Insights From The Blog

Apple VR Headset: All You Need To Know Right Now

In the reality of covid lockdowns, 2018 seems a hell of a long in the past, but in reality, it wasn’t that long ago, and it was at the 2018 CNET show that the first real indications that Apple were getting serious about a VR/AR headset started to surface, and we have been waiting with baited breath ever since.

Rather than just playing catch-up with the likes of Hive, PlayStation, and Oculus, the Cupertino company is hoping to go further. Apple is said to have been considering an AR/VR unit for as long as ten years, and have had a secret team of developers engaged on the project for most of that time. There has been plenty of rumours about such a device and now it is all starting to come together and actually getting close to a launch date.

In 2014, Apple made a load of VR Engineer hires and set about acquiring specialist companies – such as PrimeSense and Faceshift, who are both major players in the field of motion capture and imaging – as a precursor to developing related technology. If not for gaming consoles (not one of Apple’s venture markets) the only possible explanation is that the company is investing in some kind of 3D technology, and that just backs up the VR/AR system concept.

Late last year it was rumoured that the AR system – codenamed N301 – would be first off the blocks, but information from sources in January this year has indicated that a Mixed Reality (MR) device is actually more likely. This mix of the two technologies could put Apple well ahead of opposition in terms of technology and market grab. If we are to believe the buzz, the device will feature more than a dozen external cameras, specifically sited to take in the outside world to track position and hand movements and help with positioning augmented reality features. Other potential features are an ergonomically-designed faceplate to prevent light ingress, and an outward-facing screen to allow non-users to view what the wearer is experiencing on the inside.

Current rumours are suggesting that the MR headset will feature two high-resolution 8K displays, and the array of external cameras will be able to map surfaces, edges, and even the dimensions of rooms with a higher degree of accuracy than existing devices on the market.

According to online sources, the headset has been described as having a sleek, curved visor attached to the face by a mesh material and swappable headbands for extra comfort and a snug fit. One of these interchangeable headbands apparently features spatial audio technology similar to the AirPod Pro devices for a surround-sound like experience, while another of the head straps apparently provides additional battery life while on the go.

As for control input, Apple is apparently working on a number of different methods, including a thimble-like device to be worn on a person’s finger that allows connection with the camera array for high precision tracking. The headset may also be able to respond to the wearer’s eye movements and hand gestures by using constant camera tracking. Apple has also been testing the possibility of Siri input and voice activation. Whatever the final specification, it is likely that the commercial product will be a premium product aimed more towards business than everyday consumers, and will have a price tag to match.

There is a lot of speculation out there, and many industry pundits are furiously speculating, but some may have a better idea than most. Respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes Apple’s Mixed Reality headset will come available sometime in 2022, with the AR-only Apple Glasses to follow on in 2025.

We at Unity Developers are excited about the prospect of Apple joining this enormous, worldwide market and adding a bit of spice to a growing product range. We’ll keep you updated about all the developments with this game-changing device.