Virtual and Augmented reality is touted as the future, and Apple wants in on the action. The company has focused on developing an AR/VR headset in recent years and could launch its maiden offering in the market in 2022 or 2023. The device would be Apple’s first hardware product in the segment, followed by AR glasses that would launch in 2024 or 2025. The headset is said to be a “pricey, niche precursor” to the “ambitious” glasses. Below is everything we know about Apple’s rumored AR/VR headset, thanks to rumors and leaks.
Apple’s AR/VR Headset: Mixed Reality
The headset is said to pack AR and VR capabilities, supporting “mixed reality.” The former overlays virtual elements onto real-world scenes captured by cameras. At the same time, the latter technology shuts out the real world and immerses the user in a completely virtual one instead. Apple’s headset is expected to resemble the Oculus VR headset in its form, while the AR glasses planned for future release could look and work like the now-defunct Google Glass. Apple’s mixed reality headset is said to focus on 3D gaming, content consumption, and AR communication while other AR applications would be limited.
Apple’s AR/VR Headset: Design
Apple’s headset codenamed N301 is expected to resemble Meta’s Oculus Quest in the design department. The Information reportedly saw a prototype, and sketches and renders have surfaced in recent months, suggesting what it could look like. The leaked details suggest the headset would curve around the wearer’s face to block out ambient light from their field of vision, and the outward-facing visor could be capable of displaying graphics.
The display unit would be fastened to the wearer’s head using a strap made of materials similar to the Apple Watch. A “soft mesh” could make the display housing fit comfortably against your face. Some reports claim the entire headset would weigh less than 150 grams, lighter than other similar products on the market. To keep the weight in check, Apple could swap the metal exterior it usually uses in favor of fabric.
Apple’s AR/VR Headset: Displays and Cameras
Reputed Apple analysts have suggested that Apple’s mixed reality headset will feature two or three displays, of which two would be 1.4-inch 4K Micro OLED panels while the third would be a lower-resolution AMOLED display for peripheral vision to enable a “foveated display system.”
Apple is said to be using three-part pancake lenses to shave weight and size at the expense of overall cost. The technology is more expensive than Fresnel lenses found in VR headsets from other manufacturers. An option to add prescription lenses to the array is also said to be in the works because users won’t be able to wear spectacles and the headset together.
Since Apple’s offering would be a mixed reality headset with AR capability, it would be equipped with a bevy of cameras to track hand movements, map the surroundings, and project the virtual elements that make up the AR experience. Eight cameras would deliver the AR experience, while another six would enable “innovative biometrics.” The mapping cameras are rumored to be accurate enough to detect edges, surfaces, and dimensions.
Apple’s AR/VR Headset: Processors, Interface, and OS
Rumor has it that Apple will use multiple high-end processors in the mixed reality headset, and the main processor will be as powerful as the M1 chip but more powerful. The device is said to have a 96W USB-C power adapter for charging, indicative of the high power draw of the onboard chips and display. One of the processors is said to be based on TSMC’s latest 4nm process, while the other is a 5nm chip. A report claimed that Apple ran into overheating issues with the powerful processor, which could delay the headset’s launch by a year until 2023.
The headset will be capable of processing data independently, but some rumors suggest it would need to be connected to an iPhone or Mac to function. The phone would connect to the devices with Wi-Fi 6E. This technology combines the 6GHz spectrum with the 2.4GHz band and 5GHz bands. It could be controlled by intuitive gestures and an eye-tracking system that doubles up as biometric authentication.
Reports from as far back as 2017 indicate that Apple’s headset would run a new operating system called “rOS,” short for Reality Operating System. Apple will also create a dedicated App Store for the headset focusing on gaming, content consumption, and communication. Apple could also make the device compatible with other related services and features such as Animojis, Apple Arcade, and Apple TV+.
Apple’s AR/VR Headset: Pricing and Release Date
Several rumors from reliable sources suggest that Apple’s mixed reality headset would cost upwards of $2,000, making it pricier than the top-of-the-line iPhone 13 Pro Max. Unlike offerings from Meta-owned Oculus and its rivals, Apple’s headset will be aimed at developers, content creators, and professionals instead of being for the masses. The company has also set the bar quite low for expectations in terms of sales. It doesn’t expect the headset to be an instant hit like the iPhone. Insiders believe Apple hopes to sell just one headset per day from each retail outlet, translating into an annual sale of 180,000 units. Despite the steep price, the iPhone maker has told its suppliers to anticipate sales of around 10 million headsets in the first year alone.
Apple is also rumored to be developing AR glasses codenamed N421 that would be launched around a year after the mixed reality headset breaks cover. It is said to be in the early “architecture” stages of development. In theory, the AR glasses are expected to resemble the Google Glass, albeit with improved features and processing power, including micro OLED displays. Little is known about the device, but it is expected to come with a price tag of around $500 and support for prescription lenses.
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