Apple Reportedly Moving Ahead with its AR/VR Headset

Gaming
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According to sources involved with Apple’s supply chain, the company plans to launch its rumored mixed reality headset later this year. This flies in the face of earlier reports that the headset had been delayed until next year due to a variety of issues Apple was struggling with. This would not necessarily have been a surprise given that Apple hasn’t previously launched a product like this before. Sources indicate that Apple is far enough along in its production process that the unnamed headset has reached the EVT 2 stage, which stands for Engineering Validation Testing, phase 2.

For those not privy to the ins-and-outs of Apple’s production process, this would mean the new device is about midway through its journey to final production. That’s according to a summary provided by 9to5Mac, which also flagged the supply chain sources at Digitimes. The company begins with hardware prototypes to get the design nailed down while a software team works in parallel. Once the design is finalized it moves into the Engineering Validation Testing phases, which are numbered. This is where the company combines all the software and the hardware and produces physical units for testing.

The prototype then moves through those various phases (1, 2, 3, etc.) and is iterated on until it arrives at the next phase, which is called Design Validation Test. This where “real world” testing is done to make sure the device works properly and will not break during normal use. The next phase, Production Validation Testing, is the last.

In PVT the company tests its manufacturing process for the device it’s creating. As 9to5Mac reports, the iPhone 14 has reached this phase, and we all know that phone will launch in September, so the headset could be only several months behind. Apple might officially launch the headset at its October event, which is usually focused on new hardware. This would track with earlier rumors that the headset would actually arrive in 2023.

A mock up of a theoretical Apple headset by concept designer Antonio DeRosa. (Image: @aderosa75 on Twitter)

On the surface this seems like good news in a time of constant delays for anything that involves semiconductors, gaming, or just fun in general. However, we still don’t know exactly what market Apple will be targeting with its new headset. Reports have varied wildly on what Apple’s goals are for the device. So far it’s been reported that the company’s initial headset will be a powerful and expensive device that runs on silicon similar to that in its M1 Macs, and it will not be metaverse friendly. It might even be even made to target enterprise customers with an expensive software subscription model, similar to the current Microsoft HoloLens. This would make sense as Apple tends to enter markets only when margins are rather high.

Once that ball of wax is up and running Apple will eventually introduce its version of AR glasses, which is reportedly what Apple thinks will eventually replace the iPhone, possibly on a ten year timeline. It certainly seems fanciful here in 2022 that we’ll all be wearing AR glasses around someday. Previous attempts to bring such products to market have failed. However, it’s never wise to discount Apple’s ingenuity. The company is known for arriving late to a market, like smart watches, and becoming the market and/or profit leader within several years. It will be interesting to see what angle Apple takes on a market dominated by its arch nemesis Meta and its Quest 2 headset. Alternately, Apple might take aim at Microsoft’s HoloLens instead. There are rumors that Microsoft might abandon HoloLens 3, which  could leave the market primed to welcome a new provider.

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