The latest news details Apple’s AR hardware plans, including a headset called the N301 and a stand-alone AR glasses called the N421, which will be suitable for all-day wear. According to The Information, Mike Rockwell, Apple’s HEAD of AR/VR, presented the AR roadmap to a team of up to 1,000 people at an internal meeting in October. Among other things, the company plans to release an AR and VR-enabled headshow in 2022, similar to the VR all-in-one Oculus Quest, but thinner, and lighter AR glasses in 2023.
At the meeting, employees demonstrated an AR experience with apple head presentation, with Apple configuring an external camera head for the head display, codenamed N301, to capture and track feature points in a real-world environment, and then translate reality into digital information so that AR objects stack accurately. In addition, the head display is equipped with high-resolution display lenses, allowing the user to see the smaller fonts in the interface. Executives say Apple’s head is more accurate than the ability of existing devices on the market to map the surface, edges and size of a room.
CNET reported last April that Apple was developing a headshow that could run both AR and VR, codenamed T288, with a plan to configure 8K-resolution display accuracy for a single eye.
The AR glasses, codenamed N421, are more aggressive, allegedly “designed in the direction of all-weather wear”, while the current prototype is like “expensive sunglasses” with thicker frames due to the need to be stuffed into batteries and chips. Earlier this year, Apple also patented a feature: When people wear the glasses, if they are experiencing an AR experience, the lenses will darken to alert others to the wearer’s status.
Executives expressed their vision at the meeting that they believe that over the next decade, it will be possible to replace the iPhone with an iterative AR glasses.
Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, has previously said he sees augmented reality as “a dream that covers as widely as a smartphone”.
Apple’s AR glasses appear to be aiming to deliver on that promise, and as the smartphone market matures, Apple and many other technology companies are looking to use virtual reality and augmented reality as the next big technology platform. Apple has been accumulating resources in this area for years, buying technology, promoting content development, and placing more employees on the project.
However, the difficulty of evolving virtualization and augmented reality has been proven many times, with huge hardware costs and a disappointing user experience hampering growth. Just last month, Google announced it was terminating its VR platform, Daydream, citing a lack of content support and a low number of customers. In this case, it seems wise for Apple to choose a time rather than rush to market.