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 completely made up, while the latter superimposes a data layer on top of a real image. With VR, for example, you are in a room with a large screen television where you can play video games.
Apple presents its mixed reality device to the company’s board of directors
The point is, this room doesn’t exist and neither does the television. You can only see it when you have your mixed reality headset on. Augmented Reality (AR) is currently being used on Google Maps. With Live View, the camera on the back of the phone sends images to the display showing you where you are, while on-screen arrows show you which way to go and point out famous landmarks you’ll pass by.
Drawing of Apple’s mixed reality headset created by The Information
According to The edge
Apple AR/VR chief Mike Rockwell wanted the product to come with a VR headset that would connect to a base station; the suits at Apple wanted a standalone VR headset instead. The base station Rockwell proposed would be powered by the Apple M1 Ultra, the most powerful piece of Apple Silicon yet with a staggering 114 billion transistors inside.
By the time the decision was made to go for the standalone headset, the device’s multiple chips had 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 that can handle all of the headset’s capabilities. Other issues have caused headaches for hardware and algorithm engineers, such as as many as 14 cameras on the device.
The report also examines former Apple design chief Jony Ive’s ongoing work on the project, which continued long after Ive left Apple. While Ive prefers a portable battery for the mixed reality headset (“Apple’s best mixed reality headset”) yetas Ive may have said in the new product video), prototypes of the device have reportedly hidden the battery inside the VR headset’s headband.
The mixed reality headsets tick off some flattering and unflattering boxes. Expensive? The price can exceed $3,000 and includes as many as a dozen cameras to track hand and head movements. There could be two 4K micro-OLED displays and a low-resolution AMOLED display for peripheral vision. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says Apple will not pigeonhole the device as a gaming platform and it will have the best industrial production yet.
A few years after mixed reality, Apple launches 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. See if Apple can use the device as a dream will position for game developers. Then media consumption. I expect Apple to work with media partners to create content that can be viewed in VR on the device. Third, communication. Look for animojis and a VR FaceTime-like experience to enable the new time to be Zoom.”
And a few years after the mixed reality device was released, Apple is expected to launch what many had expected to be its next major product to replace the iPhone, Apple Glass. With a design that resembles traditional glasses, Apple Glass would allow users to use AR to see data through their glasses as they go about their average day.
At Google I/O last week, Google showed off smart glasses that looked nothing like Google Glass, the device that has coined the term “glass holes.” With the glasses displayed during the event, a user can put one on and immediately start a conversation with someone who speaks another language. If Apple and Google can prove the value of using smart glasses for this kind of content (which would also be good for the hearing impaired) instead of shooting copies of first-run movies and selling pirated copies of them, AR glasses may very well be the next big thing.