The 2017 Consumer Electronics Show may have wound down, but the rumors around it certainly haven’t. The latest is centered on Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), a company that wasn’t even at CES 2017. A well-known technology blogger is convinced he uncovered a partnership between AAPL and German optical company Carl Zeiss AG to develop Apple AR glasses. And he thinks they’ll be released in 2017.
The new rumor about Apple AR glasses started when technology blogger Robert Scoble wrote a post on Facebook. In it, he laid out a series of clues that led him to conclude that something is up between Apple and Carl Zeiss AG.
CES 2017, Carl Zeiss AG and Augmented Reality
He started with a photo showing Carl Zeiss AG clearly had a booth located in the Augmented Reality section of CES 2017. However, the company had no AR technology on display, which was odd. Scoble approached the staff operating the booth and asked them if the lack of product was because Tim Cook had refused to allow them to show it and got a nervous reaction that seemed to confirm his suspicions. He went on to write:
“A Zeiss employee confirmed the rumors that Apple and Carl Zeiss AG are working on a light pair of augmented reality/mixed reality glasses that may be announced this year.”
If Scoble is correct in his prediction, AAPL could be adding Apple AR glasses to a big product release year that includes a 10th anniversary iPhone 8.
Apple AR Glasses Are Far From a Long Shot
What Scoble wrote is a rumor. It’s based on deductions and conversation with an un-named Carl Zeiss AG employee, so it’s far from fact. However, it’s not as far-fetched as it may sound.
There have been rumblings over the past few months that AAPL is developing its own Apple AR glasses. Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) may have stumbled with its Google Glass version, but that doesn’t mean augmented reality glasses are dead in the water.
The AR field had a good year in 2016 — think games like Pokémon Go — and Snap, Inc. released its inexpensive Snapchat Spectacles later in the year. Both have been very popular and show that AR is likely to hit the mainstream before virtual reality does.
AAPL has already publicly supported the concept of augmented reality multiple times in recent months. In a July earnings meeting, CEO Tim Cook said:
“AR can be really great. We have been and continue to invest a lot in this. We’re high on AR in the long run and we think there are great things for customers and a great commercial opportunity.”
And in September, Cook was quoted by Business Insider as saying:
“There’s virtual reality and there’s augmented reality — both of these are incredibly interesting. But my own view is that augmented reality is the larger of the two, probably by far.”
Clearly, Cook has been giving more than passing thought to augmented reality and in the quest to create a new, high-demand product line, Apple AR glasses could fit the bill. Carl Zeiss AG is a highly respected German company specializing in optical technology, so in terms of a partnership that makes perfect sense.
Google Glass may have failed to crack the augmented reality market, but it gave AAPL the opportunity to do what it does best: Learn from a rival’s mistakes and come back with its own version that nails it.
Apple AR glasses seem more likely than ever to be the next big new thing from AAPL and if Robert Scoble is right, they could be arriving as soon as this year.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.