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Ah, the future. Such a concept, full of either blind optimism or radical pessimism. Before the year 2000, the year 2000 itself was often a futuristic cliche to use in movies and literature. It sounded so distant, so mysterious…

Is your idea of the future a hellscape, where robots treat humans like cattle, as seen in The Matrix, or is your future an optimistic one, where our dreams get to come true much easier thanks to humanity’s technological advancements?

Naturally, I’m the optimistic type, and see our tech progress as a fantastic thing. And when I hear “future” – not even “distant future” – my mind immediately goes to virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

VR is already here. I’ve had three different VR headsets since the first Oculus Rift (now Meta Quest), and regularly jump into VR experiences each week. But even more exciting is AR – which instead of blocking the real world entirely and replacing it with a virtual one, actually augments your real world with digital content you see inside of it.

And while AR isn’t exactly mainstream just yet, with very few of us actually having tried it, in part thanks to its high price and lackluster polish, it is very likely the next big thing we should all anticipate. A new way to experience the internet. We all live on it via our phones, but what if our phones weren’t needed? Instead of looking at a physical phone in our hand, what if we could see what our phones showed us right in front of our eyes, mixed with the real world?

Well, that’s what AR glasses will do for us, likely soon enough, and a certain smartphone giant – Apple – has been known to work on its Apple AR glasses, for quite a few years now. Its CEO Tim Cook has been known to share his optimism for this new technology, and what it may do for humanity.

Apple’s AR glasses could be unveiled this year, and I really hope so, as word on the street is (which actually means “industry insiders have said”) yet another delay for 2024 could easily happen. We’ll see.

But if Apple does release those AR spectacles, and not for an insane price that goes well beyond $2,000 (which some leakers have claimed), we might see an AR boom in the mainstream pretty rapidly.

Problem is, besides the potentially high price, a lot of insiders have suggested that Apple’s AR glasses will be the company’s new, clever way to make you buy several Apple products just to experience the big new thing that is AR.

You’ll need to own an iPhone to use Apple’s AR glasses – that’s almost a given in the technology’s early days

Apple’s the type of company that sells different products for different use case scenarios. While Samsung is happy to sell you a Galaxy Z Fold 4 – which is basically a phone, a tablet, and even a PC in one – Apple would much rather sell you an iPhone, an iPad and a MacBook instead.

That theory is supported by the fact that the trillion-dollar Cupertino giant is always careful not to let one of its products dip into the sales of another. Your iPhone will never get stylus support, so you can buy an iPad if you need it. Your iPad still doesn’t run desktop apps, even if it can, so you’ll be inclined to buy a MacBook…

So it’s not exactly a stretch to assume Apple will have you buying accessories in order to fully enjoy your AR glasses. But more importantly, and perhaps most understandable – you’ll need a newer iPhone.

And that’s the one I’d call understandable, because it makes perfect sense. Early Apple glasses will require your iPhone to do all the processing power for them, as we don’t really have the technology to fit a full microcomputer in reasonably thin frames, along with a battery, sensors, and other tech.

Meanwhile you have this insanely powerful microcomputer, that is your iPhone. Might as well use it to do all the processing for those AR glasses, right?

Now, obviously, you’ll need to buy a newer iPhone, because Apple will inevitably find reasons to set some hardware limitations and requirements, and thus cut off any users of older iPhones.

Even the Apple Watch Series 8 won’t work with any iPhones running anything lower than the latest iOS 16. In fairness to Apple, all iPhones starting with the iPhone 8 are kept up to date, so even if the AR glasses have a stricter limit, it shouldn’t be too bad.

Of course, the idea is for technology to get tiny enough that some day our phones aren’t going to be needed at all, and all of their tech can be crammed into the frames of some smart glasses. That’s probably at least a decade into the future, but I already strongly believe it’s where we’re headed.

You may need an Apple Watch to use Apple’s AR glasses too; or at the very least to get “full functionality” out of them

I’m rather skeptical about this particular rumor, but at the same time, it’s not hard to imagine how a future Apple Watch could be the perfect device for us to use for interacting with our AR glasses.

Imagine an Apple Watch with the kind of sensors that can detect your arm movements more precisely, along with finger gestures – and it’s a win-win way to control your AR content. Not only does Apple get to sell you a new kind of smartwatch, but you get to control your smart glasses with something socially acceptable to wear. Because let me tell you, the other option would’ve likely been “smart gloves,” which, by the way, were also something we’ve seen leaks Apple had been researching in the past.

Of course, an alternative to having you buy an Apple Watch would be…

An Apple smart ring – that one has been mentioned a few times also

Yes, as early as 2019 Apple filed a patent for a smart ring, and we reported how users may need it in order to navigate their Apple glasses.I’m personally way more supportive of the Apple Watch theory, even if I don’t believe it to end up true, because having to buy an Apple ring on top of all the other Apple products some of us have seems like legit overkill.

Yes, smart rings already exist, and have existed for quite some time, usually doing the same things your smartwatch does – tracking your sleep, your workouts, and what have you. Except that obviously, they don’t come with a display, so you need to pull up your phone to check your stats.

And yes, a smart ring could theoretically be used to navigate your AR glasses. As we saw from Apple’s patent on the aforementioned smart ring, the company planned it to “second communications” to “a head-mounted device comprising: a display configured to generate images.”

You don’t need to don your detective hat to figure out what this means. Apple clearly planned for that smart ring it was quietly researching and developing to be used for operating an AR or VR headset or glasses. In any case, we’ll find out what big brain Apple has in store for us soon enough.

You may need AirPods to use Apple’s AR glasses, even

One of the more recent reports we covered explains how users of Apple’s mixed reality headset might need to wear AirPods. This one is pretty baffling to me at first glance, but obviously, there’s a good reason for why it may be.

According to the report, Apple’s upcoming AR headset will use the same H2 chip that the AirPods Pro 2 use. The one inside the earbuds supposedly carries a “hidden” low-latency transmission mode, which could be used in tandem with the AR headset.

Now, I have the Metal Quest 2, and those, like all VR and AR headsets I’ve tried, have integrated speakers in their frames. In the case with the Quest 2 – pretty good speakers too. Problem is, if Apple wants its AR glasses to eventually become something everyone can wear outdoors, while among other people, everyone will hear the sound from your glasses.

What if you’re in a private call with your loved one, and you don’t want strangers listening in on your dinner conversation, and hearing how you like anchovies on your pizza? Obviously, Apple will be willing to sell you AirPods for this scenario, and the AirPods Pro 2 are allegedly already ready to pair with that non-existed headset right now!

So while buying AirPods won’t necessarily be forced upon you in order to use your Apple AR glasses, it’s reasonable to expect most people would want them regardless, just for the privacy aspect.

AR – yay or nay? Are you excited, or wish “the future” would take its time, so we can enjoy the present a bit longer?

I’ve experienced both VR and AR, and strongly believe AR in particular is going to be the next big thing – it’s extremely exciting and full of potential. Now, most people haven’t had a chance to try out AR, and that’s perfectly understandable, as we don’t really have polished, mainstream, and most importantly – affordable AR products on the market yet, but again, that will change. Maybe as soon as this year.

But what do you think? Are you excited for AR, and would you be willing to play ball with Apple, and buy whatever it takes to experience it?

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