ecently, Apple had announced that their Lead Hardware Engineer Chief Dan Riccio would be stepping down from his role to solely focus on a new project within the company. In the latest report by Bloomberg, the ‘new project’ is Apple’s rumoured augmented reality, virtual reality, or mixed reality headset.
The development of Apple’s AR headset appears to have hit a couple bumps in the road under the current project lead Mike Rockwell, although the report does not outline what the specific obstacles have been. Rockwell will remain in charge of day-to-day work on the project, however, Riccio will now have the opportunity to oversee the company's AR/VR efforts, which are said to involve well over a thousand engineers.
Top-level management of most current consumer products like the iPhone have already been passed to John Ternus, who Apple has now confirmed is the replacement of Riccio as the Head of Hardware Engineering Chief. Bloomberg’s latest update also indicates that Riccio has also handed development of the new camera and display technology to Johny Srouji, the executive who led the design and engineering of Apple Silicon. Cupertino has been methodically enhancing ARKit, a developer API that enables creation of AR experiences using the cameras and sensors on iPhones and iPads
Apple is rumoured to be doing the same thing with displays that it did with processors, creating its own high quality items that would replace those that Apple purchases from other tech giants like Samsung or LG. However, despite other projects, augmented reality is the top priority with regards to new product development. It comes as no surprise as Apple CEO, Tim Cook has stated previously that he believes AR has the potential to be a lightbulb moment like the iPhone for Apple, and an expected rivalry with Facebook in that space has been an undercurrent of the recent feud over privacy between the two tech giants.
Sources close to Apple claim that the company is developing an ultrahigh-end, 8K VR headset that could be $3,000. The majority of Apple’s publicly visible work on XR has been on AR, not VR. Apple discuss VR from time to time, while Cook says he believes AR is the more transformative technology, there have been developer talks and documents about supporting VR in the company's Metal graphics API, and the company worked with Valve to add support for SteamVR headsets to Macs around the launch of the iMac Pro. Apple will learn and adopt some of the evolution of its SteamVR support as it builds out tools for developers to make VR experiences as well, potentially this high-priced headset is intended primarily for use by developers and professionals.
Although there are many ideas of what Apple’s first headset will look like, it's still too early to confirm. While one source believed it to be a VR headset, the headset also features high-quality recording of the surrounding world and showing it to the user, so AR is likely still a part of the plan. Regardless of the rumours, Riccio is now in charge of getting future XR projects out of the lab and into users' homes, where we may see the first model of the VR headset sometime in 2022.