Apple’s anticipated virtual reality and augmented reality headset will need to be wirelessly tethered to a phone or a similar device for the most advanced features, according to a new report. The Information says this AR/VR headset will work similarly to early versions of the Apple Watch, which required users to carry their iPhones with them.
The report claims that Apple completed work last year on the chip and its physical design is ready for trial production. Two people familiar with the matter said Apple’s longtime partner Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing is manufacturing the three chips, which are at least a year away from mass production.
More significant are the details of the SoC, which isn’t as powerful as the ones made for iPhones, iPads and MacBooks. It lacks the artificial intelligence and machine-learning capabilities, known as Apple’s neural engine, which those devices include, one of the people said.
Instead, the headset is meant to communicate wirelessly with a host device, presumably a phone, computer or tablet, that will handle the more powerful computing required to display virtual, mixed and augmented reality images, the person said.
Another person familiar with the situation said Apple has also finished designing the image sensor and display driver for the headset, and it’s “unusually large”:
The complementary metal-oxide semiconductor image sensor is the chip that converts photons to electrons for digital processing into an image. Apple’s version is unusually large, similar to the size of one of the headset’s lenses, as it’s meant to capture high-resolution image data from a user’s surroundings for AR. TSMC has struggled to produce the chip without defects and has faced low yields during trial production, the person said.
After years of speculation, we could be closer to see what this AR/VR headset will look like. According to the publication, Apple plans to follow the headset with a sleeker pair of AR glasses that could debut as early as 2023.
Since Bloomberg speculated that Tim Cook wants to be at Apple for another major product, this could mean this AR/VR headset will be introduced in the next five years at maximum.
In April, Apple CEO Tim Cook, on Kara Swisher’s Sway podcast, talked about AR and its role in Apple’s future.
“In terms of AR, the promise of AR is that you and I are having a great conversation right now. Arguably, it could even be better if we were able to augment our discussion with charts or other things to appear. Your audience would also benefit from this, too, I think. And so when I think about that in different fields, whether it’s health, whether it’s education, whether it’s gaming, whether it’s retail, I’m already seeing AR take off in some of these areas.
At that time, asked about the rumored mixed reality headset, Apple’s CEO gave the PR answer that he doesn’t talk about future products, but it’s important to note this:
“I think the [AR] promise is even greater in the future. So it’s a critically important part of Apple’s future.”
What do you think? Are we going to see this headset rather sooner than later? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.