Apple’s VR/AR Glasses Could Be Delayed Up to 2023 Due to Tech Problems
Apple’s much-anticipated high-end VR/AR headset could be delayed up to 2023 due to problems with the technology.
According to a Bloomberg report published yesterday, Apple is considering pushing back the release of the mixed reality headset, earlier scheduled for sometime in 2022, by at least a few months which could push the release to as far back as 2023. The Bloomberg report is citing people familiar with the situation.
The Apple headset is a high-end mixed reality device that combines both virtual reality and augmented reality functions. The headset was to be unveiled in June during Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference scheduled for June with a release set at some time in the year. However, the release could now be delayed due to development challenges associated with overheating, cameras, as well as software issues which have made it difficult for the company to keep to schedule.
As a result, the announcement could be pushed towards the end of 2022 or perhaps even later with products arriving on the shelves in 2023.
Such a delay would be a setback for a product that is billed as Apple’s “next big thing”, a new category since Apple Watch with the potential to keep driving its future sales. Although Apple is yet to discuss the product, it has been under development for years and has previously suffered delays.
Apple reportedly planned to unveil the headset in 2021 and ship it in 2022 according to a Bloomberg report. The device has been under development since 2015 and could be the first of a series of headsets that may eventually replace the iPhone in a decade.
Apple hopes to create products that would have a wider appeal than the AR headsets currently in the market that enable users to overlay data and imagery on their real-world views. There is yet to be a breakthrough AR product, particularly for the consumer market. Magic Leap One was a flop and the expensive HoloLens 2 is designed for the enterprise market.
In contrast to Augmented Reality headsets, Virtual Reality headsets have seen greater success and are close to becoming mainstream products with headsets like Meta Quest 2 reportedly surpassing 10 million sales. The success of VR headsets has set the stage for the metaverse, even though they are yet to catch up with the wider consumers.
The Apple headset would combine both virtual reality and augmented reality and would allow Apple to pioneer the still-nascent mixed reality market. According to analysts, a successful launch of the Apple headset could plant the seeds for future bigger moneymakers for the company.
However, Apple still faces the challenge of pushing such a headset to consumers as Bloomberg reports the company recently told its supply-chain partners that the device will only be released in 2023. The report says Apple is also pushing vendors to at least have some units by the end of 2022 in readiness for the rollout.
Bloomberg says Apple’s 2023 developers conference will focus on creating VR and AR apps for its mixed reality headset which will also have an App Store. Apple is building the groundwork for the device through other means such as building support for the headset in iOS16, a new iPhone iOS that will be unveiled in June this year.
We could, therefore, see Apple theoretically previewing the technical aspects of its headset or software without actually unveiling the full device during this year’s developer conference.
The Apple headset will be up against some stiff competition from some of the big players. Meta is finally developing a mixed reality headset dubbed Project Cambria and it will likely be much cheaper than Apple’s headset. Apple’s mixed reality headset will reportedly be priced at more than $2,000 as it will have very high-resolution screens, include powerful chips and feature new audio technology.
Apple’s first XR headset will likely lay the groundwork for more ambitious AR-only glasses that have been codenamed N421 and which are set to debut later in the decade. Apple can use this first device to educate potential consumers on immersive technologies, develop an app ecosystem and also prepare its suppliers for its future products.
By taking into account the functionality and expected price of the device, Apple is projecting that it will sell a unit per Apple retail store per day. The company, thus, gave its supply-chain partners a projection of 7 to 10 million units in the first year after launch.
However, Apple’s headset faces thermal challenges from the high-end chips it contains. It is the kind of chip that is normally fitted inside professional laptops. Apple plans to include processors in the first mixed reality headset which is codenamed N301. One of the chips to be included in this first Apple headset is reportedly at par with the M1 Pro chip that is fitted inside its latest MacBook Pro.
Apple wanted to manage the heat problems in the earlier designs of the headset by putting the high-powered processors in an external device that would subsequently wirelessly transmit the data. However, abandoned that plan after its former design chief Jony Ive recoiled from the clunkiness of fitting a processor in a separate device.
Apple has also been grappling with development challenges in its onboard cameras that will provide augmented reality functionality. Apple wants to source the camera modules from LG Innotek Co. which is also planning to start production of the parts as soon as quarter 2 of 2022.
Apple currently has over 2,000 of its employees working on its virtual reality and augmented reality hardware in a unit known as Technology Development Group (TDG). This Apple unit is under ex-Dolby Laboratories Inc executive Mike Rockwell and Dan Riccio who is a former head of hardware engineering.
Apple has recently been losing its engineers from this unit to Meta and the company tried to stem the hemorrhage by offering its engineers a one-time restricted stock unit bonus amounting to as much as $180,000 according to a Bloomberg report in December.
Apple’s mixed-reality device will run on its own operating system called rOS with the “r” probably denoting “reality.” This software has been codenamed Oak and will be focused on media consumption and communication tools.