Apple has long suggested to us that it is working on some kind of augmented reality headset for years now, and those rumors have started building steam.
Certain builds of iOS 13 are packed with references to AR headsets, either in the form of glasses or a face-mounted display like the Google Daydream.
Most rumors about Apple’s augmented reality headset—even those from reliable analysts like Ming-Chi Kuo—have focused on a 2020 release date. A November 11 report from The Information, though, claims Apple will release a larger AR headset in 2022 and then release its AR glasses by 2023.
Apple will reportedly start contacting developers about designing apps for the headset in 2021.
It’s a shame we might have to wait longer, but this feels like a more believable timeline than what we’ve been hearing elsewhere. For one, Apple reportedly communicated this information to an audience of more than 1,000 Apple employees at the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Campus.
For another, we haven’t seen many rumors or leaks regarding software what the headsets actually look like, and it’s reasonable to assume those would be more common by now in the event of a 2020 launch.
Apple’s large AR headset—known internally as N301—will likely be capable of handling both AR and virtual reality and will resemble a sleek version of this year’s Oculus Quest. In line with earlier rumors, the headset will have cameras on the outside that will help it “read” the user’s surroundings.
The Information also provides one of the first physical descriptions of the prototypes for Apple’s glasses: They “look like high-powered sunglasses that house the battery and chips.”
Apple is reportedly experimenting with making the lenses go dark when they’re being used for AR as a signal to people around the user.
According to a November report from the often unreliable DigiTimes, Apple is working with Valve to release a headset that will drop in the second half of next year.
While sketchy, this would at least be in line with a report from trusted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who said in October that Apple is working with third-party brands to release a headset that would drop in next year.
Valve would definitely be a valuable partner for Apple, as it became one of the big players in this decade’s revival of virtual reality when it partnered with HTC to release the acclaimed HTC Vive.
In April, it released its own headset called the Valve Index, which our sister publication PCWorld called “the new bar for VR headsets.”
The valve is also the creator of the popular digital game storefront Steam and the developer of popular games like Half-Life 2 and Portal 2. This also wouldn’t be the first time the two companies have worked together.
Keep in mind, though, that DigiTimes is also the outlet that reported in July that Apple had disbanded its AR and VR teams and assigned them to other projects. Judging from the frequency of AR rumors dropping afterward, that never happened—or at least the reassignments weren’t as extensive as reported.