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Apple's VR headset may include a fan and support prescription lenses

Engadget logo Engadget 1/21/2021 Nick Summers
a tall glass building: The Apple logo hangs inside the glass entrance to the Apple Store on 5th Avenue in New York City, April 4, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Segar  (UNTIED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY TELECOMS) The Apple logo hangs inside the glass entrance to the Apple Store on 5th Avenue in New York City, April 4, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNTIED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY TELECOMS)

Apple is pushing ahead with two devices focused on VR and AR respectively, according to a Bloomberg report. The company has long been rumored to be working on an augmented reality headset similar to the much-hyped Magic Leap One. Today, however, we have some new details about the device that will precede it. According to Bloomberg, the company is planning a “mostly virtual reality device” that could launch as early as 2022. It’s currently a self-contained unit, similar to the Oculus Quest 2, and could ship with a processor that trumps even the new M1 Mac chips.

The current prototype is made of fabric, Bloomberg reports, and designed to support prescription lenses, thereby shrinking the gap between the display and user’s eyeballs. Some prototypes are said to have external cameras for basic AR functionality. It’s also possible that these sensors will be used for hand-tracking, too. That would give developers more flexibility with their content, which is expected to run on a bespoke operating system, currently codenamed “rOS,” and live inside a special App Store.

The company has reportedly had problems with the device, however. It currently requires a fan, for instance. That led to some early prototypes that were too large and heavy for extended use, according to Bloomberg. The prescription lenses could also bring up some regulatory challenges. If Apple pushes ahead with high-resolution displays, which are reportedly better than rival offerings, it will likely be expensive, too. That means it’ll have a hard time breaking through into the mainstream, like the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and AirPods. Instead, it would be a niche proposition similar to the company’s redesigned Mac Pro, Bloomberg theorizes.

Maybe that doesn’t matter, though. The headset’s true purpose might be to galvanize interest in Apple’s AR glasses. That particular device is still early in development, according to Bloomberg. Engineers are reportedly still working on the basic underlying technologies, which means any theoretical launch is years away. Bloomberg is quick to point out that the company’s plans could change, and both products might be scrapped entirely. Still, these details suggest that the company hasn’t given up on the concept just yet. Management didn’t buy NextVR for nothing, it seems.

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