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Everything we know so far about the Apple MR headset, specs, price and features

Apple MR Headset - VR Expert - 1

Rumours and news of Apple’s highly anticipated mixed reality headset have been circulating for what feels like years. Many analysts and insiders have shared possible specs, prices and features for Apple’s new device. This article will highlight what we know so far about the device.

Premium quality and mixed reality capabilities

Also codenamed N301, the Apple MR headset will be of premium specifications, quality, and subsequent pricing. The headset will feature an array of cameras enabling augmented reality capabilities, mapping surfaces, edges and dimensions of rooms with great accuracy.

Comparably, the dominant consumer virtual reality headset, Meta Quest 2, only shows a black and white scene around the wearer. However, the rumoured mixed reality HMD from Meta, Project Cambria, is said to feature color cameras that enable mixed reality features similar to the Apple headset. Furthermore, the French startup Lynx will release an MR headset in July 2022 with similar capabilities.

Slim, stylish, and lightweight

Apple is known for its high standards of industrial and minimalist design. This is why the novel design aesthetic of a fabric exterior is rumoured to be on the N301. A design that stands out and decreases the weight of the headset itself. Further, reports from the reputable Apple analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo, leaked that the weight would land between 300 and 400 grams from prior wrong leaks. Current estimates of the design from supposed back-door viewings show this headset design from The Information.

Apple MR Headset - VR Expert - 1

Not one headset, but two Apple headsets

In the same report from Kuo, he said that Apple was working on a second edition, lighter headset. This further connects with our previous article highlighting Apple’s mixed reality retina projector patent, as it is unlikely that N301 will adopt such advanced display technology.

The display

Speaking of the display technology: confusion hit the tech-leaking world as it was believed that the Apple MR headset would have crisp dual 8K screens. But later, it was clarified that it instead would be dual 4K screens, for a total of 8K. Furthermore, N301 will feature an OLED display engine manufactured by Sony. A choice against alternatives of microLED or LCD.

Interestingly, this opens the question of what type of optics the headset will feature, as microLED has higher brightness and light efficiency than OLED. This matters because if the headset adopts the same optics technology as Meta’s Project Cambria – called the Pancake lens – then higher brightness and luminance are needed due to the lens darkening effect. Therefore, an OLED display engine will struggle to potentially funnel enough light to the wearer’s eyes if a Pancake lens is utilized. 

Apple rOS

Initially leaked in 2017 by Bloomberg, it was leaked that Apple was developing a virtual and augmented reality operating system called rOS or reality operating system. Then after radio silence for years, the Apple reality OS resurfaced with a job listing from Apple looking for an AR/VR Frameworks Engineer. A bit later, the code mining began, as the iOS developer Rens Verhoeven found within the App Store upload logs “com.apple.platform.realityos” connecting to it. A month later, another piece of code was found by Nicolás Álvarez in Apple’s open GitHub repository.

Apple MR Headset - VR Expert - 1

Apple’s new headset will also be  ‘off limits’ from the metaverse. Effectively highlighting that Apple is not an advertising company, something that sets them apart from its biggest competitors. For comparison, most other VR headsets use a modified variant of Google’s Android operating system, soon to be its own augmented reality OS.

Powerful specifications in the Apple mixed reality headset

Early reports late last year indicated that the N301 MR headset will feature the powerful Silicon M1 System-on-Chip. A chip that is currently making its rounds through Apple’s other hardware. Now combining this chip with the Apple reality operating system and an MR HMD will likely provide a highly optimized, smooth-running, and powerful experience.

Apple MR Headset - VR Expert - 1

To put this into context, other standalone headsets have struggled to deliver impressive specifications due to their limitations on processing. The Apple Silicon M1 chip means that the standalone Apple headset will be far superior in battery usage and processing efficiency. However, heat dissipation has been one of the factors slowing down Apple, which has led to its delayed release from 2022 to 2023.

Release date and pricing

Initial signs from The InformationDigiTimes, and Kuo leaked information indicating a release date slated for 2022. However, due to internal R&D issues like the heat dispersion, the Apple headset only exited EVT2 in late-2021. EVT2 is where testing of the headsets heating failed, pushing the release to early 2023. The reason is that further stress tests are still to be conducted to optimize certain materials and durability. While the MR headset will go through ‘pilot productions’ before mass manufacturing begins.

As a result, Kuo found that Apple might then have plans of releasing a consumer-oriented headset with a lower price tag and then a later enterprise launch with a premium price between $2,000 and $3,000: two HMDs total.

Conclusion

Apple is an industry leader through and through. So much so that ‘whatever Apple does, whole industries shiver and follow’. The virtual and augmented reality industry is no different. We have been eagerly awaiting the Apple N301 mixed reality headset, as it will increase commercial adoption of VR/AR and deliver mind-boggling innovation. Ultimately pushing the industry and its innovation forward.

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