Apple’s Upcoming AR/VR Headset May Need an iPhone to Work

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Apple’s long-awaited augmented reality and virtual reality (AR and VR) headset could be just around the corner. Of course, there’s a catch. A new rumor suggests users may need to connect to a mobile device, most likely an iPhone, in order to access the device’s full range of features.

According to a recent report from The Information, Apple has finished design work on the three chips that the tech titan’s AR/VR headset will need to function. Unfortunately, the chips will lack the capability to power native AI and machine learning within the headset, instead deferring the bulk of the device’s computing to a wirelessly connected mobile device. This will function in a similar manner to early-generation Apple Watches that required a connection to an iPhone in order to operate.

Now that the design for its chips has been completed, Apple’s mysterious AR/VR headset will soon enter a trial production phase over the next few months. With the need for a mobile device to fully function, it’s possible the headset will feature a sleek, more lightweight design, à la Google’s failed Glass device of yore.

Apple being Apple, the company will probably find a way to ascribe its upcoming product an astronomical price tag, lightweight materials be damned. The rumored retail price currently sits at around $3,000 for just the headset alone. Add on an iPhone and any other upgrades, bells or whistles that Apple makes available, and consumers could find themselves forking over a small fortune to use a fully loaded headset. At least the company is still offering back-to-school deals!

It’s also worth mentioning that Apple’s AR and VR offerings may come to fruition as two different devices, with a heavier focus on AR in the indefinite future. CEO Tim Cook has frequently attributed AR to being a more promising venture, noting in a 2016 interview with Buzzfeed that “VR has some interesting applications, but I don’t think it’s a broad-based technology like AR.”

Cook also told Buzzfeed that he believes “there’s no substitute for human contact… and so you want the technology to encourage that.” These earlier comments from the Apple CEO fall in line with more recent sentiments that an AR endeavor from Apple could work to augment person-to-person interactions with the ability to conjure up charts, data and other visual information at will.

Still, VR is a significantly more established industry over the fledgling AR arena, so it’s likely we’ll be seeing a virtual reality offering from Apple before the company brings out its big guns for AR. Only time will tell what an AR/VR device from Apple will look like, but be sure to keep your iPhone handy, just in case.

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