Jony Ive delayed Apple's AR headset project over design concerns

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 5
While he was still at Apple, designer Jony Ive objected to plans for what would become Apple Glass, starting internal disagreements that would delay the whole venture.

Jony Ive, ex-Chief Design Officer at Apple
Jony Ive, ex-Chief Design Officer at Apple


Apple was reportedly many years into developing an augmented- and virtual reality headset when Jony Ive objected to its design. The then Chief Design Officer seemingly disliked how the project was then heading to be a set of AR/VR glasses paired to a separate hub device.

According to Bloomberg, Ive preferred an alternative design that put solely AR into single pair of glasses. He felt that the design would be better, but also reportedly objected to the idea of an Oculus-style experience where users were cut off from reality. Ive thought Apple should be making a device that let users be fully aware of their actual surroundings, and have that view augmented by AR.

The AR/VR headset and paired hub was favored by Apple's Technology Development Group, headed by Mike Rockwell. Aside from arguments over what users would see and not see when wearing a headset, Rockwell's position was that having a separate hub would give the product far faster graphics and more powerful VR features.

Ultimately, Tim Cook sided with Jony Ive. According Friday's report, however, some of the work done on the VR hub is being deployed in the ARM processors that will be in future Macs.

Rockwell joined Apple in 2015, reportedly hired by senior vice president of hardware engineering, Dan Riccio. Within the Technology Development Group, Rockwell ultimately headed a team of 1,000 engineers working on the AR/VR project.

Their preference was for a design codenamed N301, which was to be a full gaming and virtual reality system in a hub, with linked headset. The other option, N421, appears to be what has become the Apple Glass device.

N301 was reportedly ultra-powerful and in 2018 when Ive objected, its then unheard-of processing capabilities meant the device was too big, and produced too much heat, to fit into a wearable device. Ive wanted N301 to be scaled down to fit a headset on its own, and according to Bloomberg this resulted in a standoff that lasted for months.

That original N301 project would have had its own App Store, which may or may not now continue on into the eventual shipping product. However, it appears Apple Glass will heavily feature Siri as Bloomberg reports that engineers from that department have been reassigned to Rockwell's team.

While Apple has gone for a less-powerful option than Rockwell wanted, its forthcoming Apple Glass product is still expected to be a hit because of what analysts call Apple's "design advantage."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    asterionasterion Posts: 109member
    When Apple becomes technology-led rather than design-led we'll know that the spirit of Apple — of Steve — has finally left.
    Apple has always been about excellence in human-centred design.
    tjwolfbloggerblograndominternetpersonwonkothesaneanantksundaramJWSCseanjmike54watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 27
    FatmanFatman Posts: 513member
    I agree with Ive’s decision to stop that project as described. However VR/AR could work ‘and be sellable’ if the lightweight glasses were wirelessly linked to an iPhone someone is already carrying in their pocket for the extra processing power ... the same way AppleWatch works. With the added benefit of an additional product sale for Apple.
    edited June 2020 cornchipchaickaJWSCseanjwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 27
    asterion said:
    When Apple becomes technology-led rather than design-led we'll know that the spirit of Apple — of Steve — has finally left.
    Apple has always been about excellence in human-centred design.
    More like shareholder-led.
    edited June 2020 elijahgcornchipdysamoria
  • Reply 4 of 27
    tjwolftjwolf Posts: 399member
    asterion said:
    When Apple becomes technology-led rather than design-led we'll know that the spirit of Apple — of Steve — has finally left.
    Apple has always been about excellence in human-centred design.
    More like shareholder-led.
    Clearly nonsense.  If Apple was shareholder led, it would be creating products cheapest possible off-the-shelf components and with the highest possible profits in order to 'maximize shareholder value'.  Shareholders would have made more money in the short term - and Apple wouldn't be the powerhouse it is today.  It's the UX and perception of quality/security/simplicity that made Apple what it is today.
    muthuk_vanalingamcornchipasdasdGG1Scot1chaickaanantksundaramJWSCwatto_cobrafastasleep
  • Reply 5 of 27
    Why would Apple want to ship anything remotely resembling the Oculus experience? It’s an unmitigated disaster!
    SpamSandwichcornchipchaickaJWSCmike54macpluspluswatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 27
    "... 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."

    I will never be grounded in reality!
    cornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 27
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,425member
    This is probably why we've heard absolutely nothing about macOS VR since Apple announced it in 2017 (or maybe 2018, can't remember). Presumably Macs would have been used to create content and develop for the Apple VR/AR kit, so VR on the Mac would be required, and now there's no kit, Apple sees no money in VR on Mac without their own hardware so have abandoned it.
  • Reply 8 of 27
    There's obviously no need to rush out a solution. VR is floundering and Apple is already a leader in AR. 
    SpamSandwichsteven n.cornchipjdb8167GG1chaickabloggerbloganantksundaramJWSCwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 27
    steven n.steven n. Posts: 1,225member
    There's obviously no need to rush out a solution. VR is floundering and Apple is already a leader in AR. 
    Can't agree more on this. We need tech to connect us MORE to our immediate surroundings instead of less. We have Twitter and Facebook for that.
    JWSCmacpluspluswatto_cobragregoriusm
  • Reply 10 of 27
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,862member
    Wise decision. 

    This guy will go down in history as the spiritual successor to Dieter Rams. 
    wonkothesaneJWSCseanjmike54watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 27
    carthusiacarthusia Posts: 577member
    cornchip said:
    Wise decision. 

    This guy will go down in history as the spiritual successor to Dieter Rams. 
    Yeah, it's unfortunate how much hate he got on the way out. 
    JWSCseanjwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 27
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    Stopped reading at “Bloomberg”. 
    jdb8167anantksundaramseanjwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 27
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,430member
    Design-led vs technology-led vs shareholder-led... I know most of you think Apple is perfect and can do no wrong, but I see a lot of form-crippling-function, some moderate technology exploration (but not much in a leadership or groundbreaking way, which is admittedly hard), and a lot of shareholder MBA-type “leadership” in Apple’s behavior for six or so years now.

    What else do you call the pathological obsession with device thinness (to the point of harming ergonomics and function), obsession with reducing manufacturing costs while *raising* prices on customers, and offering only ONE machine, only recently, that is not thermally crippled, but which costs an absurd amount of money...??
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 14 of 27
    dysamoria said:


    What else do you call the pathological obsession with device thinness (to the point of harming ergonomics and function), obsession with reducing manufacturing costs while *raising* prices on customers, and offering only ONE machine, only recently, that is not thermally crippled, but which costs an absurd amount of money...??
    Listing only things that back your conclusion while ignoring anything else is traditionally called confirmation bias, so I’d call it confirmation bias. 
  • Reply 15 of 27
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,671member
    asterion said:
    When Apple becomes technology-led rather than design-led we'll know that the spirit of Apple — of Steve — has finally left.
    Apple has always been about excellence in human-centred design.
    More like shareholder-led.
    Nonsense. Jobs famously ignored any market sentiment ( we will innovate our way out of this) and while Cook does worry about the stock price it doesn't affect his internal decisions on anything except financials. 

    The statement is meaningless anyway, the stock market doesn't care about this particular issue. As a whole the market expects Apple ( and all companies really) to make decisions that will guarantee higher profits in the future. Whether any company is design or technology led is up to the particular company.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 27
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,671member
    dysamoria said:
    Design-led vs technology-led vs shareholder-led... I know most of you think Apple is perfect and can do no wrong, but I see a lot of form-crippling-function, some moderate technology exploration (but not much in a leadership or groundbreaking way, which is admittedly hard), and a lot of shareholder MBA-type “leadership” in Apple’s behavior for six or so years now.

    What else do you call the pathological obsession with device thinness (to the point of harming ergonomics and function), obsession with reducing manufacturing costs while *raising* prices on customers, and offering only ONE machine, only recently, that is not thermally crippled, but which costs an absurd amount of money...??
    Thinness is exactly "design led", manufacturing costs are something that all companies worry about. With regards to raising prices, they do and they dont. The iPhone SE is an example of where they don't. I wont deny though that Cook is a bit more nickel and dimes than Jobs was. 
    edited June 2020 watto_cobrafastasleep
  • Reply 17 of 27
    mr lizardmr lizard Posts: 299member
    Apple was reportedly many years into developing an augmented- and virtual reality headset when Jony Ive objected to its design.

    The idea that a major big-budget product development had been going for years only for Ive to suddenly voice an opinion on it is ridiculous. He was the *Chief* Design Officer. He’d have seen how it was developing since inception. 

    Apple prototypes different designs all the time. It’s far more likely that his input swayed Apple to go down a particular direction for sure. But there’s no chance he just popped up one day and suddenly everything changed course. 
    chaickarandominternetpersonJWSCseanjwatto_cobrafastasleep
  • Reply 18 of 27
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,906member
    asterion said:
    When Apple becomes technology-led rather than design-led we'll know that the spirit of Apple — of Steve — has finally left.
    Apple has always been about excellence in human-centred design.
    What is human-centered [sic] about the puck mouse?
  • Reply 19 of 27
    cpsro said:
    asterion said:
    When Apple becomes technology-led rather than design-led we'll know that the spirit of Apple — of Steve — has finally left.
    Apple has always been about excellence in human-centred design.
    What is human-centered [sic] about the puck mouse?
    "human-centered" doesn't mean "perfect."  I would argue that the design of iMac mouse was undoubtedly human centered.  It certainly wasn't technology-led.  It was ultimately a design that failed in the marketplace, but the thinking was likely that moving something shaped like a large, smooth pebble was more ergonomic than gripping a narrower shape with your thumb and pinkie.  Unfortunately for the design, most of us had already ingrained the latter expectation in our muscle memory.  Oh well.
    king editor the grateanantksundaramJWSCwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 27
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 20,238member
    asterion said:
    When Apple becomes technology-led rather than design-led we'll know that the spirit of Apple — of Steve — has finally left.
    Apple has always been about excellence in human-centred design.
    More like shareholder-led.
    The good companies know exactly what creates value for their shareholders.

    @asterion's point totally flew past you, it would seem.
    watto_cobra
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