Apple’s AR headset could weigh half as much as rivals’

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Apple could take on the likes of Oculus with a VR headset as early as 2022.
Ming-Chi Kuo has the inside track on Apple's AR headset.
Photo: Minh Pham/Unsplash CC

Apple’s augmented reality/mixed reality headset reportedly will weigh less than 150 grams. That’s about half the weight of current VR headsets, suggesting that Cupertino plans to make its debut AR/MR headset more streamlined than competitors. (What a surprise!)

Reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of TF International Securities made this prediction in a new note to clients, seen by Cult of Mac.

While work on AR and/or VR headsets remains a secret at Apple, a recent increase in rumors makes it sound like the first such device will arrive within the next year or so. A trail of patents reveals Apple’s longstanding interest in creating a new type of wearable computer. And Dan Riccio, one of Apple’s top designers, reportedly now focuses all his efforts on developing a virtual-reality visor and augmented-reality glasses for the company.

Competitors like Facebook and Sony already beat Apple to the VR headset market. And AR devices like Google Glass and Microsoft’s HoloLens currently target industries like health care and manufacturing.

However, none of these devices really caught consumers’ attention. Much as it did with the iPhone, Apple apparently plans to wait and get it “right” by releasing product(s) capable of redefining the market. You could expect Apple’s headsets to be sleeker and more stylish than competitors’ offerings, with consumer-friendly features (and a huge marketing budget).

Lightweight lenses for Apple AR

Part of Apple’s plan for reducing the weight of its AR headset involves the type of lens the company reportedly will employ. Specifically, Apple will use a type of Fresnel lens made of plastic instead of glass, according to Kuo. An alternative to conventional lenses, Fresnel lenses are lighter because they use far less material to achieve the necessary curvature.

Kuo provides more detail on how Apple might employ Fresnel lenses in its AR headset:

“We anticipate that Apple’s HMD will use the Fresnel lens as the ultra-short focal length lens design to increase the field of view (FOV) and reduce HMD’s weight and thickness. [Also] we expect that Apple will adopt the hybrid Fresnel lens design to improve the Fresnel lens’s optical performance, and each hybrid Fresnel lens comprises three stacked Fresnel lenses. We believe that the Micro-OLEDs used in Apple HMDs will compensate for the reduced light intake caused by adopting hybrid Fresnel lenses thanks to their high brightness and provide users with innovative AR/MR experiences.”

Coming soon to a head near you?

Kuo thinks a company called Young Optics will make the lenses. According to Apple’s list of current suppliers, Cupertino does not currently work with Young Optics.

Kuo previously said Apple’s AR headset will feature 15 built-in camera modules. He also suggested the device will be controlled by eye-tracking technology. Apple is supposedly working on two AR headsets: an initial AR/MR headset and, later, a more lightweight pair of smart glasses, potentially called “Apple Glass.” Expect to see the first around 2022.

Are you excited about Apple’s entry into this market? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.