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03 Jun 2022

Apple MR Headset & Apple Glasses, the Next Big News of 2022?

Remember the day that the entire internet exploded with Mark’s Metaverse announcement, causing quite a number of companies to change the direction of their communication and agendas practically overnight. We have later seen many significant technology players like Meta, Qualcomm, Microsoft, Samsung and others, making statements of their viewpoint on the adaptation of the metaverse. It was tremendously curious to see which players would pick which side. Nevertheless, Apple was amongst the ones who at first shared no immediate comments regarding the Metaverse. Which made us wonder, why?

Could it have been due to their long-standing technological rivalry with Meta or due to their lack of belief in the Metaverse itself? Both of course possible, however as many other experts in our field we couldn’t miss to notice Apple’s tremendous interest towards immersive technology. Making us also believe that the tech giant’s desire to remain focused on the everyday consumer use technologies is not due to their disbelief in the next iteration of the internet, the Web 3.0 or as some call it the Metaverse, but mostly in their desire to enter the Extended Reality (XR) hardware market. With the XR market size expecting to reach 125.2 billion USD by 2026, expansion in this direction can be tremendously beneficial. 

As immersive technology developers continue launching new Extended Reality (XR) headsets, new Augmented, Virtual or Mixed Reality (AR, VR or MR) devices are no longer a big surprise for the oversaturated hardware market. If you think about it closely, rear XR device can cause any major hype or uproar in the market. Unless, that is, we are talking about Apple, that has kept the tech community on the edge with not one but two vastly expected, long-promised, tremendously speculated devices - the Apple Mixed Reality Headset and the Apple AR glasses otherwise referred to as Apple Glass. There honestly has been so much rumor around these devices, that they have put some tech enthusiasts thinking whether it is just a large, artificially created marketing campaign. 

Some do have their hopes up for the steadily approaching June 6th Apple 2022 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). For the tech giant to finally reveal at least one of their new, and most importantly, immersive devices. However, some sources suggest that we should not be expecting any grand announcements on neither the Apple MR headset or Apple Glass. Probably not even a sneak peak, though the news that Apple has shown the new headset to the executive’s board has already circulated since May. Rather, this time we could only expect a new M2 powered Apple iPad 2022 to be announced. Which leaves us yet again, with a full range of questions. 

So which one will be the first one to expect? The Apple MR headset or the AR glasses? When will they actually be launched, what will be their technical specs and capabilities? With all the confusion steered by the rumors and leaks, possibly even from Apple itself, we today have more questions than answers. It’s about time we look at all the available facts and of course add some of our own thoughts and speculations on this topic, while we try to piece everything we know so far about both of these devices together.

Technology Stack

When it comes to technology stack of Apple Glass, it seems fairly straightforward, with the glasses expected to have Augmented Reality capabilities that overlay objects and environments with digital capabilities. As there has been no word of Mixed Reality planned for the Apple Glass, the first version of the product is most likely to be only able to enhance objects and surroundings and most importantly serve as an extended digital screen for some of the Apple ecosystem products. 

On the other hand, Apple MR headset promises us Mixed Reality capabilities, making objects and surroundings interactable in real-time, as well as an opportunity to switch between Augmented and Virtual Reality modes. At the end of the day, the actual confirmed technology stack, once available, will clarify so many questions, allowing to speculate more freely on a number of subjects,  including the design and potential competitive advantages.

Software & Processing power

Since it’s 2020 launch, many new Apple devices are now powered by the M1 chip. Rumors suggest that the Apple MR headset will feature two processing chips, when Apple Glass could be running just on M1, which so far has been the most powerful existing Apple chip. Considering that Apple is expected to launch yet another iteration of the chip, the M2 that is expected to be more powerful than M1, but not as powerful as M1 Pro and M1 Max we can expect at least one of these chips to be the processing power behind the Apple MR Headset and Apple Glass devices. 

The whole processing power question has been on the table since Bloomberg reported the potential overheating issue that has forced to push the launch of the Apple MR headset for at least a couple of months. Thus, we are patiently waiting for the light to be shed in the upcoming months. At the same time, several sources reported a leak of the platform that could be used potentially of both devices, the rOS or otherwise called Reality OS. Which is also speculated to make its appearance at the 2022 WWDC.

Image Source: Apple
Technical specifications & Price

When it comes to either of the upcoming immersive Apple devices, today, we can only rely on speculations and guesses from technology experts, potential leaks and linked patent registration information. When it comes to the Apple MR headset and its potential capability to switch between AR and VR, it is fairly complicated to assume any technical specifications other than that there is a high chance that it will be a stand-alone device, with high visual fidelity and processing capabilities, somewhat between 90 to 120 Hz refresh rate and at least 2-3 hours battery life on a single charge. The price range can also vary, depending on the final competitor benchmark, being close to Meta Oculus Quest 2 starting at $299 USD or the other extreme of 3,500$ USD like HoloLens 2. 

On the other hand, even though no technical specifications are still known for Apple Glasses, it is much easier to assume what AR glasses could have as part of their specs. We expect them to at least hit some average market specs to be competitive amongst the vast AR hardware alternatives. We expect a stand-alone device with at least 1920x1080 per-eye resolution, between 40 to 50 degrees visible FoV (Field of View), with built-in LiDAR capabilities like many new Apple devices, between 70 to 90 Hz refresh rate, WiFi-6 enabled and a battery life of at least 3 to 4 hours. As Apple has previously shared their belief in the future enhanced by AR technology, we can expect Apple Glasses to be positioned as a stand-alone device, compatible with other Apple ecosystem devices, priced somewhere in the range of $1500-$2000 USD.

Controls, Haptics & EMG

It will be curious to see which route Apple will choose for its controllers for both Apple MR headset and the Apple Glasses. Aside from the traditional Apple like visual component we can expect haptic feedback and an ergonomic design. However outside of traditional controllers we could potentially see, in the next device iterations, Apple exploring the electromyography (EMG) direction, as the company has reportedly been looking into the subject already some time ago. EMG as it is, is a fairy curious topic, out of the immersive technology main players already researched deeply by Meta.  

Electromyography in this context is referred to as the hardware technology capable of detecting, recording and transmitting muscle generated activity that can be used as command input for immersive technology devices. The technology itself came from healthcare where it is often used in neurology. As EMG reacts to muscle impulse, it can be inbuilt into wrist wearable devices, like the next generation Apple Watch, and used instead of traditional input and controller methods. As exciting as it may sound, we shall wait and see whether this direction will be feasible to realise.

Design and Visual

Apple is well known for its ergonomic, intuitive, as well as exceptional UI and UX design when it comes to every aspect of their products, from interface and navigation to accessories and packaging. Today, there are already a couple of possible Apple MR headset and Apple Glass visualisations circulating in the web. Even though we are yet to see any official design prototypes, considering how Apple treats its products and accessories design, we without doubt, should expect to see both the Apple MR headset and the Apple Glasses incorporating the current slick, smooth and clean style.

There is also a very slim, but still a possibility, that Apple could collaborate on the frames production with one of the top brands that correspond to their values. In this case, the spectra of opportunities are pretty vast. However, regardless of the way the company decides to approach this topic, the design will for sure remain Apple distinct for both immersive devices.

Image Source: Tom's Guide
Privacy, security, and safety

When it comes to immersive devices that overlay the real-world objects and surroundings with digital capabilities, we always face a question of privacy. How to protect and separate what the device visually picks up from what it records and transfers. What should be the limit here, how to control and ensure data protection and privacy while not limiting the technological capabilities of the XR devices. 

Apple identifies privacy as one of its core values and a fundamental human right that the user should have full access to as well as capability to control what is shared and what remains private. This fundamentally includes Apple’s outlook on innovation as well, giving some hope for the potential future MR and AR device users to keep the private lives secured. At the same time a more vast use of XR devices for everyday purposes may call for a batch of completely new legal regulations. The regulations that can secure not only the users of the immersive devices, but every person within the immediate surroundings of the device use. 

In any case, we still expect some exciting news to come from the Apple WWDC 2022, with the tech community hoping for at least a glimpse of the immersive technology launch. Knowing how thorough Apple is when it comes to every element of their products, we can definitely expect a slick, ergonomic and intuitive in use, pair of Apple Glasses and a competitive in power and visual fidelity Apple MR headset. One question of course remains, when will they come out? Our best guest here is early 2023 for the Apple MR headset and sometime late 2023-mid 2024 for the Apple Glass. Regardless of the timing, we are full of excitement for these two new devices as they are bound to make a significant splash in the XR hardware market.

Authors: Alex Dzyuba, Lucid Reality Labs Founder & CEO | Anna Rohi, Lucid Reality Labs Senior Marketing & Communications Manager