Apple goggles so heavy they had to be hung from a small crane

And other tales from Apple's AR/VR skunkworks.

From Wayne Ma's "The Inside Story of Why Apple Bet Big on a Mixed-Reality Headset" ($) posted Tuesday on The Information:

In 2016, Apple’s board of directors gathered inside one of its buildings in Cupertino, Calif., for a glimpse into the company’s future.

Former Vice President Al Gore, then–Disney CEO Bob Iger and other Apple board members walked from room to room, trying out prototype augmented and virtual reality devices and software. One of the gadgets made a tiny digital rhinoceros appear on a table in the room. The creature then grew into a life-size version of itself, according to two people familiar with the meeting. In the same demo, the drab surroundings of the room transformed into a lush forest, showing how users could seamlessly transition from AR, in which they can still view the physical world around them, to the more immersive experience of VR—a combination known as mixed reality.

The prototypes weren’t exactly the lustrous products the company is known for. Many were cobbled together from off-the-shelf parts and ran on Microsoft’s Windows operating system, software Apple normally keeps its distance from. Several were jury-rigged HTC Vives, one of the few commercially available VR headsets at the time. At least one was so heavy that it had to be suspended by a small crane so the Apple board members could wear it without straining their necks, the two people said.

The point of the demos was simple: to build support at Apple’s highest levels for bigger investments in what has become the company’s most audacious new project since the iPhone. The demo and other efforts to gain support for the project went well enough that Apple gave the newly formed AR/VR group more money to pursue its vision. But it hasn’t been a smooth journey in the years since.

The release date of the Apple headset, which resembles a pair of ski goggles, has slipped several times from its initial target of 2019, according to multiple people who have worked on it. In January, Bloomberg reported that the headset could be delayed until 2023, though Apple may still announce it by this year’s end.

My take: Reports from 2016 don't tell us much about what the demos look like today.

4 Comments

  1. Fred Stein said:
    All this time, Tim Cook never said “VR”. He has said AR a lot.

    3
    May 17, 2022
  2. Jerry Doyle said:
    @Fred Stein: Exactly, brother Fred! To reiterate, what Tim C has told us time-and-time again is that the future is not VR, but AR. To repeat: Tim C has said many times “… the future is AR.”

    0
    May 17, 2022
  3. Kirk DeBernardi said:
    It’s on your face — the most consciously sensitive real estate.

    It had better be exquisite if it’s for the masses.

    0
    May 18, 2022
  4. I’d like to see Corning & Apple work together on an AR windshield & CarPlay+ design. I can imagine it becoming a highly-prized feature of otherwise cookie-cutter EVs. City bus windows, jet and ship portals, retail store windows, the possibilities beyond eyewear for AR-enabled transparent surfaces are vast.

    1
    May 18, 2022

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