Rumors have been swirling for nearly five years that Apple is working on some kind of augmented reality or virtual reality wearable device. We’ve been hearing about it ever since Google first debuted the ill-fated Google Glass, but it’s always been at least two or three years away.
That hasn’t changed — we’re still not going to see anything launch this year — but according to CNET, Apple is on track for a 2020 launch, and the product it’s going to debut will genuinely be unlike anything on the market today.
“The company is working on a headset capable of running both AR and VR technology, according to a person familiar with Apple’s plans,” the report says. “Plans so far call for an 8K display for each eye — higher resolution than today’s best TVs — that would be untethered from a computer or smartphone, the person said.”
VR systems today typically use a screen with a resolution of around 1200 x 1200, far short of 8K. They also require tethering to a large and expensive desktop PC, or wearing a ridiculous-looking backpack. If Apple’s system can solve those issues, it will move a lot closer to making VR or AR a mainstream technology.
According to the report, Apple is planning on using a new short-range wireless technology to connect its headset to a dedicated “box,” which will be powered by a custom Apple chip. It will be fabricated on a 5nm process, smaller and more efficient than the 7nm chips that will power this year’s iPhones and iPads. All the necessary location and tracking sensors will reportedly be built into the headset, meaning you won’t have to string wires and controllers around the room.
Tim Cook has said before that while Apple is interested in VR and AR, it won’t release a product until the technology is in place to make it work well. “But today I can tell you the technology itself doesn’t exist to do [smart glasses] in a quality way,” Cook said late last year. “The display technology required, as well as putting enough stuff around your face – there’s huge challenges with that. The field of view, the quality of the display itself, it’s not there yet.”