Apple's VR/AR headset to use standalone design
Apple's mixed reality headset was recently shown to the company's board of directors. With mixed reality, the device will support both VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality). The former creates an environment that is all made up while the latter places a layer of data on top of a real-world image. For example, with VR you might find yourself in a room with a large screen television that you can use to play video games.
Apple presents its mixed reality device to the company's Board of Directors
The thing is, this room does not exist and neither does the television set. You'll see it only when you have your mixed reality headset on. Augmented Reality (AR) is currently used on Google Maps. With Live View, the camera on the back of the phone sends images to the display that shows you where you are while arrows are superimposed on the screen showing you which way to turn and pointing out famous landmarks that you'll be walking past.
Drawing of Apple's mixed reality headset made by The Information
According to The Verge, Apple AR / VR chief Mike Rockwell wanted the product to ship with a VR headset that would connect to a base station; the suits at Apple wanted a standalone VR headset instead. The base station that Rockwell proposed would have been powered by the Apple M1 Ultra, the most powerful piece of Apple Silicon to date with a whopping 114 billion transistors inside.
By the time the decision was made to go with the standalone headset, the device’s multiple chips had already been in development for several years. This made it impossible for Apple to start from scratch and go back to the drawing board to produce a single chip to handle all the capabilities of the headset. Other issues have created headaches for hardware and algorithm engineers such as many as 14 cameras on the device.
The report also delves into former Apple design chief Jony Ive's continued work on the project which has continued long after Ive left Apple. While Ive prefers a wearable battery for the mixed reality headset ("the best Apple mixed reality headset yet," as Ive might have said on the new product video), prototypes of the device reportedly have the battery hidden inside the headband of the VR headset.
Still, it is not known where the battery will be found in the final design of the device. We do expect the headset to use a new operating system called realityOS which was a name we first heard used in conjunction with Apple headgear years ago.
The mixed reality headsets check off a few flattering and unflattering boxes. Expensive? The price could be above $3,000 and include as many as a dozen cameras to help track hand and head movements. There could be two 4K micro OLED displays and an AMOLED low-resolution display for peripheral vision. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says that Apple does not pigeon-hole the device as a gaming platform and that it will sport the best industrial production to date.
A few years after mixed reality, Apple will launch its AR-based Apple Glass
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman wrote, "Gaming should be a strong focus of the machine, especially given that it will have multiple processors, a fan, extremely high-resolution displays, and its own App Store. Look for Apple to position the device as a dream for game developers. Next, media consumption. I expect Apple to work with media partners to create content that can be watched in VR on the device. Third, communications. Look for Animojis and a VR FaceTime-like experience to be the new-age Zoom."
And a few years after the mixed reality device is released, Apple is expected to launch what many have been expecting to be its next big product replacing the iPhone, Apple Glass. With a design that resembles traditional glasses, Apple Glass would allow users to employ AR to see data through their glasses as they go about their average day.
At Google I/O last week, Google showed off a pair of smart glasses that looked nothing like Google Glass, the device that helped coin the phrase "glass holes." The glasses displayed at the event allow a user to slip one on and instantly engage in a conversation with someone speaking another language. If Apple and Google can prove the worth of using smart glasses for this type of content (which would also benefit the hard of hearing) instead of recording copies of first-run movies and selling bootlegged copies of them, then AR glasses could very well be the next big thing.
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