Apple may be moving into the world of smart glasses.
The wearable headset would connect wirelessly to iPhones and show information that is superimposed onto a user's view of the real world.
The iPhone maker is believed to be working with Carl Zeiss on the project, which could go on sale this year.
'A Zeiss employee confirmed the rumors that Apple and Carl Zeiss AG are working on a light pair of augmented reality/mixed reality glasses that may be announced this year,' blogger Roberty Scoble wrote.
'I thought it was next year but now that I saw this I believe it will happen this year.'
The firm has talked about the project with potential suppliers for Google Glass-style headsets.
A recent report by Bloomberg cites 'people familiar with the issue' who asked not to be identified. .
Chief Executive Tim Cook, who has been struggling with a slowdown in iPhone sales in recent quarters, said earlier this year that the company would continue to invest a lot into augmented reality (AR).
Augmented reality is a tool that overlays digital information with the user's environment in real-time.
The glasses would be Apple's first product targeted directly at AR, according to the report.
The firm has built up its AR research through the acquisition of several firms, including PrimeSense, which developed motion-sensing technology in Microsoft's Kinect Gaming syste.
'AR can be really great, and we have been and continue to invest a lot in this,' Mr Cook said in a conference call with analysts.
'We are high on AR for the long run. We think there are great things for customers and a great commercial opportunity.'
Apple, the world's largest technology company, has ordered a small number of near-eye displays for testing but has not obtained enough for production on a larger scale, the report added.
Apple declined to comment.
The move would make Apple the latest technology company to venture into wearable glasses.
Alphabet Inc's discontinued its own wearable glass headset, Google Glass, and closed the social media account linked to the device earlier this year, ending its attempt to popularize the expensive devices with consumers.
The device received plenty of attention when it was launched in 2012, but quickly ran into problems with its awkward appearance and privacy concerns over video recording.
Snap, an $18 billion (£14 billion) company which makes the popular messaging app Snapchat, also launched its own video-camera sunglasses last week.
As rumours continue to circulate about Apple's next move for its iOS systems, a new patent suggests augmented reality mapping could be underway.
The firm was granted a patent for 'Augmented reality maps' last week, revealing an app that could use the iPhone's advanced sensors to generate real-time views of the user's surroundings with digital information superimposed.
The system could even overlay directional indicators to the live video stream, visualising the course and any upcoming turns on the way to a given location, and letting the user know if they're facing the wrong direction.
Apple Watch goads you into getting some post-holiday exercise
Guilt over holiday eating might just convince you to hit the gym in the coming weeks, but Apple wants to offer some motivation of its own. On December 28th, the company pushed a notification to every Apple Watchowner encouraging them to participate in a Ring in the New Year Challenge starting January 2nd, 2017. If you complete all three of your activity goals (Move, Exercise, Stand) every day for at least one week in January, you'll get a special achievement medal (above) and an iMessage sticker pack to help you brag about your performance.
The concept of seasonal Apple Watch achievements isn't strictly new. Apple introduced a Thanksgiving Day 5K challenge on November 24th with similar rewards. However, the Cupertino crew is being more aggressive about notifying users. Also, you're much more likely to realize that you can get achievements like this -- there's now a dedicated section in your iPhone's Activity app that shows seasonal medals, including a placeholder for the not-yet-active New Year's competition.
Not every Apple Watch owner is going to appreciate the campaign, to be sure. The alert could easily rub you the wrong way if you can't (or just don't care to) take up the challenge. However, it's not shocking to see Apple go this route. In addition to promoting good health, the seasonal events offer an incentive to keep wearing your watch. You may be more likely to use the Apple Watch every day if you know that you'll have something to show for that commitment, and that increases the chances that you'll be interested in a future model instead of letting your current watch languish in a drawer.
Patent hints that Apple Watch 3 could be much thinner
It’s only been a couple of months since Apple launched its second-generation smartwatch, but the Apple Watch 3 rumours are already rolling in.
Now, a newly published patent has revealed the next-gen wearable could feature a new, thinner design, with tech-boosted wristbands also set to be introduced.
The patent relates to a 'band attachment mechanism with haptic response', and was filed with the US Patent and Trademark office in June.
It dissects a plan to move the Watch’s vibration-producing haptic motor from the watch, into the strap.
'A system includes a band, an attachment mechanism attached to the band, and one or more haptic devices included in the attachment mechanism,' reads the patent.
Apple’s current Taptic Engine motor coverts energy into motion to produce vibrations used to alert users to incoming messages, and other notifications.
By moving this to the strap, the patent details how the interchangeable bands would need to play host to electromagnetic technology and electroreactive polymers.
Along with the motor, these would allow the band to move side-to-side, while also helping the company continue its push for increasingly skinny gadgets.
Although this does little to change the primary function of the straps, Apple has detailed how it would allow it to make the next-generation Apple Watch itself considerably thinner.
By removing the linear actuator motor from the watch, the body could be slimmed down significantly.
However, exact dimensions for the upcoming watch are still unclear.
The current Apple Watch Series 2 is 11.4mm thick, particularly plump compared to the company’s 7.3mm thick iPhones.
Detailing how the smart straps would work, the patent proposes that haptic motors would sit within existing elements of traditional watch strap designs, including in buckles and links within metal bands.
It’s suggested the motor could also be deployed within a watchband’s spring bars - the clasps that attach a strap to the body of the watch.
The patent fails to mention whether the haptic bands would receive a signal from the host watch through a tethered connection or wirelessly, although the former is more likely.
Despite the teasing details, sadly, there’s still no sign of the round Apple Watch the world is waiting for.
Based on the company’s past wearable releases, it is widely expected that the Apple Watch 3 will be unveiled in September 2017, most likely alongside the new iPhone 8.