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Apple's new patent application could move it one step closer to AR glasses

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during the Worldwide Developers Conference in California, U.S., on June 5, 2017.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during the Worldwide Developers Conference in California, U.S., on June 5, 2017.

Yet another patent application by Apple in the buzzing field of augmented reality (AR) came to light Thursday. But according to analysts CNBC spoke to, new technology such as AR-enabled glasses could be a while down the road.

The patent, filed under Apple's acquisition Metaio, refers to technology in which points of interest viewed through a smartphone can be enhanced with AR. This could have application on say, guided tours, with AR-geared wearable technology recognizing buildings and adding in information to further inform users.

Apple has been adding to its trademarks in the AR space.

Ian Fogg, head of mobile at analysis firm IHS Markit, told CNBC via telephone that the patent was part of Apple's "incredible thrust forward" in AR.

But he didn't think it meant that any new AR-dedicated hardware releases soon. "Apple like to wait until there's a polished product that delivers a good experience," Fogg explained. Nascent AR technology across the board still suffers from bumps that need to be smoothed out, including causing motion sickness, draining battery life and not providing a wide enough field of vision.

Ben Wood, mobile analyst at CCS Insight, told CNBC via telephone that Apple is "more of a follower than a leader" in new technology areas including AR, and has a degree of nervousness about possible risks associated with the technology. But, "Apple has the potential to be the market maker in AR" when it does take the plunge, he added.

German AR-specialist Metaio was acquired by Apple in 2015 and has been linked to the Silicon Valley giant's upcoming release of new software ARKit, a set of tools based on its existing operating system designed to help app builders easily introduce AR into their work.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is famously enthusiastic about AR, which he described as a "core technology" in an interview with the Independent in February 2017. "I regard it as a big idea like the smartphone," he added.

Apple's patent application was filed in April earlier this year, but has a history dating back to 2013, according to Patently Apple.

Filing a patent does not necessarily guarantee that a product is going to come to market.

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