Since last week, multiple stories have surfaced regarding reports about an anticipated VR/AR headset from Apple. These claims portray an uncertain future for the device, even though speculation points toward a launch in the latter half of 2018 or 2023. We’re left to wonder, though, if Apple is really disregarding one of the most important aspects of virtual reality’s appeal – gaming — with this latest claim.
According to a report by The Information, the headset development process had many twists and turns, including different ideas for the device’s design and capabilities. It’s the second time this week that The Information has published a report detailing the difficulties Apple has had in building its headset.
We’re intrigued by one aspect of the latest report: Apple appears to be ignoring the VR/AR headset’s potential as a gaming platform. “Lack of focus on gaming,” according to the source, with Apple supposedly not even building controllers for the headgear. ‘ A clothespin-like finger clip and hand tracking are being discussed as possible inputs for the device, according to the article, which quotes various sources.
That’s a strange strategy for Apple considering the success of virtual reality products like Oculus Quest 2 and Rift, which focus on gaming. Third-party developers rapidly filled the App Store with games that took advantage of the iPhone’s mobility and touch controls, as The Information reports.
Apple’s Pippin game machine, one of the company’s biggest failures in the 1990s, has long had a troubled relationship with gaming (a time when there were a lot of Apple failures to choose from). Even now, playing games on a Mac is still a specialised experience.
What will the headset be used for if games aren’t its primary focus? Reports cite several headset demonstrations used by headset producers to win Apple’s support, such as avatars with realistic-looking facial expressions tracked by a few of the 14 cameras reported to be incorporated in the headset. Additionally, there is a 3D Japanese garden and a spatial audio demo where the voices of avatars may be heard coming from various areas.
Thus, it sounds like Apple’s headset team is working hard to add FaceTime video conferencing capabilities (or whatever the VR/AR version of FaceTime with photorealistic avatars will be). That being said, there’s no telling if the experience will be better than what’s available on existing mobile devices like the iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
In addition to whether the headset will have an on-device battery or be attached to a separate power pack like Magic Leap’s headgear, The Information’s piece contains other information. Former Apple design leader Jony Ive, who is purportedly still involved with the Apple VR/AR headset project as a consultant, favours the latter method.) According to the story, the headset would run on two CPUs, with the main chip being the same as the M2 processor that will be in the MacBook Air when it launches later this year, according to CNET. Wireless communication appears to be handled by the second chip.
A demo of the headset was shown to Apple investors last week, which is a significant step toward a release date for the gadget. Reports have pushed back the expected release date of Apple’s VR/AR headset to 2023 from this year, which was originally expected.
This year or next, we’d expect Apple to have agreed on a set of fundamental features for its headgear if it does come to market. However, it appears that gaming is not one of them.