Apple's first AR/VR headset will need to be connected to an iPhone

Posted:
in General Discussion edited September 2021
Apple's first augmented and virtual reality headset will need to be tethered to an iPhone for its most advanced features, much like non-cellular Apple Watch models, new chip details suggest.

Credit: Apple
Credit: Apple


The Cupertino tech giant completed work on the Apple AR chips in 2020. According to The Information, the physical designs for the three AR/VR chips are complete, and the silicon is now ready for trial production.

Sources familiar with the development of the device say that Apple supply chain partner Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. will make the chips. Mass production is at least a year away.

Additionally, The Information has learned more details about the Apple AR SoC. For example, it lacks the neural engine and machine learning capabilities of Apple's other silicon.

The lack of advanced machine learning features is due to the fact that the headset is meant to communicate wirelessly with a host device, presumably an iPhone or computer. The host device will have the computing tasks required to display virtual, augmented, or mixed reality images.

Apple has specifically designed the custom AR chips to function better than more general third-party silicon. The chip, as an example, features better wireless data transmission, compression and decompression, and energy efficiency features.

All of those features a key to processing ultra-high-resolution video from the headset's, which could allow the device to replicate "the resolution and detail of what users see in real life while displaying digital imagery and information in front of their eyes." However, the SoC also has its own central processing unit, suggesting that it could operate in a less advanced standalone mode.

The chip's design is based on TSMC's 5nm manufacturing process, indicating that it won't be a cutting-edge piece of silicon when it launches. However, The Information's sources said the headset's chip doesn't need to be as compact or powerful as an iPhone's.

In addition to the SoC and the two other chips, Apple has also reportedly wrapped up designing the image sensor and display driver for the headset. However, TSMC has run into manufacturing bottlenecks producing the chip.

Apple is widely thought to be working on several head-mounted devices, including a lightweight "Apple Glass" device that could pair with an iPhone and a more advanced -- and expensive -- mixed-reality visor.

The specific device named in Thursday's report appears to be the MR headset, which The Information previously reported would pack ultra-high-resolution displays and advanced eye-tracking technology. That device could debut in 2022, with the lighter and sleeker "Apple Glass" arriving the following year.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 10
    Actually, this is fine. The iPhone should contain all the expensive electronics and the headset should just be a screen to keep it as light and affordable as possible. The Oculus Quest works best when it is connected to a PC for the highest resolution graphics and best compatibility. Now all we need is for Apple to get out the way of developers so we can have some decent x86 VMs on the iOS.
  • Reply 2 of 10
    dk49dk49 Posts: 234member
    This is exactly how I imagined Apple's AR glasses to be. Given that there's some serious space and power constraints in the (supposedly) thin frame of the AR glasses. All the heavy lifting will be done by the iPhone, with the glasses only serving as a display. 
    byronl
  • Reply 3 of 10
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 6,515member
    It makes sense to offload processing where possible.

    Traditional tethering to a PC is a pain but tethering to a powerful mobile device wouldn't be an issue for most users. Especially if it helped keep the cost of the headset lower. 
    byronl
  • Reply 4 of 10
    thttht Posts: 4,722member
    If it is the goggles form factor, it doesn't make sense. There should be room for chips and batteries with goggles shaped headsets. There are going to be latencies with off-device computing tasks that won't make for a good experience. Maybe it is only for computing or rendering the scene and it is loaded in.

    If it is the eyeglasses form factor, yes, I can see it. Just not a lot of room for chips and batteries. Have to compromise.
  • Reply 5 of 10
    I don't see Apple launching a full-on VR/AR headset. Glasses with AR capabilities? Sure.

    Apple's product philosophy seems to be creating devices that naturally fit into your life and become a natural "extension" of you and your life. The iPhone, Watch, and AirPods are all great examples. Even Apple TV isn't a terrible stretch here.

    So glasses that give me some kind of "x-ray vision" make more sense to me than a VR/AR headset.

    And, of course, they will be tethered to the phone (at least to start and probably for a long time).

    iPhone was tethered to a computer to start.

    Apple Watch is tethered to the iPhone (for now, but gaining features that may soon loosen or the connection as required).

    They all still work together (or are supposed to) as a family of seamlessly connected products, but they could be used separately.
  • Reply 6 of 10
    I’m still curious about the rumors of a high end headset to use with the Mac for 3D/XR content developers, if that’s going to be a thing.

    If Apple is serious about participating in this field, or even supporting content developers/designers working in this field, there’s going to have to be VR headset support on the Mac again. It was weird when they were seemingly pushing it in 2017 with the iMac Pro and in FCPX etc and third parties via SteamVR only to have the rug pulled out when third parties fled the platform and SteamVR languished. They either need to embrace third party support and work with those partners or develop their own, and I think we all know what they’d prefer if they’re serious at all. 
    edited September 2021
  • Reply 7 of 10
    designr said:
    I don't see Apple launching a full-on VR/AR headset. Glasses with AR capabilities? Sure.

    Apple's product philosophy seems to be creating devices that naturally fit into your life and become a natural "extension" of you and your life. The iPhone, Watch, and AirPods are all great examples. Even Apple TV isn't a terrible stretch here.

    So glasses that give me some kind of "x-ray vision" make more sense to me than a VR/AR headset.

    And, of course, they will be tethered to the phone (at least to start and probably for a long time).

    iPhone was tethered to a computer to start.

    Apple Watch is tethered to the iPhone (for now, but gaining features that may soon loosen or the connection as required).

    They all still work together (or are supposed to) as a family of seamlessly connected products, but they could be used separately.
    It’s pretty clear now they’ve been developing both. There was even the story that Jony Ive was against a VR headset etc. Numerous patents for both types of devices. 

    I think we see a full HMD device by end of next year or early 2023 (previewed at WWDC maybe as early as next year?) but the “Apple Glass” AR glasses are still further off until the tech matures enough for Apple’s threshold to make it a viable product. 
  • Reply 8 of 10
    designr said:
    I don't see Apple launching a full-on VR/AR headset. Glasses with AR capabilities? Sure.

    Apple's product philosophy seems to be creating devices that naturally fit into your life and become a natural "extension" of you and your life. The iPhone, Watch, and AirPods are all great examples. Even Apple TV isn't a terrible stretch here.

    So glasses that give me some kind of "x-ray vision" make more sense to me than a VR/AR headset.

    And, of course, they will be tethered to the phone (at least to start and probably for a long time).

    iPhone was tethered to a computer to start.

    Apple Watch is tethered to the iPhone (for now, but gaining features that may soon loosen or the connection as required).

    They all still work together (or are supposed to) as a family of seamlessly connected products, but they could be used separately.
    It’s pretty clear now they’ve been developing both. There was even the story that Jony Ive was against a VR headset etc. Numerous patents for both types of devices. 

    I think we see a full HMD device by end of next year or early 2023 (previewed at WWDC maybe as early as next year?) but the “Apple Glass” AR glasses are still further off until the tech matures enough for Apple’s threshold to make it a viable product. 
    I remember that story.  He wasn't against a VR headset.  What he was against was having a VR headset that had to be wirelessly connected to an external hub for the advanced graphics capability.  He wanted a VR headset that was fully independent.

    https://nypost.com/2020/06/19/jony-ive-ex-apple-design-chief-clashed-with-vr-headset-team/
    fastasleep
  • Reply 9 of 10
    designr said:
    I don't see Apple launching a full-on VR/AR headset. Glasses with AR capabilities? Sure.

    Apple's product philosophy seems to be creating devices that naturally fit into your life and become a natural "extension" of you and your life. The iPhone, Watch, and AirPods are all great examples. Even Apple TV isn't a terrible stretch here.

    So glasses that give me some kind of "x-ray vision" make more sense to me than a VR/AR headset.

    And, of course, they will be tethered to the phone (at least to start and probably for a long time).

    iPhone was tethered to a computer to start.

    Apple Watch is tethered to the iPhone (for now, but gaining features that may soon loosen or the connection as required).

    They all still work together (or are supposed to) as a family of seamlessly connected products, but they could be used separately.
    It’s pretty clear now they’ve been developing both. There was even the story that Jony Ive was against a VR headset etc. Numerous patents for both types of devices. 

    I think we see a full HMD device by end of next year or early 2023 (previewed at WWDC maybe as early as next year?) but the “Apple Glass” AR glasses are still further off until the tech matures enough for Apple’s threshold to make it a viable product. 
    I remember that story.  He wasn't against a VR headset.  What he was against was having a VR headset that had to be wirelessly connected to an external hub for the advanced graphics capability.  He wanted a VR headset that was fully independent.

    https://nypost.com/2020/06/19/jony-ive-ex-apple-design-chief-clashed-with-vr-headset-team/
    You're right. You know what, it was Cook that was against VR-only because as quoted in that article with regard to AR, “I think it’s something that doesn’t isolate people.” I thought it was Ive that had said that.
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