Rumor claims that Apple may introduce their first Head Mounted Device in the Form of a Virtual Reality Headset in 2022
As a new Mixed Reality Headset patent from Apple was published today by the U.S. Patent Office for object tracking and recognition, a new rumor report has been posted claiming that Apple Inc.’s first crack at a headset will be in the form of a VR headset like the Oculus from Facebook. It's rumored to be pricey device and a niche precursor to a more ambitious augmented reality product that will take longer to develop.
As a mostly virtual reality device, it will display an all-encompassing 3-D 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.
Apple has planned to launch the product as soon as 2022, going up against Facebook Inc.’s Oculus, Sony Corp.’s PlayStation VR and headsets from HTC Corp., the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing private plans.
Apple’s typical playbook involves taking emerging consumer technology, such as music players, smartphones, tablets and smartwatches, and making it reliable and easy to use for everyone.
This time, though, Apple isn’t looking to create an iPhone-like hit for its first headset. Instead, the company is building a high-end, niche product that will prepare outside developers and consumers for its eventual, more mainstream AR glasses.
The plans suggest that Apple’s first headset will be far more expensive than those from rivals, which cost about $300 to $900.
Apple is aiming to include some of its most advanced and powerful chips in the headset along with displays that are much higher-resolution than those in existing VR products. Some of the chips tested in the device beat the performance of Apple’s M1 Mac processors.
The company has also designed the headset with a fan, something the company usually tries to avoid on mobile products, the people said. Patently Apple has covered two Thermal Regulation System patents covering fans for an HMD here and here. Two patent figures from one of Apple's HMD patent is presented below.
The headset, codenamed N301, is in a late prototype stage, but is not yet finalized so the company’s plans could change or be scrapped entirely before launch. The AR glasses, codenamed N421, are in an early stage known as “architecture,” meaning Apple is still working on underlying technologies. This product is several years away, according to the people, though Apple has previously targeted as early as 2023 to unveil it.
Bloomberg also notes that "in order to further reduce the device’s weight, Apple is planning to use a fabric exterior," instead of plastic. Fabric being used to form an HMD was something that Apple pointed out in a patent that we covered back in November 2020.
Bloomberg's Gurman adds that "Prototypes of the headset, some of which are about the size of an Oculus Quest, include external cameras to enable some AR features. The company is testing using the cameras for hand-tracking and is working on a feature where a user can type virtually in the air to input text." These features were covered in Patently Apple's HMD patent report noted at the top of this report.
The company is also still grappling with what content and functionality it intends to ship with the device. Virtual reality is still a somewhat nascent technology, with content beyond games still relatively limited. Last year, Apple acquired a company called NextVR, which recorded events such as concerts and sports games in virtual reality. It’s also discussed bundling an App Store with the device, which runs on an operating system dubbed “rOS” inside the company.
If Apple goes ahead with the VR headset, it would be a precursor to an eventual pair of AR glasses — a product that the company sees as far more mainstream but also more difficult to launch.
By developing a less mainstream initial headset, Apple can invest in the underlying technologies, consumer education, content development and developer relations to give its eventual AR glasses the best opportunity to be successful — when they are ready. For more read the full Bloomberg report.