Apple has been promising a move into the VR / AR hardware space for a number of years now. The market has been patiently waiting to see the Apple VR/AR headset they will create.
The release date of the first Apple Virtual or Augmented Reality Headset is not yet released. With the amount of influence they wield in the consumer market, and the vast scale they have built in terms of hardware products, their entry could mark a new era in terms of the technology.
The major feature that most people are talking about is the fact that the headset itself will need to be connected wirelessly to an iPhone in order for it to work. It appears that Apple are expecting that the iPhone will still handle most of the heavy computation. The headset will simply act as the interface device, with the exception of some basic functionality.
This is a very similar decision to what they did with the Apple Watch. The watch mostly functions as a display and input device, leaving most of the work to the iPhone itself. Over time, you might see more integration as the hardware becomes more sophisticated and smaller. For now – you’re going to need an iPhone to unlock the magic of whatever headsets they create.
Apple has built 5-nanometer custom chips specifically for the headset and these lack some of the power of those in the Mac range and in the iPhone range. It won’t have the same neural network and machine learning capabilities and seems to be designed purely for the visual projections alone. It does have a CPU and GPU onboard, so it may be able to handle some things standalone, but it’s certainly not what the device is mainly focused on.
The few details that have been leaked suggest that the major focus areas for the headset chip was to maximize battery life for tasks like compressing and uncompressing video and communicating wirelessly with a host device.
Production on these chips is only expected to start in 2022. This could be pushed back if the device is not finished on schedule. Apple have been known for waiting until they’ve got the user experience perfectly before pulling the trigger, so it could still be some time yet.
When the headset finally does come to life, it could mark a brand new era for Apple. A company that hasn’t released a revolutionary new hardware device in a while. Tim Cook has repeatedly mentioned how AR and VR are important technologies. They are at the centre of the company’s future, but we are yet to see how that will play out.
We’ve seen them invest in a lot of the underlying development systems like AR kit and various other SDK’s. However, the real catalyst will be the release of their own hardware device. Like it or not, Apple moves culture with their products. Therefore their offering, whenever it arrives, will have a significant impact on the future of the industry.
We’ll have to wait and see exactly what that looks like. However, we’re cautiously optimistic that it could turn out to be something special.