According to a story from The Information publication, Apple’s anticipated AR/VR headgear is meant to rely on another device and may have to transfer more processor-intensive activities to a linked iPhone or Mac.
According to reports, Apple is working on an unique CPU for the headgear, a SoC that purposely lacks features present in Apple’s other processors.
While the new chip is said to lack Apple’s neural engine, which handles AI and machine learning, it is said to be better at wirelessly sending and receiving data, as well as compressing and decompressing video, which makes sense if the headset is designed to stream data from another device rather than doing the heavy processing itself.
According to The Information‘s sources, it’s meant to be as power-efficient as possible to maximize battery life, which may be achieved by deleting unneeded sections of the chip or streaming data from another device. There has always been a delicate balance between battery life and performance/capability in wearable electronics, such as a watch or a pair of glasses. Many duties were delegated to a linked iPhone by the first Apple Watch, but Apple was ultimately able to make its onboard processor strong enough to perform many of them.
If the idea of Apple’s headset requiring a separate device sounds familiar, it’s because of a Bloomberg report from 2020, which stated that earlier versions of the headset were supposed to work with a separate “stationary hub, which in prototype form resembled a small Mac,” until Jony Ive stepped in and said it should be self-contained, and Tim Cook agreed with his design chief.
Apple no longer employs Ive, but that doesn’t imply the company will return to a massive, immobile hub: According to The Information, the AR/VR headset still has its own CPU and GPU, implying that it may connect with a phone or tablet or even function in a rudimentary stand-alone mode. In low-battery mode, some Apple products, such as the Apple Watch, may still perform basic functions.
The gadget will also include a “unusually huge” image sensor, as large as one of the headset’s lenses, according to The Information, which has reportedly proven tough to produce. It hasn’t been seen in prior leaks, but according to the newspaper, it’s meant to “collect high-resolution picture data from a user’s surroundings for augmented reality.” Because it’s impossible to perform VR without totally hiding the user’s vision, and it’s difficult to do AR without the user being able to see the outside world, the image sensor may be used to offer a view of the user’s surroundings from within the headset.
Despite the fact that reports of Apple working on an augmented reality gadget have been circulating for years, the concept is still gaining traction. Ming-Chi Kuo, a well-known analyst, projected that a “helmet-type” headgear will be available in 2022, but according to The Information, the specialized processors for the headset won’t be ready for mass production for at least a year. If that’s accurate, even the best-case scenario for getting a product out the door by the end of 2022 would be a very tight turnaround, though it may still be doable if the first version is geared at engineers or a small group of early adopters.
According to The Information, the slimmer eyewear type might be released as early as 2023, while Kuo expects mid-2025. Unlike the “helmet-type” headgear, the glasses gadget is said to be dedicated solely to augmented reality.
In terms of what the headgear will achieve, Apple CEO Tim Cook has long praised augmented reality, claiming that technology will “transform the way you work, play, connect, and learn,” as well as allow users to engage in “enhanced” discussions. Aside from that, we don’t have a good idea of what type of AR/VR capabilities or interface the firm plans to use. Without it, it’s difficult to say if the device’s need to outsource computation to something else is destined to be a quirk of early versions or a long-term design decision.