The turbulent (love?) story between Jony Ive and Apple’s AR/VR headset

The Information publishes a series of reports telling the story of Apple’s Mixed Reality (AR/VR) headset, with the relationship between the device’s development team and Jony Ive, Apple’s former lead in design.

Jony Ive and Tim Cook during the iPhone XR presentation in 2018 // Source: Apple

This is the story of a virtual reality headset (or augmented reality or mixed reality, we’re not sure yet) that hasn’t even seen the light of day. But the American media The informationforwarded by Ars-Technicaalready traces the development history at Apple in a series of articles.

Learn about the technical but also political issues that shaped the design, with disputes between the technical teams and Jony Ive, Apple’s former design chief, until he left the company in 2019.

Apple’s debut in augmented reality

The tumultuous history of this mysterious helm actually goes back to the very beginning of the project. ” Apple’s mixed reality endeavor began almost by accident when the company bought a German AR startup called Metaio to use some of its technology for Project Titan, its self-driving car project. ‘ reports the information site. And to add that Tim Cook ” has given relatively little exposure to the product compared to others such as the iPhone “. One of the sources of frustration was the fact that this technology development group responsible for the development of the device was not based at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino.

A project that has really progressed with the hiring of the team leader of this AR / VR project: Micke Rockwell, ex-Dolby Laboratories. He himself put together a team that included Metaio co-founder Peter Meier and Apple Watch boss Fletcher Rothkopf.

A showdown between Jony Ive and the helmet development team

According to several sources familiar with the matter, including people who worked on this VR headset, there was a conflict of wills between the team. technology development groupand Apple designer Jony Ive and his industrial design team.

The information informs us that in 2016 several demonstrations of augmented reality took place at the Apple brand board. A tiny triceratops growing before the eyes of its limbs, a room turned into a forest was shown. The main obstacle was not that advice but more Ive” who led both the industrial design and human interface teams at Apple“, recall Ars-Technica.

Rockwell has not only worked on the helmet in these long years. In 2017, he and his team designed and released ARKit, an app development suite that allowed developers to create augmented reality apps for iPhone and iPad. He would have used “Technologies and techniques that could be adapted to a helmet for the future”.

Apple iOS 12 Arkit 2

For Ive, virtual reality is “ separates users from the people and the world that surrounded.” He even reportedly felt like VR headsets were ” old-fashioned“. In response, the Technology Development Group came up with a slightly different concept: an outward-facing screen on the front of the headset that showed images of the user’s facial expressions and eyes for the environment. The wearer could see people around them by feeding in an external camera », reports Ars-Technica .

Jony Ive, an ever-prevailing opinion

Initially, Rockwell and his team wanted the headphones to be plugged into a station that would deliver the power for maximum performance. The device was then designed for professional use (especially for creative people). But I didn’t hear it like that” and wanted to make it a consumer product that consumers can take with them“. A mixed reality headset that would be light in short, and why not, an AR headset that would be a first step to replace the iPhone.

Apple Mixed Reality Headset
Apple would be working on a VR/AR headset // Source: AppleTrack editors

A desire supported by Apple executives. Although Jony Ive is now a consultant for Apple, he is no longer part of the internal teams, but he still appears to be supported and ” still plays an active role in the development of the helmet“.

A headache for the development teams who had to find an optimal way to get the homemade mixed reality headset to work. All this while the work on the main chip was already done. “They had to find ways to combat the latency inherent in communication between the different chips in the device. They also designed the software on the assumption that the base station project would come to fruition.“, highlightedArs-Technica. Rumor has it that this goggle would be two to three years ahead of the competition in terms of performance and that this helmet would be a concentrate of technologies.

We know a little more about Apple’s AR/VR headset

forBloomberg,The helmet is expected to be launched shortly. We can actually imagine that Apple would announce the helmet at the next WWDC, or at least a software development kit for its target. According to reports, an expanded version was recently shown to Apple’s board of directors. The company would also have accelerated development of the software portion of the helmet, called a derivative of iOSpinkwith arightfor reality.

This augmented reality and/or virtual reality helmet would be equipped with 14 cameras. Some are outward, some are inward. What is this system of “transparencyThis would allow users to see what’s happening outside the helmet, but also be seen by people around. The Meta Quest already lets people around you see what’s going on in the headset.

Body movements would be tracked to create a 3D avatarcartoonish(which might resemble iPhone Memojis) for metaverse purposes, for calls orTo play. CorrespondingThe informationn, more photorealistic avatars would have been tested, but the limited processing capabilities did not allow using them smoothly.

Apple headphones MR
Source: The illustration via The Verge

Yes “Apple originally planned to launch the headset in 2019“, will likely be announced next June during WWDC, for a launch later this year or early 2023. If we obviously don’t know the helmet’s price yet, a report by Ming-Chui Kuo speaks of a price tag of around $1000 .

2022 is indeed a pivotal year for the brand, with a flipped iPhone range and even more powerful Macs, in addition to the possible announcement of this mixed reality headset.

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