Apple's Secretive Technology Development Group is working on both AR Glasses and an Advanced HMD with a Stunning Display
A few times this year I've mentioned that the sheer number of patents being published by the U.S. Patent Office regarding Apple's future Eyewear, smartglasses and an HMD, made it the number one project for 2020 thus far. At least 30 patents on Eyewear and accessories have been reported on Since January in addition to at least 6 granted patents. The depth and detail of Apple's Eyewear inventions plus the scope of the project seems to be epic in size covering everything from optical lenses to prescription lenses, to high-end displays to high-end audio to gaze controls to gesture recognition to accessories including finger devices and VR gloves and everything in between. Apple is building a solid IP foundation to legally protect their future Eyewear products that you could review here when you have the time.
Today, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman provides us with an interesting grand overview of the Eyewear project at Apple. Gurman begins his report by noting that in late 2018, Apple Inc. was a few years into its plan to build a powerful headset with both virtual- and augmented-reality capabilities when things shifted dramatically.
The headset is to be the first major launch from the company since the Apple Watch and the debut device from the Technology Development Group (TDG), a secretive unit devoted to VR and AR. The TDG is led by an equally under-the-radar executive, Mike Rockwell.
Rockwell began building his team in late 2015 which eventually grew into a 1,000-strong group of engineers. They went to work primarily developing two products aimed at upending the VR and AR segments of the market.
The first device, code-named N301, is designed to take the best of both VR and AR to deliver an all-encompassing digital experience for gaming and consuming content.
Jony Ive, then the company’s design chief, objected to some fundamental aspects of the N301 and urged Executives to change course. Gurman notes that Apple's Tim Cook went along with Ive views on the matter.
The second device known as N421, is a lightweight pair of glasses using AR only and it's one of the most complex to develop. According to people familiar with the matter, Ive preferred the concept of the N421 glasses, which would keep users grounded in reality while beaming maps and messages into their field of vision.
The HMD-styled N301 was initially designed to be an ultra-powerful system, with graphics and processing speeds previously unheard of for a wearable product. The processing capabilities were so advanced—and produced so much heat—that the technology couldn’t be crammed into a sleek headset.
It was designed to feature ultra-high-resolution screens that will make it almost impossible for a user to differentiate the virtual world from the real one. A cinematic speaker system will make the experience even more realistic, people who have used prototypes say.
Prototypes of N301 look like a smaller Oculus Quest, Facebook Inc.’s VR headset, with a mostly fabric body but less plastic than the Quest. Apple’s engineering teams are still testing the device on different head shapes to find the ideal fit.
Gurman further notes that the N301 would have its own App Store, with a focus on gaming, and the ability to stream video content, while also serving as a sort of super-high-tech communications device for virtual meetings.
Lastly, although plans could change, in an all-hands meeting last fall, Rockwell said the first headset may be announced next year and released in 2022. Apple fans can expect the AR glasses by 2023 at the earliest. These are dates that fly in the face of some recent rumors, especially those from Jon Prosser. The graphic below is from Prosser's report.
The rest of the report is a story-like overview of the project, its executives, the differing visions for the project and more. Read more about this story here.