Over the last couple of months, rumors of Apple’s reportedly in-development AR/VR headset have been springing up left and right, and they tease an exciting new device for Apple. As opposed to the generally-dubbed “Apple Glass”, this is an augmented reality headset that will release before Apple’s smart glasses, potentially as soon as early next year.
Status of the headset
Bloomberg reported that the headset is still in a late prototype stage, meaning that Apple’s plans for the headset could change or be “scrapped entirely before launch”. Bloomberg also says that “the plans suggest that Apple’s first headset will be far more expensive than those from rivals“, lining up with the $3000 reported price from The Information. “Some Apple insiders believe the company may sell only one headset per day per retail store. Apple has roughly 500 stores, so in that scenario, annual sales would be just over 180,000 units — excluding other sales channels. That would put it on par with other pricey Apple products, such as the $5,999 Mac Pro desktop computer.”
A new report from The Information provides details on the features of the headset, as well as potential pricing. Supposedly, the headset will contain two 8K displays, eye-tracking tech, and over a dozen cameras for tracking hand movements.
The illustration above is based off images of a “late-stage prototype“, with a “sleek, curved visor attached to the face by a mesh material and swappable headbands“. One headband could feature spatial audio like the Airpods Pro and Airpods Max to produce a surround-sound effect, while another could allow for extra battery life.
Methods of control are reportedly still being developed, with a possible “thimble-like device to be worn on a person’s finger“, as well as responses to eye movement and hand gestures.
According to Bloomberg, the original plan was to include less powerful processors in the headset and offload most of the work to a hub in the user’s home, “but that idea was squashed by Jony Ive“. Therefore, the headset is intended to be a standalone device, much like the Oculus Quest.
Last month, Apple’s Chief of Hardware Engineering was reassigned to focus on a “new project“, and Bloomberg has reported that this project focuses on the aforementioned Apple VR/AR headsets. The report states that:
“Riccio’s move is similar to the approach taken last year by Phil Schiller, the company’s former marketing chief. Both executives left senior roles but held on to areas that needed extra oversight. In Schiller’s case, it was the App Store and public relations, and for Riccio, it’s the AR and VR headsets. This strategy helps keep key longtime executives at the company.
Apple’s work on its first headset, a high-end VR-focused device with some AR capabilities, has faced development challenges, and people within Apple believe Riccio’s extra focus could help. While he has ultimate oversight of the project, it is led day-to-day by Mike Rockwell, an Apple vice president who has well over a thousand engineers working on the two devices.”
It’s clear there’s a lot to look forward to in terms of mixed reality devices from Apple, and the big move from such a senior employee emphasises just how much work Apple is putting into this project.