Apple has been reported to be working on a virtual reality (VR) headset and/ or an augmented reality (AR) device multiple times in the recent past. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, in a research note earlier this month, said that the company is working on an augmented reality (AR) device and now, a Bloomberg report has said that the company's first VR headset will be a pricey, niche precursor to a more ambitious AR product. According to the report, the initial device has hit 'several development hurdles' and the company has 'conservative' sales expectations from it.
The Bloomberg report says that as a majorly VR device, the Apple VR headset will display an all-encompassing 3D digital environment for gaming, watching video and communicating. AR functionality, the ability to overlay images and information over a view of the real world will be more limited. The report also said that Apple has planned to launch the product as soon as 2022, and will compete against Facebook's Oculus, Sony's PlayStation VR, and the likes. The high-end, niche product aims to prepare outside developers and consumers for more mainstream AR glasses further down the line.
The report also said that Apple's first headset will be more expensive than those from rivals that cost anywhere between $300 (roughly Rs 21,900) to $900 (roughly Rs 65,700). According to the report, Apple plans to put much higher resolution displays in the headset than those in current VR offerings, and it aims to include advanced chips that are even more powerful than its latest M1 processors.
Further, Apple is also said to include a fan in the design of the headset, which is codenamed N301 and is in a late prototype stage. The inclusion of the fan and powerful processors is said to have initially resulted in a device that was way too large and heavy, so Apple reportedly brought the headset closer to the face and helped shrink the size. This meant that users may not be able to wear eyeglasses while using the headset. In order to address the same, Apple developed a system where custom prescription lenses can be inserted into the headset over the VR screens. Apple is also said to be discussing how it might implement prescriptions when the device finally goes on sale.
The AR glasses, on the other hand, are codenamed N421 and are 'several years away,' according to sources close to the matter. It was earlier reported that Apple plans to release its first AR device as early as 2023. According to a report in MacRumours, Apple's current prototype of AR glasses are said to resemble high-end sunglasses with thick frames that house the battery and chips. It also said that Jony Ive, Apple's former design chief is said to have preferred the concept of N421 glasses over a full-blown headset, which Apple was initially aiming for.
Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo also predicted earlier this month that the Cupertino-based giant is working on an AR-based device, but said that details about the AR device are unclear. Kuo was also not able to specify if it will be in a headset form factor or in an AR glass form.
In an October 2020 report, it was also said that an Apple AR-based smart glasses device may launch in 2022. The report back then said that the Cupertino-based giant may use a 0.5-inch Sony microOLED display with a 1280 x 960 pixels resolution and a 100,000:1 contrast ratio.
Earlier, a USPTO patent from Apple showed that Apple is looking at technology that will enable users to control their iPhone using a head-worn device.