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Where are the piggybacked Apple AR glasses stuck?

Unsurprisingly, Apple has ditched AR glasses again. Although Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo had previously predicted that Apple’s AR/MR headset will be released in January 2023, before the launch, Apple left suspense of “One More Thing”, which swayed people’s interest in Apple’s AR head. obvious guess.

I. Apple wants to recreate the AR myth

After Apple’s baton was passed to Cook, the legendary technology company has not released any amazing products.

The iPhone 14 launched at the conference still does not see much innovation in terms of performance. The chip is still the A15 Bionic, compared to the 13 series, which will be more cost-effective after the price reduction. Of course, this is also Cook’s old routine. The team spent two years polishing the satellite communication function was snatched by Huawei for the world premiere, this function also looks less stunning in the launch.

The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max series have been upgraded to “pill screen” instead of Apple’s “bangs screen”. But these updates really did not give consumers much surprise.

Looking back at the Steve Jobs era, the release of the Apple generation completely changed the way people communicate and ushered in the smartphone era. Then, Apple launched the IOS system, Apple Store and other features one after another to continuously improve the Apple ecology. It can be said bluntly that Apple has always been a worthy leader in the smartphone industry.

And in recent years, fruit fans have to admit that Apple has indeed encountered an innovation bottleneck. New product launches can only be made in color, appearance and other irrelevant aspects, but in battery performance, feature development, and other hardware and software capabilities are repeatedly disappointing. For example, Apple’s battery loss has been a headache for many users, and no effective solution seems to be proposed for the new machine.

Not only that, the smartphone circuit is changing, and Apple’s dominance in high-end machines is beginning to falter. Overseas, there is a Samsung deep folding screen this segment of the track, has attracted a lot of consumer attention. Domestically, there is the Huawei Mate series benchmark, just two days before Apple’s launch, on September 6, Huawei also held a conference to officially launch the Mate 50 series, the Mate 50 series also added satellite communication capabilities, but also the innovative introduction of ultra-space storage compression capabilities. In performance and price are known as formidable enemies to fight with Apple.

The data that most visually reflects Apple’s crisis is its fiscal year 2022 third-quarter report, although the company’s third-quarter revenue of $83 billion, indeed the slowest growth rate of Apple since the 2020 epidemic, and, for six consecutive quarters of sales growth decline.

What makes Cook and even the entire smartphone industry feel more urgent is that the global economy is in a downward spiral, the epidemic has intensified the instability of life, consumers are starting to stay calm in front of the iteration of smartphones, “and so on party gradually become the mainstream mood of consumers. 1.27 billion units, and will also increase prices by 6.3%.

Smartphones are starting to cool down on the consumer side, and tech giants are starting to think about the next form of smartphones. AR glasses give Cook hope.

From the point of view of portability, and VR headset is different from bulky, AR technology is compressed into the shape of glasses, and easy to carry. Compared to the smartphone era, it also frees up hands and saves the “low-headed people”.

From the point of view of the use of scenarios, AR glasses can be benchmarked against smartphones, to undertake social, entertainment, office and other functions.

Cook has repeatedly revealed in interviews that the prospect of AR is expected. As early as 2016, it was reported that Apple was forming a senior team related to AR technology, and Cook personally came down to tap Magic Leap’s senior computer vision algorithm engineer.

Previously, a Bloomberg report showed that the AR product development team once exceeded 1,000 people. Although rumors of Apple’s VR/AR team being disbanded have also been circulated many times, Apple has never put down the pace of AR glasses research and development.

Last year, Apple was revealed to have registered and applied for the trademark of Reality OS around the world. In February, foreign media revealed that Apple’s supply chain rumored that Apple had completed the second phase of engineering verification testing (EVT2) for its AR/VR headset. In March, Apple filed another patent application for the haptic glove, which covers a device that accurately simulates the user’s sense of touch in augmented reality, virtual reality or mixed reality environment.

Apple continues to build up its strength in AR glasses, waiting to recreate the industry legend.

Second, AR is stuck in a technical bottleneck

A realistic problem is that the AR technology is still just figuring out in the starting period. Even Apple, including technology giants in AR glasses this answer sheet can not deliver satisfactory answers.

AR glasses, as an iteration of smartphones, have raised higher requirements in terms of performance requirements and user experience. AR technology is a virtual technology superimposed on top of real scenes to enhance the sense of presence. At the same time, as a wearable device, the design of AR glasses also needs to take into account the actual user experience requirements, which means that AR glasses need to strictly control the weight of the product.

The most important concern of AR glasses is the final imaging effect, and the optical structure of AR glasses is what determines the imaging effect.

At present, several common display solutions on the market are mainly divided into a prism, free-form surface, Bird-bath and light waveguide technology. Prism is cheap and small in size, but the field of view is small, and it is easy to block the line of sight. Previously, Google Glass used this solution, and it was not recognized by consumers. Bird-bath solution has a heavy-weight lens.

The relatively mainstream AR display technology is an optical waveguide, thin and light and high penetration characteristics make it very potential. Microsoft’s Hololens 2 and Magic Leap One both use this solution. But the price of light waveguide technology is very high, a pair of lenses up to 2,000 yuan, the cost of mass production crushed many developers.

AR glasses have taken the lead in B-side development, such as Microsoft’s HoloLens 2, which is mainly supplied to enterprises and the military. Of course, this is because at this stage AR glasses in terms of weight and price is really no way to make a compromise. The Microsoft HoloLens 2 national version is priced at 27,388 yuan and weighs up to 2.87 kg. Guo Ming-Chi also predicts that Apple’s AR glasses will be offered at a price of more than $2000.

Microsoft HoloLens2

On August 27, Nreal launched the new Nreal Air and Nreal X for the domestic market, with the price of Nreal Air reduced to 2,299 yuan. The price reduction did pry the market demand, and Nreal delivered 12 million sales on the first day of sale. However, back to the Nreal product itself, consumer satisfaction is not high. In the official Nreal Tmall flagship store, many consumers questioned the product adaptation of Nreal Air. Some consumers even said that instead of being an AR glasses with emphasis on interactive functions, Nreal Air is more like a convenient, high-definition display screen. Therefore, Nreal’s claim of consumer-grade AR seems premature.

Third, the industry is betting on the future like crazy

According to Liu Tianjie, investment director of Huaying Capital, AR technology lags behind VR technology by at least five or six years in terms of technology maturity.

The VR headset led by Meta Quest has already landed on the consumer side. IDC data shows that in the first quarter of 2022, 356.3 units of global VR headset were shipped. In contrast, AR device shipments can only be described as dismal. IDC statistics, AR devices sold only 280,000 units in 2021, which is still less than a fraction of the quarterly shipments of VR headsets. Moreover, 80% of the shipments of AR headset devices are enterprise users.

It can be said that AR still has a long way to go from the consumer side.

But if you can’t go to the consumer side, AR glasses are afraid of being unsustainable. Because the cost of hardware devices such as AR glasses is not low, and can only be mass-produced to improve sales and thus reduce costs.

In 2021, Meta upgraded the 64GB version of Quest 2 directly to 128G, and increased the volume without increasing the price, still maintaining a price of $299. Under the high cost performance directly opened the consumer market. That is, in 2021, the VR headset ushered in the inflection point of the market explosion. After opening the user market, the content ecology will naturally follow to improve.

Of course, this kind of strong price subsidy can only be sustained by a giant company like Meta. Obviously, the domestic AR star company Nreal wants to replicate Meta’s successful experience in the VR headset field, but the product side is still a huge regret. The hastily launched AR glasses are recognized by many consumers as a “half-finished product”.

In addition to the product technology, AR glasses also face the problem of limited use scenarios on the consumer side, in other words, consumers do not know what irreplaceable functions the AR glasses can achieve. Without rigid consumer demand, it is difficult to persuade consumers to try AR glasses that are not inexpensive. At present, the consumer-grade AR glasses launched on the market are far from being able to replace the use of smartphones in the scenario.

The reason why capital and market pay close attention to Apple’s movement is of course the expectation that Apple, which once unveiled the history of smartphone development, can provide a solution for consumer-grade AR. But the frequently shelved Apple AR products have once again poured cold water on the AR market.

This is true for large manufacturers, and even more difficult for AR startups.

The importance of funding for startups during the technology start-up period cannot be overstated. Nreal, which is backed by Azure Capital and Sequoia Capital, says that at least 70% of its funds are used for R&D. However, even though many AR startups have invested a lot of money, the progress of the technology is still slow, and the sales figures are certainly dismal. Capital naturally can’t let go of bottomless pits, and with the withdrawal of funds, the development of startups has been plagued. Once valued as high as 12 billion yuan, AR glasses company Shadowtronics has had no more capital injection since September 2020, and was exposed as owing half a year’s salary to its employees.

With Apple’s delayed delivery, capital and creators can only bet heavily on the future of AR glasses once.


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Threza Gabriel
Threza Gabriel
TechGoing is a global tech media to brings you the latest technology stories, including smartphones, electric vehicles, smart home devices, gaming, wearable gadgets, and all tech trending.

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