Apple Inc. is in the planning stage to launch its mixed-reality headset this year, but the follow up product of lightweight augmented reality glasses has been delayed due to technical challenges.
Earlier the company had planned to release the AR glasses after it launched its mixed-reality headset which was supposed to be a combination of both AR and virtual reality but currently that went on hold. Apple is now focussing on a reasonable version of the mixed-reality headset either in 2024 or early in 2025.
The reason for the delay is the challenges Apple is facing in introducing itself in a new industry. They believe that AR and VR devices to be a major money maker but a consumer-friendly product production has many technical challenges . The plan of a lightweight pair of AR glasses that people could have worn all day is now delayed for many more years, if at all it happens.
VR Headset market is currently dominated by the Facebook owner, Meta Platforms Inc. and it gives a more captivating experience for people using them specifically for playing video games, communicating in virtual meeting rooms and watching any video. Whereas, AS glasses are for overlaying visuals and information on real-world views. The expectation was that the users could wear it normally but earlier attempts at concepts such as google glass haven’t gained much attention.
An Apple Mixed-reality headset will be costly enough to make it a niche product. The price for the initial mixed-reality device which is due this year will be around $3,000. The justification for the price is its advanced and high-resolution displays, 10 and more cameras, sensor to determine where the user is looking, and the use of both a Mac-grade M2 processor and a dedicated chip to handle AR and VR visuals
Apple is planning to lower the price of the mixed-reality device by using the chips equivalent to what is used in its IPhone rather than using the components of higher-end MAc computers. The company is trying to compete with Meta’s mixed-reality headset costing $1500. Apple is striving to get closer to the price for its lower end model.
Trademark filings by Apple hints at the dual device strategy. Names included in the documents are “Reality Pro” and “Reality one”. Where “Pro” can be used for the initial model and “One” for the lower cost version. The trademark filing is also for the “Reality Processor” which hints at the name of the dedicated chip.
Apple aimed its AR glasses to release in 2023 before the launch is delayed until 2025. Now, it has further postponed its release for an indefinite period and they are back to the work for an AR device.
Apple’s mixed-reality headset will create an all-encompassing VR environment by using the displays and passing through cameras to imitate an AR effect. That is less complicated compared to the technology needed to make an AR-only device that is similar to normal glass look.
Apple ultimately indulged itself in less complicated AR glasses as its product that could replace the IPhone by changing the smartphone’s main function to a wearable field of view. Through the device the users can see the incoming notifications, get directions on map, make or take phone calls, or click photos right from their face.
But finding the right combination of chips, batteries, software and manufacturing for creation of a lightweight product that can last for a day is not happening soon. Apple’s first high-end headset could last around two hours on charging once whereas a phone can last the whole day or even longer.
The battery of the headset will also be cumbersome, the reason why the company has not chosen to include it in the device itself in order to reduce the weight and risk of heating in the head worn product. The battery is meant to be connected with the headset over a cable and rest in a user’s pocket. With today’s technology it is not possible to create a lightweight device with advanced AR and an inbuilt battery that could last all day.
The vast majority of the 1000 person-plus unit at the Apple’s Technology Development group is dedicated to AR-VR mixed-reality headset. But the company has teams to explore the technologies that would go into standalone glasses and should they eventually launch.
There is a doubt among some people whether the AR glasses will be ever shipped but it is part of their long term goals. The plan of AR glasses by Meta and Alphabet Inc’s Google are also in early stages.