Here comes Apple, poised to charge us an arm and a leg for its own contribution to the VR headset space. Of course this company has the gall to charge $3,000 for a mixed-reality headset (opens in new tab) that, by the looks of things, isn’t going to be able to handle modern gaming at all.
An exclusive Bloomberg (opens in new tab) article has gone into great depths about how the as yet unannounced Apple headset actually works (via Digital Trends (opens in new tab)). In it, we’re told that the headset will offer two ultra-high-resolution displays (which could mean anything), a pass-through mode so you can see your surroundings through “several external cameras” (specific), and something called a “digital crown” so you can switch between VR and AR mode. You mean, a knob? It’s called a knob, Apple.
It’ll also offer just two hours of battery life and a cooling fan, as well as a little unit attached to the headset that goes in your pocket—no playing in the nude for us then (waiting on the inevitable $400 Apple Nudity Strapping accessory -Ed).
The thing people are most excited about, of course, is the hand- and eye-tracking capability a VR headset like this is bound to come touting. With it, we should see some advanced gesture recognition, involving users pinching their thumbs together and making other totally rad looking hand movements to control the headset, just like super cool sci-fi characters they’ve always wanted to be.
What’s more, Apple’s mixed reality headset will support what Bloomberg refers to as “realistic avatars”. Whether that means photorealistic or Mass Effect Andromeda (opens in new tab) realistic, is unclear. What we do know is that its application will be sorely limited.
If you’re expecting to pay $3,000 and move into Apple’s version of the Metaverse, you’ll be disappointed to learn that in order to save on processing power the headset will only allow you to render a realistic avatar in one-to-one meetings. Otherwise you’ll be rendered as whatever nightmare-inducing Memoji character the company makes you design to be welcomed into the cult of Apple.
All this will run off an M2 chip variation, paired with something called a Reality Processor, which is what Apple is actually calling its dedicated graphics chip for the project.
Just remember that these are still rumours, and a lot of this is still subject to change. We could even see some feature crop up that actually makes it worth $3,000, though we’re not holding our breath. Oh, but Apple is working on a cheaper version for around $1,500, which should launch between 2024 and 2025 some time.
From where we’re standing, the device seems not to offer anything more than the $399 Quest 2 has already achieved with hand tracking and pass through mode. And it’s unlikely to add much to the still struggling VR gaming space. Sure, Apple will likely do it with some style, but the substance… I’m not convinced.
In reality, Sony’s PSVR2 has more chance of having a tangible, genuine impact on the virtual reality ecosystem. If that does well more game developers will take VR seriously, and we may see more titles translate into more high quality PC VR experiences.
But if Apple does well… Apple does well and that’s kinda it.
Either way, we should see Apples mixed-reality headset start production some time in February, with an initial US launch imminent this year.