Apple VR/AR Headset Will Be a Gamechanger
Based on different rumors and credible reports, Apple is set to present its VR/AR headset in just a few months. The Apple mixed reality headset will be a gamechanger, which is good news for the industry.
Rumors have swirled around for years that Apple is working on an advanced mixed reality headset. In a few months, we might finally see the device unveiled. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says the mixed reality headset could be presented as early as January 2023 and that the mass production of the headset is set to begin this summer.
Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman has also written about the headset’s imminent unveiling, reporting that its current prototype features Apple’s new M2 chip and 16 gigabytes of memory.
Apple’s VR/AR headset will have a clear hardware advantage over Meta’s Project Cambria which uses an improved version of Qualcomm’s XR2 chip and has 12 gigabytes of RAM. Apple’s mixed reality headset reportedly also features advanced micro-OLED displays with 3K resolution per eye.
The headset has fast hardware and strongly focuses on augmented reality use-cases while still giving users a first-class virtual reality experience. Kuo believes this is Apple’s most complicated product to date and has even talked of the headset ushering in a “post-Meta era” with the industry moving to the tune of Apple in the future as opposed to the current Meta-dominance of virtual reality and mixed reality space.
A post-Meta era will certainly need additional innovations in hardware. Meta recently gave us a glimpse into its own virtual reality laboratory, focusing on key future technologies for virtual reality headsets which are still under development, most of which are still headset prototypes. However, the company is yet to provide information on the software applications of its upcoming high-end Project Cambria headset. On the other hand, Apple has already created a comprehensive software ecosystem for its mixed reality headset and the device will simply be integrated into it.
On the other hand, Meta is strong in the hardware department but still has to rely on the interfaces and goodwill of other platforms and companies. Apple has a perfect combination of top-notch hardware, fast chips, and seamless integration into the Apple ecosystem which puts it in a good place to leverage the next computing wave.
Apple’s VR/AR headset will likely follow the design language of its other gadgets which have become synonymous with first-class workmanship, intelligent design along with an optimal symbiosis between the hardware and the software.
Apple’s M1 chip also shows that the company can build its own processors that trump the competition. The M1 has been a gamechanger in the hardware market and has moved the x86 processors to ARM-based chips for mobile computing. It is only in 2023, at the earliest, that we might see Qualcomm releasing corresponding hardware.
Apple’s VR/AR headset is expected to continue its tradition of producing top-quality hardware in its line of gadgets.
If the design of Apple’s mixed reality headset proves to be the gamechanger it is expected to be, we are likely to see other players imitating Apple’s device. It should be remembered that Apple pioneered the smartphone category in the mobile market, the so-called iPhone moment, and it subsequently spawned stiff competition between Apple and Android manufacturers as they continue to compete on who would innovate the best hardware and software to beat the competition. In the end, both Apple and Android hardware manufacturers have been major innovation drivers in the smartphone market segment to the benefit of consumers.
In the XR space, we are likely to witness a similar trend as top hardware makers compete to outdo one another and usher in a new “metaverse moment”.
At the moment, Meta’s Project Cambria is expected to zone in the XR device category for enterprise uses but since Apple is reportedly building a better and faster VR/AR headset that features excellent software integration, the Apple headset might cause some problems for Meta.
In spite of its storied high-spec build, the Apple headset will still fall short of the ideal, sci-fi-like ultimate XR glasses that will eventually replace modern computing as we know it, and potentially replace the monitors, keyboards, and mice in offices across the globe.
However, the Apple headset is still expected to offer significant improvements over the prevailing hardware and consumers will be expecting features such as ultra-high resolution, good lenses, comfortable fit, good cameras, fast hardware and sensors as well as integrated audio. The headset will target the technology market segment rather than the consumer market.
Apple has assumed a conservative posture with its AR/VR headset. It is a high-end device but one that has been optimized for the still-nascent metaverse sector. As a result, it will not feature advanced tech such as brain-computer interfaces, haptic feedback to prevent motion sickness, or other technologies whose utility is yet to be proven.
The target group of the headset will be discernible from the applications and entertainment functions.
However, Apple’s headset is unlikely to break into the mass market, something that has been unattainable since 2016 due to the technical limitations of current headsets.
On the positive side, the entry of Apple into the mixed reality fray shows that the industry has passed the experimentation phase and is entering a maturity phase so we are likely to see serious product launches moving forward.
Unlike Meta, Apple will not make a serious pivot into XR and away from the smartphone market. The metaverse is still a nascent market and is a long way from becoming a mainstream phenomenon. It is, thus, not relevant for Apple. At the very best, Apple will be expecting the sales of its mixed reality headsets to surpass those of Meta Quest 2 which has so far shipped over 10 million units according to some sources.
Apple’s entry into the mixed reality hardware market could signal the start of an innovation race by the major players in XR hardware and software. Meta will still be big on the hardware side of things, especially if its Project Cambria headset proves it can provide software integrations with the existing ecosystems. Other major tech players such as Google and Microsoft aren’t out either and are yet to have the last say with their mixed reality projects.