Apple working on two AR/VR headsets, but strategy has led to disagreements

Apple has been secretly working on AR and VR tech for several years and, although the company has already implemented some of its research into the iPhone and iPad, the end goal is to release products that are completely centered around the technologies.

Bloomberg has today detailed those internal plans and revealed some conflicts within the company that have forced Apple to change its course.

Apple AR & VR Headset – N301

The Silicon Valley-based company is reportedly working on two headsets at the moment. One of these products is codenamed ‘N301’ and incorporates both virtual reality and augmented reality capabilities.

Apple has been developing the headset in question for years via the Technology Development Group, which is a secretive team of 1,000 engineers devoted to VR and AR development.

But in late 2018 the company dramatically shifted its efforts following disagreements between former Chief Design Officer Jony Ive and TDG lead Mike Rockwell regarding the direction of the project.

The ‘N301’ headset was initially meant to be an extremely powerful device capable of graphics and processing speeds like nothing ever seen before on a wearable product, according to sources speaking to Bloomberg.

However, the technology required and the heat it produced made it impossible to cram everything into a headset. A hub that allegedly resembled a small Mac was meant to connect to the headset via a wireless signal to enable everything.

There was also a so-called ‘Independent Mode’ that lowered the graphics and processing output while also removing the need for a connection with the hub. Jony Ive hated this idea, though, and reportedly encouraged the team to redevelop the system.

Mike Rockwell, in a standoff that lasted for months, argued that superior performance was a necessity. Apple ultimately sided with Ive and the headset in development now, which resembles a smaller Oculus Quest with a mostly fabric body, is said to be less advanced.

Despite the changes, existing prototypes still feature ultra-high-resolution displays that “will make it impossible for a user to differentiate the virtual world from the real one.” A powerful speaker system is reportedly included too as part of a focus on gaming.

The announcement is currently expected to happen at some point in 2021 ahead of a launch in 2022. Pricing remains unconfirmed.

Apple Glass AR Headset – N421

The second headset being worked on by Apple at the moment, and the one favored by Jony Ive according to people familiar with the matter, is a lightweight pair of glasses codenamed ‘N421’ that incorporate key AR technologies designed to blend seamlessly with the real world. 

Tipster and YouTuber Jon Prosser has spoken about this headset, which should retail at $499 and offer support for prescription lenses, and its capabilities in recent months and it certainly seems to be shaping up well.

However, there seems to be some confusion at the moment in regards to the announcement and release timeline. Whereas Prosser believes the unveiling could happen in either Q4 2020 or Q1 2021 ahead of a launch later next year, Bloomberg says the AR glasses will arrive in 2023 ‘at the earliest’ because of a more complex design.

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Source: Phonearena

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