Apple’s rumored AR/VR headset will reportedly need a connection to an iPhone, or similar device, to work

While the rumor mill has gone relatively quiet regarding the augmented reality and/or virtual reality headset Apple is supposedly working on as of late, it hasn’t completely died down just yet. Today, we get word that the upcoming wearable might not be a standalone unit as some rumors have suggested in the past. It may need a direct connection to one of Apple’s other devices to work.

That’s according to a report today from The Information, which states that the first model of Apple’s AR/VR headset will work similarly to how the first Apple Watch did. That means it will require a wireless connection to another device, most likely an iPhone. However, the report does say it can be connected to a similar device, too, which suggests Apple may open up availability beyond iPhone-tethered usage. Which, for an AR/VR headset, might be the best move.

The report goes on, saying Apple has completed the physical design work and it’s now in the testing phase (something we’ve heard in the past). What’s more, Apple has also reportedly completed work on the chip inside the upcoming headset last year. As for processors, though, sources speaking to the publication say Apple is working with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing for the chips, but that they are at least one year away from mass production, which Apple would need to actually launch the headset.

Per the original report:

More significant are the details of the SoC, which isn’t as powerful as the ones made for iPhones, iPads and MacBooks. It lacks the artificial intelligence and machine-learning capabilities, known as Apple’s neural engine, which those devices include, one of the people said.

Instead, the headset is meant to communicate wirelessly with a host device, presumably a phone, computer or tablet, that will handle the more powerful computing required to display virtual, mixed and augmented reality images, the person said.

TSMC is said to also be working on the image sensor for the upcoming headset, which, apparently, is “unusually large,” and the manufacturing partner has run into issues in trial production:

The complementary metal-oxide semiconductor image sensor is the chip that converts photons to electrons for digital processing into an image. Apple’s version is unusually large, similar to the size of one of the headset’s lenses, as it’s meant to capture high-resolution image data from a user’s surroundings for AR. TSMC has struggled to produce the chip without defects and has faced low yields during trial production, the person said.

This headset would just be Apple’s first foray into the market. This report says Apple’s next version, a far more sleeker pair of glasses, could debut as early as 2023. If that is the case, and it doesn’t sound like we’re going to see the headset this year, that means the first-generation AR/VR headset could launch in 2022. Which would be a pretty quick turnaround time for a notable change in design, as this report suggests. Unless Apple’s planning on having multiple options, for different use cases. Which would make sense.

Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, has gone on record multiple times talking about the importance of augmented reality (and he may stay as CEO until this device launches). Apple’s already adopted ARKit into the mix, and so rumors of a physical device to really showcase the technology’s prowess have circulated for quite some time. Whether or not it actually becomes a product people can buy, though, remains to be seen.