…more compute/graphics power than today’s iPhone, with a smaller battery, lasting about a day of use…

Origen: Monday Note by Jean-Louis Gassée – Apple AR/VR: Reality Bites Virtual Reality


…after years of seeing iPhone sales struggle in a saturating market, smartglasses would Finally™ provide a much-needed rebound to Apple’s flagging fortunes. …

Apple devices are horizontal, as opposed to vertical, meaning they cover a broad range of customers and uses, as opposed to tools for a narrowly defined set of uses. In other words, Apple won’t make VR goggles for surgeons, or smart-glasses for robot maintenance technicians.

…turn to the first required component: the CPU/GPU (central processor and graphics engine) combo able to provide a convincing virtual reality hallucination. Today, the most convincing VR experiences involve a goggle or helmet tethered to a muscular PC.… For the device to have broad acceptance, a well-known but hard constraint rises up: the CPU/GPU needs to work with a small on-board battery. In rough terms, more compute/graphics power than today’s iPhone, with a smaller battery, lasting about a day of use.

Next, we have the glasshole problem. … If, across the breakfast table, you see me wearing a pair of camera-equipped smartglasses, how comfortable are you going to be with the thought I might be recording the video and sound of our conversation. …

This leads us to use cases, best approached thru the lenses, pardon the pun, of app developers. For VR goggles, games, fights, driving, flying and other narratives are well known and accepted. For smartglasses and their mixed reality applications (computer generated images projected on the semitransparent glasses worn by the user, focused to appear at a comfortable viewing distance), we’ll need more of the creativity of app developers.

One can see a boring meeting supplemented by a superimposed display of alerts or email stream, or reading a book while walking in the street, now without the danger of colliding with a pole or a person. …
For a new set of VR/AR use cases, developers will need applications frameworks not offered by iOS.

This is a forbidding set of challenges, one none of existing participants in the AR/VR race for consumers’ heads have really met. … It stands to reason that Apple, while keep its work to itself, has struggled along a similar path towards a really consumer-grade AR/VR product or product line. And we have Apple CEO Tim Cook recently opining on the difficulties ahead [as always, edits and emphasis mine]:

“[…] today I can tell you the technology itself doesn’t exist to do that in a quality way. The display technology required, as well as putting enough stuff around your face — there’s huge challenges with that.

The field of view, the quality of the display itself, it’s not there yet.”

…having redrawn a roadmap to a credible consumer-grade device and to quell whatever anxiety arose from the development pause, management held a meeting for the entire set of hardware and software teams. Because it is a little bit unusual for details of such meetings to leak, down to product codes names and schedules, one is left to wonder if the spill wasn’t actually intentional.