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SYFY WIRE Technology

Apple reportedly developing high-tech VR, augmented reality headgear

By Benjamin Bullard
The Apple logo displayed on the facade of an Apple Store

Virtual reality has been making big strides toward toward the mainstream over the past year, thanks in no small part to Oculus’ recently-launched Quest 2 headset — the kind of lighter, cheaper, more user-friendly device that checks most of the right boxes when it comes to mass appeal.

But at the other end of the gotta-have-it spectrum is Apple, which is reportedly working on a pair of VR devices that won’t be aimed at everyone — only those who don’t mind taking a big bite out of their early-adopting wallets. Citing unnamed sources familiar with Apple’s plans, Bloomberg reports that the tech giant is prepping a pair of upscale gadgets — one VR-capable; the other geared more toward AR — that would represent the company’s first foray into the blossoming VR orchard.

Apple’s VR headset reportedly will incorporate processing power even more advanced than the proprietary M1 chips that recently began rolling out in the company’s laptop lineup, and could have some unique features not found in current wearables. The non-techy parts of the VR prototype reportedly are made from fabric, and to keep the size small, the device isn’t being made to accommodate eyeglasses. According to Bloomberg, Apple is instead looking into a design that would include swappable VR lens overlays to match users’ prescriptions.

Apple also may be planning to step up its VR visuals with a higher-resolution display than anything currently found in devices like the Quest 2, the HTC Vive Cosmos, or Sony’s PlayStation VR kit. The device reportedly is designed to run on batteries (despite a reported internal debate over whether to tether it to a power source), and could be ready to go — at a price “far more expensive than those from rivals,” the report states — sometime in 2022.

On the augmented reality front, Apple is reportedly pruning the design down for a much smaller wearable AR device that would have more in common with Google Glass (remember that?) than today’s more bulky VR sets. The Cupertino company’s idea of an AR kit, which would allow virtual images to be superimposed over real-world visuals, is “several years away,” according to the report, with all the necessary power pieces contained in the glasses’ frame.

As with all reports that deal with the inside goings-on deep in the R&D skunkworks of a big tech nursery like Apple’s, plans for both sets could change between now and the VR gear’s reported 2022 targeted launch date. From smart phones to high-end headphones to self-driving cars, Apple has historically been famously reluctant to put its own bespoke spin on existing product categories before it’s good and ready. But here’s hoping that it won’t be too long before we get our first peek at what virtual reality, Apple style, could look like.