NextVR held content-licensing deals with sports leagues, including the NBA as well as Fox Sports. While the startup didn’t have a VR device of its own, its experience broadcasting content in virtual reality to users could help Apple design its own headsets or glasses, which the company has been rumored to be building for years.

The first of those AR/VR products to be released could be the Apple AR glasses, but don’t expect those to launch until at least 2022, according to a separate report citing noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

An optimistic rumor suggested an Apple AR glasses release date in 2020, though the last hint we’d heard back in November suggested an augmented reality headset would come in 2022, followed by proper AR glasses in 2023. But Ming-Chi Kuo’s corroboration lends more weight to a release that’s two years away.

Kuo’s 2022 prediction is based on supply chain information from GIS, which is rumored to have partnered with Apple for AR lens lamination, according to a research note AppleInsider saw. Lamination costs for what he reportedly called ‘Apple Glasses’ will probably be high since it takes multiple layers to achieve an ‘innovative MR/AR user experience.’

AR glasses, now closer to reality

Patents going back to 2015 have indicated Apple’s interest in AR and VR, with rumors suggesting the company is developing head-mounted products for one or both applications. 

Reports in the last few years favored AR glasses, though they were mostly sourced from analysts and supply line watchers, which could mean that a product isn’t close enough to consumer release to get leaked. Alternatively, Apple’s characteristic secrecy could just be keeping development under wraps.

What both news points do indicate is that Apple is still investing in AR and VR – and even if it doesn’t result in a product years down the line, its acquisition could bear fruit in other devices, like its perennial improvements to AR applications in its iPhone and iPad lines.