Apple, Facebook join augmented reality glasses race; tech groups bet it could replace smartphone
By April Kirstin Chua
Apple and Facebook are going up against start-up company Magic Leap and Microsoft's HoloLens in developing a pair of augmented reality glasses that could one day replace the smartphone as the primary computing device for consumers. Apple advances its efforts to create an AR eyewear according to people familiar with company's plans while Facebook is researching the technology to what Mark Zuckerberg calls as "glasses small enough to take anywhere".
iPhone maker Apple has first built a team to examine the feasibility of a head-worn device for more than a year ago. It now devotes its time, efforts and resources to augmented reality glasses. Apple aims to take it from a science project towards a consumer product. Any launch is still a year away with Apple refusing to comment further.
Engineers working in Apple have become more adept at miniaturization technology. This can be seen by Apple released products such as AirPods wireless headphones and iPad's Pencil. It seems like augmented reality will be regarded as the top priority for Apple next year.
Facebook, on the other hand, has said it will take them 10 years before it catches up with AR technology. This is because its Oculus Research division has already been facing many challenges in creating a product that is compact and lightweight but powerful to use all day. While it might take years for Facebook, altogether with Apple, it is set to beat companies in the race for augmented reality glasses.
Secretive Florida-based Magic Leap is currently preparing for the long-awaited AR eyewear to be released later this year. The company has raised $1.4 billion from investors, including Alphabet and Alibaba. The augmented reality glasses is smaller than Microsoft's HoloLens but larger than a regular pair of glasses. Doubts rise as to whether Magic Leap can bring people to buy and wear its product - a common challenge in the industry.
Among the companies, Microsoft has gone the farthest in regards to augmented reality technology with HoloLens released two years ago. Developers have bought the product but Microsoft is yet to announce the date for it to be available to consumers. This creates a potential edge for both Apple and Facebook to keep up.