Several reports over the past two years have suggested Apple is getting ready to manufacture an AR headset, and possibly ship it sometime in 2020—something that’s so far unsubstantiated by the company itself. Now highly respected industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, someone Business Insider called “the most accurate Apple analyst in the world,” is offering up his predictions for the fabled device, and they seem to support the view that an Apple AR headset is just over the horizon.

Kuo suggests that Apple will likely begin production on its AR headset sometime between Q4 of 2019 and Q2 of 2020, 9to5Mac reports, citing Kou’s translated statements in Money UDN (Chinese).

It won’t be a standalone affair like HoloLens 2 either, Kuo suggests. The Apple AR headset instead is predicted to rely on the iPhone for computing, rendering, internet connectivity and location services.

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Kuo doesn’t mention whether this connection will be a wired or wireless at this point, although the latter would require a compelling leap in streaming tech to say the least.

In addition to an on-board battery and requisite depth sensing cameras and AR optics, if the company goes the wireless route the headset would require a way of receiving and decompressing video data rendered on the smartphone and streamed to the AR headset. It would also need to do this at the lowest possible latency, something that is much less important in a task like streaming content via AirPlay to Apple TV.

Much of this could be predicated on whatever future iPhone lays before us. An iPhone built from the ground-up with AR rendering and low latency wireless transmission in mind could make for a unique product offering to say the least.

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Kuo, an analyst at TFI Securities in Taiwan, is known for his many accurate predictions surrounding Apple products, something Mac Rumors says is done by gathering intelligence from his contacts in Apple’s Asian supply chain, and translating that information into research notes for clients. These notes are typically said to provide “a solid look at Apple’s future plans,” something that puts his predictions on future Apple products as “accurate enough to make him one of the most reliable sources,” Mac Rumors concludes.

While Apple has been fairly tepid on virtual reality, the company has been full steam ahead on outfitting its mobile devices supporting iOS 11 or later with the ability to do basic AR tasks, since its release of ARKit in 2017. Last summer the company unveiled ARKit 2.0 which included improved face tracking, more realistic rendering, better 3D object detection, persistent experiences and multi-user support for shared experiences.

The company holds many patents surrounding AR interaction and hardware. At the time of this writing Apple is advertising over 100 jobs directly dealing with AR development.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • MosBen

    Having a wired compute unit for an XR headset has made a ton of sense to me for years. You offload most of the heavy, heat generating components to something that can be clipped to an arm or waist, allowing the HMD to be both lighter and cheaper to buy standalone. But at the same time you don’t have to worry about being tethered to a bulky PC that’s hard to move. And making the compute unit a phone means that you can count on your audience upgrading their computing unit every few years on their own. It just makes so much sense, I’m kind of perplexed as to why someone other than Magic Leap hasn’t tried it.

    • Shem

      Exactly! Move the weight to the waist. That way you can have a bigger battery etc’ but u won’t notice it. A thin cable running down your back is also unnoticeable. People are use to the headphone cable anyway. If the sw gives u value u won’t care about these minor inconveniences.

      • MosBen

        Samsung hasn’t really updated the GearVR in a long time, with the current model supporting something like 6 generations of phones. But if they did a new model that only supported back to the Galaxy S8 they could have a really neat mobile VR device. The S8 used the Snapdragon 835, the same chipset that powers the Quest, while the subsequent versions used/will use the more powerful 845 and 855. The biggest issue that I can think of is thermals and battery life. Despite phones having the hardware to push some fairly impressive graphics these days, they still aren’t really designed for extended gaming over long periods of time, so they get hot and drain the battery fast. But if you’re already strapping the phone to your waist, you’re not really going to notice a few extra ounces, so they could release a case to put your phone in that would have both a battery to extend play time and a cooling unit to keep the phone operating at good temps.

        • airball

          What VR software platform would Samsung use for this hypothetical new GearVR?

          • MosBen

            I’d assume Daydream or something custom?

          • airball

            Maybe. The platform has always been Samsung’s problem. And all signs point to both them and Google having abandoned VR for the time being. Maybe next time around.

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          • MosBen

            What are the signs that they’ve abandoned VR, as opposed to working on something quietly? I don’t think that I’ve read anything about Google shedding VR-related employees, and Samsung released an updated version of the GearVR fairly recently, if I recall.

          • airball

            Mostly things I overhear on Caltrain, not the greatest source, but not the worst either. Just saw this too: https://techcrunch.com/2019/03/13/google-is-reportedly-shutting-down-its-in-house-vr-film-studio/
            Samsung has not released any substantive updates to the GearVR since the controller, which was years ago. The only way the new phones even fit in the device are to call a Samsung 1-800 number and order an adapter from their customer service department.

          • MosBen

            Are you sure? Granted, they haven’t really updated the specs on the GearVR in a long time, but I’m pretty sure that they released an updated model of it to coincide with the Galaxy 9. Might it be that if you have an older model you need an adapter to accommodate a newer phone? Or do you mean that you’ll need an adapter for the Galaxy 10?

        • You have to keep in mind though that we’re talking about iPhone users here. They might be able to get away with a tether, if it’s thin and unobtrusive enough, but no one is going to bother, clipping or strapping their phone anywhere (sans dads of course with their giant Otter Box belt clips). It’s either going to be in their hand or in their pockets most of the time.
          I think Apple would throttle the compute capabilities to avoid overheating before requiring users have the phone open to the air.
          I do agree with you though that Apple would definitely go for a tether if it helped give the headset a sleeker and lighter look which if very much would with current hardware limitations.

          • MosBen

            Why wouldn’t anyone clip or strap the phone somewhere? You mention “dads”, which makes me think that the point is that it wouldn’t look cool, but nobody is going to look cool with a VR/AR headset on, so I don’t really think that it’s a huge issue.

            Something that just occurred to me, are you imagining that this is a device that people will walk around the world in as they go to work, etc., like Google Glass? I don’t think that’s what this is going to be at all. I think we’re looking at a Hololens or Magic Leap type device which allows you to see around the room you’re in, but is designed primarily for use indoors, and not for long-term use. Modern phones have a hard time lasting a day under heavy use. They’d die extra fast powering an always on AR HMD.

          • Apple products are as much status symbols and fashion statements as they are computers. When this thing is finally revealed, it’s pretty much a guarantee it will be the best looking AR headset on the market.

            In my mind, this device certainly isn’t Google Glass in terms of use cases. In my mind, this thing will function in the same use space as an iPad or a Macbook Air: consuming simple media, browsing the web, light productivity/ multitasking, and light gaming, with all the intuitive affordances of AR. I personally don’t think it will be as robust as Magic Leap or Hololens specifically because it will be tethered to your phone. Power consumption will likely be the highest priority and the entire user experience would be engineered around that.

            I’m willing to bet with the right use cases, and careful design, you could use a headset like this intermittently throughout the day and you’re phone would survive the day.

          • MosBen

            Do we know what kind of system on chip is used in Hololens or Magic Leap? I could believe if they were more powerful than what’s in a new iPhone, but it’s still mobile hardware, right? It can’t be that far off.

          • We know there’s a Snapdragon of some kind in the new Hololens and Magic Leap is using a Tegra X2. If I’m not mistaken Apple’s SoC’s actually hold up better than their Android counterparts on most benchmarks so technically it should be capable of providing a comparable experience, but both of those systems are also open air with (I think) active cooling and can fully dedicate their stack to the task of AR/MR.

            From a spec perspective, I imagine they could compete with Hololens/Magic Leap, but when you consider Apple’s core audience and the fact that it tethers to your phone to me says this device is aiming for a lower, more pragmatic bar.

          • MosBen

            Yeah, I’d imagine that if Apple does release such a product it’ll be backward compatible with a least one prior generation of phone, and like you said, phone construction creates some limitations that might make the available processing power a bit lower from the iPhone, even if the chipset is slightly more powerful. But an external battery/cooling unit could help without adding much weight, and it’s likely that if Apple is releasing anything like this this year, it’ll be released with the iPhone 11, so it might get a somewhat large edge in power to even things out a bit more.

            And even if it’s somewhat less powerful than Hololens 2 or Magic Leap, the headset unit itself is likely to be substantially cheaper, so if you already have an iPhone 11 it seems like a no brainer.

          • daveinpublic

            I think it would be a headset that you could wear anytime, anywhere. It will look like a pair of glasses, it won’t look like a headset.

          • MosBen

            I don’t really think that AR technology is there yet, so I don’t think that it will, but I suppose we’ll see.

    • dk

      there is absolutely no chance in hell it will be anything more than a fancy looking google glass phone accessory thing

      • MosBen

        Why do you say that? Apple has seemingly been spending money on a VR/AR development team for a while now. I’m not a fan of Apple products, but I don’t see any reason to believe that it won’t be a serious entry into the space. Whether it’ll be something closer to an Oculus Go or Quest or closer to a Magic Leap, I don’t know.

        • dk

          I say it because they want something slick tiny and shiny they can sell for a pile of profit like with the watches…..and they don’t want what at this point will be a toy that will drain your phone battery in 2 hours and won’t be that great to use or interact with and that only enthusiasts will appreciate ……..and because Tim Cook has always been saying that the technology is just not there yet
          …..it might become something like the nreal glasses or better by generation 3 or 4
          I will be shocked if their first head mounted thing is an actual ar headset …but I guess there is a small chance of that

  • JesuSaveSouls

    Jesusvr.net
    I like some of the ar apps that work with the cardboard vr.Jesus also died for you,He is alive.

  • one80oneday

    Makes perfect sense to start with a tethered phone for both the consumer and the business. It doesn’t cut into phone sales and over time itlli shrink small enough to fit in glasses. I have no problem with the cord if the device xan replace all my screens.

  • PLee45

    Vuzix Blade 2 is coming with Qualcomm XR1 chip and Plessey microLED.

  • oompah

    Wow
    This is the best approach
    U keep ur phone+powerbank in pocket
    & connect using USB-C with the VR/AR headset
    this’d keep the headset very light.
    plus u can go anywhere wearing the headset
    and if the headset is pretty (as the apple products are), u can take it to public places too where u can use these in spare time & if combined with Terminator type data insight, u can even know ppl & places from the internet.

    • daveinpublic

      Well they better have something incredible coming down the pike, they’ve been spending enough on R&D for years now.

  • daveinpublic

    I think it will be wireless. The wireless tech is good enough, Apple is used to making small devices that last a long time on their own battery, and they don’t want to drain your iPhone. Ever since the transition to mobile computing, Apple has dominated the computing scene, because they’re the only ones who cared about computer size and style. As we move into wearables, they’re only going to dominate even more. Apple is poised to reign for the next decade, or eternally, hahah!

  • WyrdestGeek

    I hope it’s good.

    I hope it pushes the industry forward.

  • Gnoll

    I’m actually excited about Apple’s entry into the AR headset market. They have a massive amount of capital, developers and unique experience when it comes to wearables. They also have the resources and logistics capability of pushing tens of millions of units if they wanted. Even if you don’t like Apple this is a good thing for AR because it will force their competition to invest more and iterate/innovate faster in AR. There are many companies out there that do not want to see Apple succeed in this specific market, companies such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook and others. If Apple manages to get mass adoption with their AR headset then it’s not just an ancillary device such as the Apple Watch, it’s a potential new paradigm shift on the level of Desktop computer adoption and the emergence of smart phones. Apple has a significant opportunity here to really make AR headsets popular. I’m all for it because I know that once this happens it’s only a matter of a few years before it becomes an all-out battle amongst the tech giants while we all kick back and watch the fireworks.