A Beginner’s Guide to Apple’s Big New Product: Smart Glasses

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Apple’s biggest annual developer conference kicks off with new features for iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watches. But the main talking point is a rumored product that should be Apple’s next big thing. What is that ? And how soon could we expect it? Here’s a quick explainer of what we know and don’t know so far.

1. What is Apple’s big new product?

It’s expected to be smart glasses that combine one or both of “mixed” reality and virtual reality. For “mixed reality,” consider a pair of smart glasses that let you see at least some of what’s actually in front of you, but also adds a digital layer that you can control. In fact, we’re already using this kind of technology with our phones — everyone who plays around with Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok’s funny face filters is actually using some form of mixed reality technology. The same can be said for those who use apps like Ikea’s bedroom furniture planner when pointing their smartphones at their living room. Or make their phone recognize text through the camera. But so far, everything has mainly happened with phones and tablets. Apple’s basic idea is to move some of it to smart glasses.

2. Is this Apple’s version of the Metaverse?

Very vaguely, although it’s probably very different. For starters, Apple will likely release a lot of out-of-the-box apps and services, such as VR FaceTime calling. It should also allow other software vendors to easily launch apps for its new system, the same way it does for its iPhone App Store. By comparison, Meta (Facebook) doesn’t have much to show for its Metaverse ecosystem yet, other than a handful of VR work apps.

3. What is the difference between this headset and virtual reality headsets?

VR headsets generally cut you off from the outside world – you can’t see anything around you while wearing one. This mainly means that they are only worn around the house for things like gaming. It’s possible that Apple’s glasses can be worn outdoors, if they allow users to see their surroundings. (It’s also possible that these are more conventional VR goggles.)

4. What is the difference between these glasses and the Facebook smart glasses?

Facebook’s model (“Rayban Stories” to give the correct name) is much simpler: they only take photos or videos and play music in your ears. They don’t have screens for you to see digital things.

5. What do we really know about Apple’s smart glasses?

We hope to hear more at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), which kicks off this week. It is generally understood that the glasses will have an operating system like an iPhone or iPad. It’s said to be called RealityOS. Generally, Apple won’t talk about the glasses until they’re ready with a finished product. But a product with so much development and interest cannot be kept completely silent. Most generally reliable analysts and Apple-focused industry insiders, such as Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, say the glasses are almost ready to go.

6. When can we expect to see this from Apple?

An optimistic bet would be this Christmas, but it’s more likely to be 2023.

7. Will it be as big as the iPhone?

Nothing is as big as the iPhone. But if Apple’s new smart glasses can replicate the performance of something like the Apple Watch – now the best-selling watch of all kinds – or the AirPods, which would be a Forbes 500 if they were independent, they will be considered a success. It should be remembered that Apple has been planning this product for several years. Many of the features recently introduced on high-end iPhones and iPads, such as specialized Lidar cameras, should fit nicely into this new product category.

8. Anything else to look forward to at this year’s WWDC?

Chances are Apple will announce a newly designed MacBook Air that looks and feels closer to the MacBook Pro. It may also reveal an updated Mac mini desktop. And of course, many updates and new features will be announced for iPhones (iOS), iPads (iPadOS), Macs (MacOS), Apple TV (tvOS) and Apple Watch (WatchOS).

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