According to Apple’s internal sources, the manufacturer is working on a high-end virtual reality headset that should pave the way towards more ambitious AR glasses in the long term.
The initial VR glasses that Apple has been working on for a long time, according to Bloomberg, experience various obstacles in terms of development. Therefore, sales expectations are also being tempered by Apple, which further shows how difficult it is today to make virtual reality attractive to the masses.
According to internal sources close to the project, the first VR glasses will be a lot more expensive than the competition, such as the Oculus Quest 2 or the HTC Vive Cosmos, which cost 349 and 799 euros incl. VAT respectively. Apple estimates it sells one pair of glasses per day per store. Considering 500 stores worldwide, we arrive at just over 180,000 units, excluding other sales channels. Compared to other Apple products, this is roughly the Mac Pro line-up volume, again confirming the high-end price tag.
VR glasses and AR glasses
The VR glasses codenamed N301 is in the final phase of development but have no final design yet. This means that the project can still be scrapped, despite the long development process. The AR glasses are codenamed N421 and are still in an early development phase where the architecture is determined. According to internal sources, this project will need many more years to become a fully-fledged product. The initial target was 2023, but it is not certain whether that deadline is feasible.
The high-end VR glasses get a powerful chip on board that performs equal to or better than the current Apple M1 chip. The headset gets a fan on board to cool everything optimally. Initially, Apple wanted to make the glasses much lighter and put all the computing power in a separate station in wireless contact with the VR glasses. Jony Ive, then head of the design department at Apple, dumped that concept in the bin. As they are now, the VR glasses also have a battery onboard comparable to the Oculus Quest 2. The cameras in the headset register your surroundings and hand movements.
Covid-19 hinders development because hardware engineers are only allowed to be in the office on certain days. Limited test moments to collect data also cause delays, resulting in decisions regarding the engineering process. Internal sources within Apple confirm that the VR headset only serves as a precursor for a final AR glasses. The manufacturer competes with the Microsoft Hololens 2 and Magic Leap, which cost $ 3,500 and $ 2,295 respectively today.
By initially developing niche VR glasses, Apple can invest in underlying technologies, educate consumers, develop content and give developers time to ensure that the ultimate AR glasses are successful from the start.