Apple is exploring the augmented reality industry, according to a PiperJaffray note released on Wednesday.
Analyst Gene Munster writes that sources within the sector say the US company has a “small team working and exploring the augmented reality space.” He predicts it could even impact the tech world to the extent the smartphone did.
The details are sparse, but for Apple to even be looking into this technology is significant. If Apple were to produce a glasses product for mainstream consumers, rather than something similar to prototype models around today, its design and “fashion advantage” could mean it makes something that people actually want to wear, Munster explains.
The note is very specific about the differences between virtual reality and augmented reality. Virtual reality is an immersive world and experience, usually akin to gaming. Augmented reality is, essentially, a rolling stream of information — be that data, emergencies, directions — all overlayed on a screen. Munster explicitly draws a comparison to Google Glass: “Digital information on the physical world. For example, a product like Google Glass.”
At this stage, Munster says he believes Apple has “a small team” of engineers looking into augmented reality applications. The group is probably trying to understand how to create and make a functioning, wearable interface — with a design that’s fashionable and “socially acceptable.” We don’t know whether Apple will actually go ahead and create a device yet and if it does it will likely be at least 10 years away.
It’s also difficult to gauge just how big the augmented reality sector will be. Apple CEO Tim Cook has spoken out on the issues that augmented reality products can face, saying in an interview that he always thought that Google Glass would “flop.”