1621519036 apples rumored ar headset has been hiding in plain sight

Apple’s Rumored AR Headset Has Been Hiding in Plain Sight

With the introduction of AirTag, HomePod Mini and a host of services and subscriptions in recent years, Apple is moving out of its traditional Mac-iPhone-iPad lineup. All of this will pale in comparison to the rumors coming forward: a full-featured mixed-reality (MR) headset.

Yet while this new tool may seem like a surprise entirely out of left field, Apple is actually leaving all kinds of breadcrumbs to clue savvy observers, whether intentional or not.

When you tie these signs together, it seems that Apple has all the pieces of the puzzle ready – it just needs to put them together. This makes it sound as if Apple’s MR headset has been hidden in plain sight for years.

Apple’s LIDAR long game

Apple ipad pro lidar scanner

To see what I mean, we need to take a look at the camera setup of the iPad Pro. Or rather, on one of the lenses contained within the camera array: the LIDAR scanner. It scans and maps your surroundings, such as the room you are in, helping to enable augmented reality (AR) features for use in apps and games. It has since spread to the iPhone and, if rumors are to be believed, will also appear on Apple’s headset, where it will be necessary to create a realistic AR environment.

According to information, Apple’s headset will come with a dozen cameras and LIDAR sensors. If this comes true, the knowledge Apple gained from equipping the 2020 iPad Pro with a Lidar scanner would be invaluable for incorporating this technology into its AR headset. Although no one realized this at the time, Apple was likely to play a long game.

Face id led the way

Iphone x notch
Julian Chokkattu /

There is one more thing Apple has proven on the iPhone that it can transfer to its upcoming headset: its biometric sensor. On iPhone and iPad Pro, it takes the form of Face ID. On the company’s headset, rumors suggest that it will be realized as an iris scanning feature – and perhaps more.

The iris scanner will be used to authenticate purchases or unlock your accounts in the same way that Face ID currently does on the iPhone and iPad Pro. This is according to reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who also believes the headset will have six cameras for “innovative biometrics”. While the iris scanner likely falls under that title, it is unclear what else Apple can have up its sleeve in this area. This seems encouraging, however, given Apple’s ability to combine high-end biometrics with strong security in the past.

And this is important because any iris scanning capability will need to be able to store your unique biometric data in an incredibly secure way to prevent rogue actors from hijacking it for nefarious purposes. Face ID already specializes in eliminating potential attacks and has a lot of built-in technology that is likely to remodel security into Apple’s iris scanner.

AR acquisition

Apple's rumored virtual reality headset

Face ID may have hinted at some early hints coming to Apple’s AR headset, but it’s not the only piece of kit that Apple is learning. The company has been buying a number of other companies in recent years, and predicting what it might do next based on the companies it buys is often similar to reading tea leaves, in some places. There are where we can see fingerprints on the headset.

Some of the companies that Apple has purchased may go to upcoming headsets, such as virtual reality firm NextVR and Spectral. Others are less clear-cut, such as Apple companies snapping up who are believed to be contributing to their self-driving car project now, or possibly their technology will be included in future iPhones.

Yet as with Apple’s biometric advance, the company can learn many things by adding new camera- and image-processing technology to its mobile devices, which can also be translated into an augmented reality headset. Apple often buys companies not only for the technology they have but also for their talented employees. By purchasing specialized technology firms that have experience in such things as advanced algorithms, Apple is strengthening its pool of engineers who are already full of talent.

Apple Silicon Becomes Virtual

Apple m1 chip in ipad pro

One thing that Apple did not have to buy is its in-house M1 chip. Indeed, instead of relying on a third-party organization to design its Mac chips, Apple is now designing its own – with stunning results. While all of this research and development was thought to be aimed squarely at the Mac, it could also see significant use in Apple’s headset.

Reporter Mark Gurman, one of the most accurate Apple analysts, has claimed that Apple is testing various chips to power its upcoming headset. All will be in-house designed chips, and some will rival the M1 for power and performance. Given that we know how well the M1 performs across different Macs, this is great news.

But this is not just a way to build a demonstrative chip that Apple has learned when building the M1 – it is also an incredibly efficient way to build. This is highly valued in something like a headset, where the machine’s brain is closer to your own gray matter, and keeping everything cool and comfortable is the difference between comfort and irritation.

Everything that helps make the M1 a success could possibly do the same for Apple’s headset. If Gurman is right, it would suggest that Apple had more than just Mac on its mind when it began its quest to make world-beating chips.

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