Apple's plans to dive into the world of augmented reality may go beyond Apple Glasses. The company is reportedly working on a mixed-reality headset that will feature more than 12 tracking cameras and two 8K displays.
That's according to internal documentation and images cited in a report by The information (opens in new tab), detailing a headset with a "sleek, curved visor attached to the face by a mesh material and swappable headbands."
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Apple employees describe the new mixed-reality device as a virtual reality headset with augmented reality on top. Because of its multiple camera array, it's reportedly possible to play games with real-world objects using Apple's in-development headset.
Apple mixed-reality headset features, tech
Unlike an AR headset, Apple's mixed-reality device will completely close off a user from the outside world, making it closer to a VR headset. Apple will then use an array of cameras to feed an image on to two 8K displays, one for each eye. The displays will also have eye-tracking to make sure movements are as one-to-one as possible.
According to two people familiar with the device that talked to The Information, users will reportedly wear a thimble-like device on their finger to help with controls and hand tracking.
The headset will also have LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors, which is used for measuring distances with lasers. These sensors are already present on both iPhone 12 Pro models. The sensors can quickly help the device measure the area of a space, allowing users to accurately place virtual items. There will also be an optional headband accessory with a larger battery pack.
Apple mixed-reality headset launch date
The source told The Information that consumers could see Apple's mixed-reality headset as early as next year. This person had obviously requested anonymity, because Apple has yet to announce the product.
Apple has reportedly partnered with Taiwanese manufacturer Pegatron, which also makes the company's iPhones and iPads, to assemble this new device.
Even then, if this device never sees the light of day, do not be surprised. Apple is more than willing to sit on a product if it feels it's not ready or has no viable future.
How much will the Apple mixed-reality headset cost?
It's no surprise that a device this advanced will not be cheap. According to The Information, the product would cost around $3,000. That's far more expensive than an HTC Vive Pro or Valve Index, which sit between the $900-1,000. It would be cheaper than Microsoft's HoloLens 2, which costs $3,500.
And because this device would likely be a boutique item, Apple doesn't plan on producing millions of these things. Right now, Apple is internally discussing shipping only $250,000 worth of units. It makes sense, as Microsoft's HoloLens is used for more industrial applications than consumer ones. While games can be played on Apple's mixed-reality headset, it's unlikely that will be its call-to-arms.
Do note, this mixed-reality headset is separate from the rumored Apple Glasses. Those are expected to be far more affordable, at $500. But the glasses be further off, with a 2023 release date, according to an internal meeting (opens in new tab) from 2019.
Clearly, Apple has a lot of plans outside of phones, computers and tablets. We're looking forward to what the future might bring.