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
18 months ago
Am I the only who is NOT excited about any of these AR / VR stuff.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Piggie Avatar
18 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
18 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
18 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
18 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
18 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)

Related Stories

General Apps Messages

Android iMessage Competitor Puts Pressure on Apple

Friday July 30, 2021 3:15 am PDT by
Google and the three major U.S. carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, will all support a new communications protocol on Android smartphones starting in 2022, a move that puts pressure on Apple to adopt a new cross-platform messaging standard and may present a challenge to iMessage. Verizon recently announced that it is planning to adopt Messages by Google as its default messaging...
iphone 13 teal with text

Apple Begins Preparation for iPhone 13 Production Ahead of Fall Launch

Monday June 28, 2021 3:29 am PDT by
We're just a few months away from when Apple is expected to reveal the 2021 iPhone, dubbed the "iPhone 13." In preparation for its launch, it has been pulling in shipments of different components needed to produce the new iPhones, according to a report from DigiTimes. In years past, Apple released its latest iPhone lineup, alongside a new Apple Watch, during a September event at Apple Park....
studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
bluetti eb70 main

MacRumors Giveaway: Win a Bluetti EB70 Portable Power Station and 200W Solar Panel

Friday September 3, 2021 11:13 am PDT by
For this week's giveaway, we've teamed up with MAXOAK to offer MacRumors readers a chance to win a Bluetti portable power station and an accompanying solar panel. Bluetti makes a range of portable power station options that are useful for camping, emergencies, power outages, off-grid living, and similar situations. The Bluetti EB70 is a solid middle of the road option that offers 716Wh and...
apple privacy

Apple Publishes FAQ to Address Concerns About CSAM Detection and Messages Scanning

Monday August 9, 2021 1:50 am PDT by
Apple has published a FAQ titled "Expanded Protections for Children" which aims to allay users' privacy concerns about the new CSAM detection in iCloud Photos and communication safety for Messages features that the company announced last week. "Since we announced these features, many stakeholders including privacy organizations and child safety organizations have expressed their support of...
macos catalina legacy system extension alert

Apple Begins Warning Users That 'Legacy System Extensions' Won't Work With a Future Version of macOS

Wednesday March 25, 2020 9:53 am PDT by
Apple has shared a new support document that indicates kernel extensions — which it calls "legacy system extensions" — will not be compatible with a future version of macOS because they "aren't as secure or reliable as modern alternatives."System extensions are a category of software that works in the background to extend the functionality of your Mac. Some apps install kernel extensions, which...
General Spotify Feature

Spotify Pauses Plans to Add AirPlay 2 Support to iOS App [Update: Spotify Clarifies]

Friday August 6, 2021 9:07 am PDT by
See update at bottom of article Spotify this week confirmed that its plans to add AirPlay 2 support to its iOS app have been placed on indefinite hiatus. In an online discussion forum post, a Spotify representative said the streaming music service had been working on supporting AirPlay 2, but the company has paused the efforts "for now" due to "audio driver compatibility issues." The...
youtube apple tv

YouTube Discontinuing 3rd-Generation Apple TV App, AirPlay Still Available

Wednesday February 3, 2021 3:09 pm PST by
YouTube is planning to stop supporting its YouTube app on the third-generation Apple TV models, where YouTube has long been available as a channel option. A 9to5Mac reader received a message about the upcoming app discontinuation, which is set to take place in March.Starting early March, the YouTube app will no longer be available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on...
os x mountain lion macs 16x9 2

Apple Makes OS X Lion and Mountain Lion Free to Download

Wednesday June 30, 2021 12:19 pm PDT by
Apple recently dropped the $19.99 fee for OS X Lion and Mountain Lion, making the older Mac updates free to download, reports Macworld. Apple has kept OS X 10.7 Lion and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion available for customers who have machines limited to the older software, but until recently, Apple was charging $19.99 to get download codes for the updates. As of last week, these updates no...
Pixel Stand 23W 668x445

Google Pixel 6 Rumored to Support 23W Wireless Charging, Beating iPhone 12's MagSafe

Wednesday September 1, 2021 1:54 am PDT by
Google is rumored to be working on a new wireless charging stand that could deliver 23W of charging power to its upcoming Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro phones, according to a leaked inventory image published by Android Police. Image via Android Police. If true, that would beat the iPhone 12's maximum 15W wireless charging speed (or 12W on ‌iPhone 12 mini‌) using Apple's MagSafe charger, and...