The invite says we’re getting it, the rumours say not – let me get you as close as possible to Apple’s headset
The post iPhone era starts here
Everyone is talking about it -Apple’s AR/VR headset, but what is really going on with it? Will we see it at WWDC? Will we see it this year? How much will it cost? With so many stories, and rumours floating about, it’s hard to make out what’s actually going on with it, and as importantly, how will it work – and what will the user experience be like?
This is a big step for Apple, as they move ever closer to the post iPhone era. It’s almost a feeling of ‘thank you, iPhone, but your time is up – move over, and make way for the AR movement’.
Last week, we understand that Apple called in their top 100 executives to have a full, hands on, close-up look at the AR/VR headset…the reactions were mixed, which must be concerning for Apple this late in the day.
WWDC was finally announced last week. It’s to be held at Apple Park from 5th June, with opportunities for developers and students to mix and mingle in person at a special experience on the opening day.
They are desperate to finally preview it at WWDC, but we are hearing there remains a lot of debate about its readiness. Whether or not it makes it to the June event, the wait for the mixed reality headset is nearly over. We could potentially be only eight or ten weeks away from laying our eyes on it for the first time. So, what can we expect?
In writing this, I have gathered as much relevant information together as possible, in an attempt to walk you through how I feel Apple’s AR/VR headset experience will play out.
I’ll try my best to cover what it will be like to wear, charge, and use it. I’m going to try to bring the headset to life for you. Hopefully, you should have a real feel of what I think it’s going to be like to own, wear, and use Apple’s AR/VR headset.
It may end up looking a little different from the renders I’m showing you here – things change. But of more importance to me, is to try to get across what I think the headset experience will actually be like – whenever it finally makes its entrance.
The packaging will be typical Apple – classy, and minimalist. Opening the box will reveal a sleek and sophisticated case that will hold the headset. The case will be made from folded leather and woven fabric – something very similar to AirPod Max. This will be essential to Apple’s intended unified and hands-free experience, which I’ll come to later.
Inside, you’ll find the headset held in an elastic pouch at the front, and a wireless battery pack in the slot at the back. Both devices will use wireless charging to interact with each other and the case.
The headset visor itself will be somewhere between the size of a pair of ski goggles and glasses. They’ll use Apple’s familiar aerograde aluminium, some super strong, and lightweight carbon fibre and innovative mesh fabrics. All of this is to ensure it’s as light as possible – probably, under 150 grams. The strap is rumoured to have integrated audio, and magnets to help it fold down. I think it will be a mixture of hard and soft parts, wrapped in a 3D knit fabric – similar to Apple Watch bands, for the most comfortable fit for use over longer periods. New bands and designs will likely be released in the future – much like the bands for Apple Watch.
As this will be a pro product, I’d expect the headset to use MacBook Pro style detailing, such as curved edges and black air vent cuts. I think it’ll include a button and crown like the AirPod Max for quick and easy interaction.
First, I imagine you’ll have to sling the case over your shoulder and pull out the folded headset. As you unfold the headset to put it on, the headset will turn on automatically.
It will use a combination of rear, and front-facing cameras to capture an updated view of your face. This will be used later to recreate a lifelike avatar. It will also use sensors in the light seal face gasket with machine learning to move your avatar face to exactly match your actual face.
It will use hidden cameras on the sides, bottom, and top to capture lighting information about your surroundings. All that information combines with images from the passthrough cameras to generate a light pattern for the peripheral display. This will help increase the Field Of View, or FOV, from the reported 120 degrees. Crucially, it’ll also help prepare your eyes for the super bright screens that you’re about to use.
Then, using an iris camera and sensors, the device will reposition the screens to exactly match your face, allowing the lens to get as close to your eyes as possible.
Once you start to wear the AR/VR headset, it will need to be connected to the main power unit. The cable that’ll connect the power pack will be integrated into the strap of the sling, making it super easy to find, and locate. Keeping the cable concealed is not just for looks, though. Should these headsets start to find their way in to corporate environments, then the fewer exposed cables that can potentially be caught on things, the better. Because it’s magnetic, you’ll easily be able to reach for it, around the back of your head. It’ll connect magnetically via a MagSafe connector without you having to look or fumble at all.
As you look through the headset, you’ll notice that it will be like looking through a transparent screen. The edges of your vision will be filled in by lights surrounding the lens optics, creating an effect that feels like you’re wearing a pair of normal goggles.
The headset will use two Sony 4k micro OLED displays, with a pixel density of 30ppd (human vision is 60 pixels per display). The lenses use a form of pancake optics, which are extremely clear and thin, but require the displays to run very, very bright. These panels provide stunning and unparalleled visuals. As good as these displays will be, though, they won’t yet quite replicate the human eye.
The AR/VR headset will also have a range of sensors hidden around the front of the device that use lidar and camera technology to supply images to the eyes and track both your environment and body. Hidden cameras on the bottom, sides, and top of the device track your mouth, feet, and hands and will provide lighting information to the headset for digital objects, so they match perfectly.
So, what can you expect to do with this ground-breaking device? Well, I think it will be mostly tied to Apple’s entertainment ecosystem.
Apple is creating a whole new operating system called XROS or reality OS, that will use simplified air gestures to combine with line of sight to create an innovative, new type of interaction. Clearly, I don’t know for certain how the OS will function or appear, But, I reckon it to possibly end up having several potential use cases.
Firstly, it could revolutionise the way we consume TV and media by providing an immersive experience with devices such as 4K Apple TV+, IMAX, and 3D films such as the recently released Avatar. It could also transform the way we watch live events such as sports, music, and theatre shows. I can see it magically being able to take you court-side at a live sports event, for example. Additionally, it could also be used for sports training and immersive exercise. It will quite likely act as an interface for all your Apple devices, allowing you to access your phone, Mac, and external screens seamlessly. It could provide a lifelike video call experience too – ideal for remote work, corporate meetings, and communication.
To ensure that you feel less isolated while wearing the device, Apple could incorporate a front-facing display that replicates the user’s view to an outside observer. To someone looking on, it would appear as though you are simply wearing a pair of glasses or goggles.
And If the battery runs out while you’re using it, and needs to be replaced, I think the AR/VR headset will be designed to have an easy, and quick removal of the battery pack, and will be able to be replaced while you are still wearing it. This will keep the experience going without interruption, using the onboard handover battery.
Ending your session
And, once you’ve finished your session, you’d simply pull the headset off, which will automatically disconnect the MagSafe cable, and that, in turn, will then reattach itself to the strap.
To end the user experience, you’d fold the headset and slide it back into the front pouch, which will automatically turn it off and begin recharging its internal battery ready for your next experience.
So, that is how I envision the Apple headset experience – start to finish.
From all the latest information, I could pull together, I’m reasonably confident that this could well be the direction that Apple will eventually take. However, just to stress again, as with all new technology, there may be unforeseen changes and adaptations that alter the headset design before it comes to market.
When we will see the AR/VR headset, who knows – your guess is as good as mine. But, in an attempt to fill in the waiting weeks, and months, this is my take on what it may well be like.
What are your thoughts, though? Do you think I’ve got any of this right, or am I miles off – let me know!
The renders in this story were made for me by a render’s genius – Marcus Kane. You are welcome to use any of these images, but kindly credit myself and Marcus 🙏🏻
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