Look, I like Apple as much as the next person. I’m on my fifth iPad already. You’ll have to take my iPad Pro from my cold dead fingers. That being said, it can be a little much when fans of the company want them to make everything. There have been calls for an Apple TV (no not this one) called the iTV (no, not the UK TV channel) as well as a whole freaking car.
Whether those things will happen remains to be seen, but while other people are pining for an Apple toaster, we’re much more interested in the ongoing rumours that Apple is working in their own head-mounted display. CNET quoted an anonymous source who they seem to think has credible information on Apple’s plans for an AR/VR headset.
A History of Unoriginality
Apple has a reputation for making some incredibly polished products. They also have a (largely self-made) reputation for being exceptionally creative. While I can easily concede that Apple was a pioneer of personal computing with the original Macs and an innovator in that space for decades, that hasn’t really been the case for them in modern times.
The iPhone, iPad and iPod were all amazingly successful and worthy products. They created new industries virtually overnight. But Apple certainly didn’t invent smartphones, tablet computers or digital music players.
Instead, the company took a step back and bided their time until technology had met their vision for what those products should be. Thus we got the iPhone and all the rest. It’s a refinement and fulfilment of potential.
That’s not an indictment of Apple at all, just an observation that they are not in the business of taking the risk of making entirely new things. So the idea that Apple is getting into the VR business is pretty exciting given their history. Products like the Oculus Rift are definitely consumer-ready, but they still have plenty of things that make them clunky compared to most mainstream electronics. I suppose people imagine that Apple will work the same sort of transformative magic on an AR/VR HMD: User-friendly, pretty and probably very expensive.
Putting Their Money Where Their Mouths Are
Apple has been quietly (well not that quietly) buying up AR/VR technologies. Their amazing ARKit SDK is one result of those acquisitions and according to the latest rumours, Apple is doing a lot of development behind the scenes. In other words, it’s not like Apple has decided to get into this all of a sudden.
News on the Grapevine
So what exactly is this anonymous source saying about what’s apparently called “project T288”?
First of all, it will be a while before any actual product is available for purchase. The purported release date is in 2020.
The second important point is that this HMD will be wireless out of the box. This isn’t terribly surprising given that other HMDs now also have first- and -third-party wireless modules. The technology is now finally where it needs to be.
The third point is that this device will be a hybrid AR/VR product. Once again not super surprising given the way things are going with HMDs like the Windows Mixed Reality products.
The HMD seems to be a standalone unit consisting of a box which presumably has the computer bits in it. This will link wirelessly with the headset. Those computing bits are predicted to be Apple’s own CPU technology, which will also reportedly feature in Macs from 2020 onwards. The processor in the VR box will apparently use a 5-nanometer process, which is very advanced compared to CPU technology today.
The last eye-popping specification is the use of two 8K displays. That’s going to eliminate any chicken wire effect but will require a lot of bandwidth over the wireless link and a lot of graphics processing power.
A Sign of Things to Come?
Plenty of these specifications seem too good to be true for a product that will only come out in 2020 or at least is supposed to. It also sounds expensive as heck, but then if you can sell $1000+ tablets, that may not be something Apple is worried about. Whether this is exactly what Apple will do, or whether they bring any AR/VR product out at all at least we can be sure that any competition is good for us consumers. So bring it on Apple, our bodies are ready.