Apple is working on a headset that would combine augmented and virtual reality experiences in one device, according to a new Cnet report. The headset reportedly features 8K video displays for each eye, and could ship as early as 2020.
Apple declined to comment on the story when contacted by Variety.
Apple has publicly thrown its weight behind augmented reality (AR), bringing the technology to its mobile devices with the help of its ARKit developer framework. The company’s public commitment to virtual reality (VR) has been much more limited, with Apple unveiling developer-focused tools to add support for existing VR headsets to Mac computers last year.
However, Cnet reported Friday that the company’s still-unannounced headset will support both AR and VR, which would make it a first among headsets manufactured by a major consumer electronics company. Up until now, most headsets have had a clear focus on either AR or VR, with the latter being a lot more widespread.
There is no word yet on how Apple would support both technologies in one device. The likeliest option would be video pass-through, which would essentially use outward-facing cameras to incorporate images of the real world onto the headset’s displays. Cnet reported that Apple is looking to use a separate 8K display for each eye, which is significantly above the resolution of current-generation VR headsets.
Prototypes for Apple’s headset apparently work with an external control unit powered by its own chipsets, which wirelessly communicate with the device. Outsourcing rendering to such a unit would allow Apple to run compute-intensive AR and VR experiences at high frame rates similar to PC-based virtual reality, but it would also mean that the device won’t be as portable as a mobile VR headset.
Oculus is currently developing a high-end all-in-one VR headset code-named Santa Cruz that works without any such external hardware. The company is expected to give an update on the development of that product at its f8 conference next week
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