Apple’s wireless, mixed-reality glasses could launch in 2020

Is the mixed-reality Microsoft Hololens headset about to get some competition from Apple?

The Cupertino, California-based iPhone maker is working on a headset capable of supporting both augmented and virtual reality technologies, CNET reports, citing one person familiar with Apple’s plans. Codenamed T288, the headset is said to still be in the early development stages, and Apple could potentially launch the mixed reality glasses in 2020 to take on Facebook’s Oculus, HTC’s ViveMagic Leap, and others.

Apple’s headset could feature an 8K display for each eye, offering a more realistic experience. Apple may be waiting for display and chip technologies to mature before releasing its headset.

A previously uncovered Apple patent revealed that the company is investigating AR lens technology. Apple’s research calls for a compact lens array to help focus light and eliminate chromatic aberration effects. This could potentially lead to more compact sizes for AR glasses and help improve usability and reduce wearer fatigue. Apple’s patent application also mentioned gaze tracking.

The glasses could operate as a stand-alone unit that doesn’t need to be tethered to a computer or smartphone to function, allowing for greater mobility. Given that it’s designed as a stand-alone unit, Apple’s headset would utilize a custom-built processor.

Unlike some existing headsets available on the market today, Apple’s T288 implementation may not need special in-room cameras to track the headset. All the components would be built into either the headset or an accompanying box.

“Apple’s headset would connect to a dedicated box using a high-speed, short-range wireless technology, according to a person familiar with the company’s plans,” CNET reported. “The box, which would be powered by a custom Apple processor more powerful than anything currently available, would act as the brain for the AR/VR headset. In its current state, the box resembles a PC tower, but it won’t be an actual Mac computer.”

By relying on a cordless, wireless solution, Apple hopes that a simple setup would not deter consumers from embracing AR technology. The wireless connection to the box could rely on WiGig, though the WiGig 2.0 standard won’t be finalized until 2019. A second-generation version could be based on the 802.11ay protocol, allowing for faster speeds and improved wireless range.

The custom silicon inside the box could be based around a five-nanometer architecture. For comparison, Apple uses a 10nm architecture today for the A11 Bionic processor in the iPhone X, and Intel’s current processors are based on a 14nm architecture.