New York Times: Apple AR/VR Glasses Could Be as Compact as Ski Goggles
A stream of rumors suggests that Apple will at least launch its first mixed reality glasses this year. However, reports conflict on a fundamental feature of the device.
A New York Times report states that Apple’s prototype “looks like a pair of ski goggles” and that these AR/VR glasses will also need a separate hardware device for connecting to the headset and that this additional hardware “must be worn elsewhere on the body.” The NYT report cites a person who is familiar with the project.
In the slew of reports that have emerged regarding Apple’s upcoming device, the missing or confusing piece of detail has been whether these AR/VR (mixed reality?) glasses will run independently or be connected to a player. This lack of clarity is partly attributable to the fact that Apple’s foray into immersive hardware has always followed two paths: with and without a player.
Years ago, Apple engineers were reportedly working on XR devices with high-speed Wi-Fi streaming several years ago but were curtailed by Apple’s design legend Jony Ive who wanted full standalone devices like the Quest 2. However, Ive left Apple in summer 2019.
New Reports Suggests Apple XR Device to Have an Additional Device
As recently reported by The Information, Apple could go with a hybrid approach. The website that usually reports on tech leaks reported that Apple’s upcoming XR device, which could arrive as early as 10 months from now, may work independently but without the full functionality. For full functionality, the device will need to be connected to an iPhone, iPad, or iMac. The chips built into the Apple XR device have been optimized for streaming and the main work has to be performed by an external device. This hybrid mode of operation might explain the variations in reports on the device’s performance.
A New York Times article delving into the larger context of the AR device’s market makes a passing mention of Apple’s upcoming XR device which aligns with the leaks that have come out from The Information so far. The report specifically describes the Apple prototype as looking like ski goggles but requiring an additional player to be worn on the body. The Information report also described a device that had a ski goggle form factor.
Apple’s decision to go for this form factor is justified by the limits of physics that would hold the technology back. From a purely technical point of view, it is possible to build very advanced augmented reality glasses. However, they’d be bigger, bulkier, and especially hot devices that no one would want to wear.
Apple’s Design Dilemma with XR Devices
Apple is known for maintaining a specific design language across product lines and rolling out electronic products that are chic, comfortable, and user-friendly into the market. Chunky mixed reality glasses don’t quite fit into the company’s portfolio. Even a compact VR device like the Quest 2 still looks out of place in Apple’s sleek product line.
Apple’s solution to this dilemma appears to be to build as little technology as possible into the XR device to achieve an ultra-slim form factor. With the size and weight of ski goggles along with a vast range of functions, Apple’s AR/VR device might set a new trend in immersive form factor. Because Apple can’t bend the rule of physics and the current state of innovation, adding an external player to its ‘mixed reality’ device appears to be a logical intermediate step. The New York Times article also confirms that Google is once again seriously dabbling in augmented reality glasses and working on a new project. There have been recent indications of the same following Google job descriptions looking for specialists in innovative augmented reality hardware and software.