Back on October 9th, 9to5Mac ran a story detailing a report from Ming-Chi Kuo that said Apple was developing their AR Glasses in partnership with “third party brands.” This certainly sounded strange, as it is highly unlike Apple to work with others in the development of new hardware. With so little context, it was hard to tell what Kuo was really getting at with his vague comment.
However, today Digitimes brought us new details that may shed additional light on this subject. According to them, Apple is working in partnership with well-known game developers and Steam platform creators Valve to bring its AR Glasses to market. That’s certainly new and different.
Ok, so this report still doesn’t change the fact that Apple isn’t exactly known for playing well with others. However, Digitimes makes some interesting points that do lend some strength to their argument. First off, Apple and Valve actually worked together to bring VR Headset compatibility to macOS two years ago. That precedent certainly adds a little plausibility, if not credibility, to this rumor.
Another interesting tidbit from this report is comes from MacRumors’ breakdown of the Digitimes report:
Back in July, DigiTimes reported that Apple had temporarily stopped developing AR/VR headsets and that the team working on them was disbanded in May and reassigned to other product developments.
However, according to the latest information from the Taiwan website’s sources, Apple was actually in the process of shifting from in-house development to collaborative development with Valve.
I derided the former Digitimes report, as rumors of the Apple Car have also predicted doom and disbanding of the program a few times only to swing back the other direction in time. I assumed the same thing was going on here, especially since it was a supply chain source reporting on what would normally be internal matters at Apple. However, the earlier report now makes a lot more sense in light of this new information.
If this turns of to be true, it will be really interesting to see what a collaborative hardware product from Apple and Valve would look like. If you think about Apple’s ample hardware chops and ARKit experience and Valve’s background in VR, this does seem like a good fit. It is just hard for me to envision exactly which tech from Valve would become a part of the product without more information. If this is true, more of that will leak out soon enough.
Here’s the other thing I can’t help but wonder about- could Apple also leverage Valve’s expertise in VR gaming to bring that to their AR Glasses? That combined with their own chops developed from ARKit could be pretty compelling. Before today, I kind of expected the coming glasses to center on productivity and notifications, similar to the Apple Watch. However, it would be cool to see Apple somehow incorporate AR gaming into the experience. That would certainly add an unexpected element that could potentially broaden the appeal of a new hardware platform. Considering how important gaming is to the success of the App Store and the initial popularity of Apple Arcade, it seems like a smart direction for Apple to embrace.
Time will tell if Digitime’s report proves to be true or not. However, I do think there is enough here that makes sense for it to be worth considering.