Bloomberg: Apple's AR/VR Gaming Headset Plans Altered By Internal Divisions

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman this morning filed a story detailing the internal divisions at Apple that led it to change the course of its AR and VR headset development.

apple patent video goggle
Specifically, the report covers disagreements between former Apple design chief Jony Ive and Mike Rockwell, the executive heading up Apple's secretive 1,000-strong group devoted to VR and AR, regarding fundamental aspects of the headset, codenamed N301.

N301 was initially designed to be an ultra-powerful system, with graphics and processing speeds previously unheard of for a wearable product. The processing capabilities were so advanced—and produced so much heat—that the technology couldn’t be crammed into a sleek headset. Instead, Rockwell’s team planned to sell a stationary hub, which in prototype form resembled a small Mac, that would connect to the headset with a wireless signal. In Rockwell’s early version, the headset would also be able to operate in a less-powerful independent mode.

Ive balked at the prospect of selling a headset that would require a separate, stationary device for full functionality. He encouraged Rockwell and his team to redevelop N301 around the less powerful technology that could be embedded entirely in the device. Rockwell pushed back, arguing that a wireless hub would enable performance so superior that it would blow anything else on the market out of the water. The standoff lasted for months.

According to the report, Apple CEO Tim Cook ultimately sided with Ive, who didn't want Apple promoting technology that would take people out of the real world. As a result, the headset no longer communicates with a separate hub, making graphics unlikely to be as good as they might have been, and download speeds potentially slower.

Although the headset now in development is less technologically ambitious than originally intended, it's pretty advanced. It's designed to feature ultra-high-resolution screens that will make it almost impossible for a user to differentiate the virtual world from the real one. A cinematic speaker system will make the experience even more realistic, people who have used prototypes say.

Prototypes of the N301 are said to look like a smaller Oculus Quest, Facebook's VR headset, with a mostly fabric body but less plastic than the Quest. Apple's engineering teams are reportedly still testing the device on different head shapes to find the ideal fit, and the company hasn't settled on pricing.

Apple wants the headset to have its own App Store "with a focus on gaming and the ability to stream video content, while also serving as a sort of super-high-tech communications device for virtual meetings." Siri will control the headset, although it is also reportedly being tested with a physical remote.

The N301 headset appears to be only one of Apple's ongoing AR/VR projects. The other is said to be a pair of AR glasses codenamed N421, with current prototypes said to resemble high-priced sunglasses with "thick frames that house the battery and chips." Ive, who left Apple last year after almost three decades at the company, is said to have preferred the concept of the N421 glasses.

Apple's augmented reality headset is expected to be released in 2022 followed by the sleeker pair of augmented reality glasses coming in 2023. You can read the full Bloomberg report here, and for everything we know on Apple's AR/VR plans, be sure to check our dedicated roundup.

Related Roundup: Apple Glasses

Top Rated Comments

ksec Avatar
14 months ago
Am I the only who is NOT excited about any of these AR / VR stuff.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Piggie Avatar
14 months ago
Dear Jony, please go away, you have ruined so many Apple products by making them worse performing actual products just so you think they look nicer.
Go away, stay away and shut the F up.

I'd be more than happy with an additional computer unit, say that was attached to your belt or something if it means the headset can be lighter, and perhaps the compute unit can be boosted in time without needing to replace the headset part as well.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kiranmk2 Avatar
14 months ago
I'm totally against Cook and Ive on this one. This discussion seems to be about a VR headset - I don't see the issue with having a box that communicates wirelessly with the headset - it's not like you are going to be leaving the room while using it and it they could get the size down to that of an 802.11ac AEBS it wouldn't be too bulk to move between locations.

Now an AR headset on the other hand is another matter and can't operate with a separate box (unless that box is your iPhone)...
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ian87w Avatar
14 months ago
I agree with Ive on this. Requiring a wearable to be tethered (albeit wirelessly) to a hub is just silly for a consumer product. That simply means the tech available is not ready yet.

The tethered to a hub version only make sense for a specific niche applications. Eg. Game arcades where they have a fixed room for the devices. Or a lab or hospital with fixed rooms. But Apple probably wanted this for consumers.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
hipnetic Avatar
14 months ago
Great...another example of Ive screwing things up thanks to his obsession with making things thinner.

The perfect VR headset/system just needs to be portable enough to be easily moved from one indoor space to another. No one uses these outdoors, as it isn’t safe to do so.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mattspace Avatar
14 months ago
Although the headset now in development is less technologically ambitious than originally intended, it's pretty advanced. It's designed to feature ultra-high-resolution screens that will make it almost impossible for a user to differentiate the virtual world from the real one.
Calling total, utter bulls#$t on this.

Apple CEO Tim Cook ultimately sided with Ive, who didn't want Apple promoting technology that would take people out of the real world.
When you are sitting on a pile of wealth so obscenely large it would make Smaug feel awkward, yeah damn right you don't want to be taken out of your "real" world.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

General Apps Messages

All Three Major U.S. Carriers and Google Adopt Rich Communication Services, But No Sign of Apple Interest

Tuesday July 20, 2021 1:15 pm PDT by
For the last several years, Google has been pushing a new communications protocol called Rich Communication Services, or RCS. RCS is designed to replace SMS, the current text message standard, and it offers support for higher resolution photos and videos, audio messages, bigger file sizes, better encryption, improved group chat, and more. Verizon today announced that it is planning to adopt...
AirPods Pro Beta Firmware

AirPods Pro Beta Firmware Now Available

Wednesday July 21, 2021 6:50 am PDT by
Upcoming AirPods Pro firmware updates are now available to Apple Developer Program members as beta versions. AirPods Pro firmware beta one features FaceTime Spatial Audio and Ambient Noise Reduction. Custom Transparency mode, including Conversation Boost, was initially expected to be included in the beta but appears to have been delayed for a later version. Apple made the announcement...
maxresdefault

Apple Music to Livestream Premiere of Kanye West's New Album 'Donda' on Thursday

Wednesday July 21, 2021 1:49 am PDT by
Apple Music on Thursday will host a global livestream for the premiere of Kanye West's tenth studio album, titled "Donda." The sold-out event will take place at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, and Apple Music's livestream will start at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The livestream was revealed in a Beats Studio Buds ad that aired during the NBA Finals. The ad features U.S. track...
ios wifi settings

Apple Confirms iOS 14.7 Fixes WiFi Bug and Many Other Vulnerabilities

Wednesday July 21, 2021 11:38 am PDT by
Following the release of iPadOS 14.7 this morning, Apple has shared details on the security updates that are included in iOS 14.7, iPadOS 14.7, macOS Big Sur 11.5, watchOS 7.6, and tvOS 14.7, all of which came out this week. Notably, Apple's documentation confirms that the iOS 14.7 and iPadOS 14.7 updates address a WiFi-related vulnerability that could impact iOS devices when joining a...
16 inch macbook pro m2 render

Gurman: Redesigned MacBook Pros to Launch Between September and November

Sunday July 18, 2021 7:39 am PDT by
Apple can be expected to release its redesigned 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros sometime between September and November, as part of another packed fall season for new product launches, according to Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman. In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter, Gurman says that the new MacBook Pros will go into production in the third quarter and can be expected to be...
macOS Malware Feature

Common Windows Malware Can Now Infect Macs

Wednesday July 21, 2021 8:13 am PDT by
A common form of malware on Windows systems has been modified into a new strain called "XLoader" that can also target macOS (via Bleeping Computer). Derived from the Formbook info-stealer for Windows, XLoader is a form of cross-platform malware advertised as a botnet with no dependencies. It is used to steal login credentials, capture screenshots, log keystrokes, and execute malicious files. ...
magsafe battery pack solo

Hands-On With Apple's MagSafe Battery Pack

Tuesday July 20, 2021 11:14 am PDT by
The new MagSafe Battery Pack that Apple debuted this week is arriving to customers starting today and it's also now available for in-store pickup in many Apple retail locations around the world. We snagged one this morning and thought we'd take a look at it to let MacRumors readers know if it's worth the $99 asking price. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. As the name ...
macOS Big Sur Feature Orange

Apple Releases macOS Big Sur 11.5 With Podcast App Updates and Bug Fixes

Wednesday July 21, 2021 10:15 am PDT by
Apple today released macOS Big Sur 11.5, the fifth major update to the macOS Big Sur operating system that launched in November 2020. macOS Big Sur 11.5 comes two months after the release of macOS Big Sur 11.4. The new ‌‌‌‌‌macOS Big Sur‌‌‌‌ 11.5 update can be downloaded for free on all eligible Macs using the Software Update section of System Preferences. macOS Big Sur...
apple tv 4k design green

Apple Releases tvOS 14.7 for Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K

Monday July 19, 2021 10:04 am PDT by
Apple today released tvOS 14.7, the seventh update to the tvOS 14 operating system that initially debuted in September 2020. tvOS 14.7 comes two months after the launch of the tvOS 14.6 update. tvOS 14.7, which is a free update, can be downloaded over the air through the Settings app on the Apple TV by going to System > Software Update. ‌‌Apple TV‌‌ owners who have automatic software ...
ipad pro m1 feature

Apple Releases iPadOS 14.7 With Apple Card Merging Option, Fix for 3.5mm Headphone Jack to USB-C Adapter Bug

Wednesday July 21, 2021 10:18 am PDT by
Apple today released iPadOS 14.7, marking the seventh major update to the iPadOS operating system that came out in September 2020. Apple already released iOS 14.7 on July 19, but for some reason, delayed the iPadOS 14.7 debut until today. The iPadOS 14.7 update can be downloaded for free and the software is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access the new ...