Apple has long been rumored to be working on a virtual reality headset. But recent leaked information from its internal event at the Steve Jobs Theater last October provides the most concrete evidence to its venture into the VR industry.
Tech insider The Information revealed their notes from the event detailing Apple’s plans for a hybrid VR/AR headset. According to the event presided by Apple Vice President Mike Rockwell, “Apple’s headset, code-named N301, will offer a hybrid of AR and VR capabilities.” The Information went on to document that the headset resembles Facebook’s Oculus Quest but with a slicker design. They also highlighted that Apple is aiming for a 2020 release, in contrast to a previously rumored date set earlier this year. It was then announced that slicker AR glasses would follow as an update in 2023.
Aggressive yet calculated
Tim Cook has talked about AR and VR for a while and regards the emerging tech as the new frontiers for Apple. According to Bloomberg, the release of the rumored headset was set back by the release of the new iPad Pro, which features more powerful 3D capabilities. At its core is the new 3D sensor which could create “reconstructions of rooms, objects and people.” Apple also said that these capabilities will be built into the iPhone by 2020.
While the best VR headsets on the market are making waves, Apple has been much slower to develop their own headset. This is mainly because the company likes to build on current tech and perfect it before releasing anything to the public.
If experience serves right, Apple will leverage its iPhone and iPad line to introduce and make users comfortable with the new VR/AR technology first. But phone-powered VR experiences are being abandoned by other brands as they have battery and visual impairment issues. HP explains how the best immersive VR experiences require wearable tech, which the refined Apple headsets will be offering. The rumored glasses are thought to be manufactured with a lighter material so that they can be used for extended periods of time. Much like Microsoft’s Hololens, the headset is said to have cameras mounted on the outside of the device allowing people to see and interact with their surroundings. But the glasses will dim once the user switches to VR mode.
The way in which the planned hardware was presented shows that the headset isn’t just a side project for Apple. Moreover, senior managers at Apple note that it might be bigger than the iPhone, and predicts it will replace the smartphone in the next decade or so.
About a thousand engineers are currently working on the AR and VR investment. This is on top of the aggressive VR hires Apple has done in the past two years including Jaunt VR’s founder Arthur van Hoff. Jaunt was initially focused on creating cinematic VR environments and experiences, and one of the leading startups in VR development. This is in addition to last year’s power hires including Cyber Paint’s Sterling Crispin and VR researcher Doug Bowman.
With an expanding team of experts and a huge ecosystem, players in the VR industry are watching closely as this Apple entry unfolds.