Apple's Struggles With Long-Rumored AR/VR Headset Detailed in New Report

The Information's Wayne Ma today published a lengthy report detailing technical and leadership challenges that Apple has faced during development of its long-rumored AR/VR headset, which is currently expected to be announced by the end of 2023.

apple ar headset concept 1

Apple headset render created by Ian Zelbo based on The Information reporting

For example, the report claims that Apple's team working on the headset, led by former Dolby executive Mike Rockwell, regularly had to fight to get help with the project from other parts of the company. As of mid-2017, the team also worked out of office buildings in Sunnyvale, California that were several miles away from Apple's headquarters, which allegedly "helped preserve the group's invisibility to the rest of Apple."

In early 2018, for example, one of Rockwell's team members asked Apple's camera hardware engineering group to add a firmware feature that would improve the speed with which the headset's cameras could capture images and reproject them in a display. Rockwell's group wanted to include the feature in a prototype headset ahead of an important demo for Apple's top 100 employees, known as the T100. The member of Rockwell's group was told the headset wasn't a priority and his group would have to wait until after the iPhone XS shipped later that year.

The report adds that the team considered swappable batteries for the headset that would enable users to wear it for up to eight hours per day, but the idea was eventually scrapped due to the complexities involved. As of 2021, the headset had a battery that could last "several hours, in line with similar products," according to the report.

The full report outlines many other challenges and is a worthwhile read for those interested in the development of Apple's headset.

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, Takashi Mochizuki, and Debby Wu previously outlined issues that Apple has faced with the headset, ranging from overheating to camera and software challenges. Gurman said the headset will be powered by two chips, with at least one on par with the M1 Pro chip in the latest 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models.

The Information last year shared a render of Apple's supposed headset based on a "late-stage prototype" that it viewed. The report claimed the headset would have a curved visor with a soft mesh material, swappable headbands, and dual 8K displays. There may even be a third display, according to display industry consultant Ross Young.

Related Roundup: Apple Glasses

Top Rated Comments

dbwie Avatar
6 weeks ago
We already have a built in, high tech AR/VR capability. It’s called our imagination. It’s free, no installation required.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Jimmdean Avatar
6 weeks ago
This should be something they work on without telling anyone they’re working on it.

because this is one of those things no one cares about until it’s impressive enough that they cannot ignore it.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TheYayAreaLiving ? Avatar
6 weeks ago
Way too many issues with this product.

I honestly don't think anyone in the AR/VR is interested anymore. Niche Market!
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
filmantopia Avatar
6 weeks ago

So it won't be for gaming, since apple are awful at gaming. So what will it be for? Design work? browsing reddit on a giant screen?
It'll be for everything, and more (that we simply have not imagined yet). It's a computer that's not bound by a 2D rectangle that sits in front of you.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
filmantopia Avatar
6 weeks ago
With any new major product, huge challenges are to be expected. Otherwise, everyone would already be making incredibly successful AR/VR products. Apple's tenacity and ability to overcome such challenges to produce a desirable, useful product is why Apple is successful at popularizing new platforms. That said, it's interesting to hear about the details.

As far as battery life, this mixed reality headset is looking like it's more in the realm of an "AR Mac"-- so while more battery is always better, it won't NEED to last all day. Whereas the AR glasses, which will launch a few years later, is more like an "AR iPhone", in which case extended battery is more critical.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
erikkfi Avatar
6 weeks ago
Looking forward to "great, part-day battery life."
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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