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.

  • Read our review of the iPhone 11 Pro
  • These phones are getting Android 10
  • Motorola is working on a new flagship

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.

David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.