Apple’s currently in your pocket with its phones, on your wrist with its watches, and thanks to a new report from The Information, we now know that it’s probably going to be on your heads soon too with its first VR headset- assuming you can afford it. Recent speculation about an ultra high-end Apple VR headset started just a few weeks ago thanks to Bloomberg, but The Information’s new report hints at a bevy of cutting-edge features, including “more than a dozen cameras” and “ultra-high-resolution 8K displays.”
These details supposedly come from “a person with direct knowledge of the device,” who provided the outlet with internal Apple images of a late-stage prototype of the headset. According to both reports, the Apple VR headset will be a luxury device that uses mesh and swappable headbands to lighten the load on the wearer’s head and will cost well over the $300 to $900 price tags of the competition. Current Apple discussions see pricing hitting around $3,000, according to the new report.
For that small fortune, you’ll get both VR and Mixed Reality capabilities, since the device’s cameras will supposedly go beyond tracking hand movements and will also “be able to pass video of the real world through the visor and display it on screens to the person wearing the headset.” Lidar will also reportedly play a role here, helping to map nearby real world objects in virtual spaces rendered by the headset.
But for pure VR enthusiasts seeking the best VR headset, the Apple headset will also supposedly tout two 8K screens, plus eye tracking.
The idea here, according to The Information’s report, is to use eye tracking to dynamically adjust resolution to only fully render where the user is looking, thus saving computing power and allowing for those high 8K resolutions. For instance, your peripheral vision will likely show you lower quality graphics than your center of vision.
You also supposedly won’t have to worry about your immersion being broken, as the headset’s current design “also blocks peripheral vision to keep outside light from leaking into the wearer’s field of vision.”
While The Information hasn’t published any of its source photos, its article does feature a rendering that the outlet created to give readers an idea of what the headset looks like. Here, you can see what the swappable headbands and periphery blocking, weight-reducing mesh might look like. Not shown here are the physical dial that one of The Information’s sources said might be on the visor’s side and would help control software. Also not seen is a potential outward facing display that two of the outlet's sources mention, which would allow the wearer to show graphics to others nearby.
The headset, which is code-named N301, isn’t the only VR device Apple is supposedly working on, either. The Information also says the company is toying with a “thimble-like device to be worn on a person’s finger” for controlling the headset. There’s also talks of an optional headband that will help with battery life, as well as headbands with the same spatial audio solution featured in the company’s Airpods.
It’s also possible that this expensive VR headset is serving as a niche first outing for features that will eventually appeal to a wider market in a different, more strictly AR-focused product.
“Apple is also working on a pair of lightweight smart glasses designed to overlay virtual objects onto a person’s view of the real world” writes The Information. “That device is still years away from release and faces steep technological hurdles.”
All of this technology is set to be powered by “chips designed in-house,” which might also have been a factor in Apple’s recent decision to move away from Intel and towards Arm processors.
The luxury nature of Apple’s VR headset also means it might face a more restrictive release. The Information mentions it might only see a limited release of 250,000 units in its first year, with Bloomberg speculating that the company “may sell only one headset per day per retail store.”
As it stands, this marks somewhat of a new approach for Apple. While the company charges a noticeable premium and markets its tech products with a sleek and sophisticated lifestyle brand touch, rarely is it the most expensive, most technologically advanced option on the market. If these reports turn out to be true, we’re curious how competitors like Oculus and HTC will respond.