While the betting lines on iPhones with depth-sensing, rear-facing cameras in 2019 have already been established, a new report adds some certainty to the notion that the iPhone will get new AR superpowers later this year.
Citing anonymous sources familiar with the company's plans, Bloomberg reports that Apple is already testing its new triple-lens rear camera array, which is expected to make its way to 2019's iPhone models. Those sources also note that Apple's flavor of depth-scanning will use lasers instead of the current "dot-projection" method.
In 2017, Apple invested $390 million into Finisar, the company that produces those lasers. On its website, Finisar touts the ability of its vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) technology to perform 3D sensing and gesture recognition.
After introducing TrueDepth, which powers features like Animojis and face tracking for ARKit via the iPhone X, and then expanding it to the iPhone XR (fulfilling the prophecy of market analysts), the expansion of the iPhone's 3D scanning capabilities is not only a logical next step in the device's continued evolution, but also a stepping stone towards augmented reality wearables.
Between patent applications for smartglasses, see through displays, and gesture-controlled interfaces, the acquisition of display maker Akonia Holographics and headset maker Vrvana, the assembly of a team of outside experts, and insider reports of the arrival of smartglasses engraved with "Designed by Apple in California" as soon as 2020 (or perhaps not until 2021), Apple is almost assuredly working on a pair of AR smartglasses.
In the meantime, Apple will apparently continue to look to the iPhone to push AR into the hands of consumers until its smartglasses are ready for the spotlight.