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Apple's upcoming AR glasses could have lenses with adjustable darkness

augmented reality specs
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

We don't have official confirmation yet, but at this stage it would be more surprising if Apple wasn't working on some kind of augmented reality eyewear – a steady trickle of rumors have leaked out, and now we've got a patent to pore over.

The patent in question mentions an "adjustable opacity system" – lenses that can get darker or lighter as needed, in other words, via the sort of photochromic lens that we've seen in standard specs.

The glasses would "display computer-generated content over selected portions of the real-world objects", the filing says, giving the game away as far as the augmented reality part of the tech goes.

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This adjustable opacity could help users view graphics in bright light, for example, or completely block out the surroundings when needed – maybe if you were watching a video or reading a message, for example.

2020 launch?

As with all of the patents we report on, this might never develop into a full commercial product, but it does give us an indication that Apple is exploring some sort of AR-related wearable technology.

In the last few days we've seen reports that these glasses could launch during 2020, if Apple can find a compelling use case for them.

We've also seen references in the iOS 13 code to what we think is augmented reality hardware. Apple has been keen to push the capabilities of its ARKit platform, so it would make sense that an physical device is on the way too.

Samsung might beat Apple to it though: Samsung has also been filing patents in this area, suggesting it has a wearable AR device on the way, having seemingly cooled on developing its Gear VR hardware.