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Apple's Headset Said to Feature 14 Cameras Enabling Lifelike Avatars, Jony Ive Has Remained Involved With Design

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Earlier this week, The Information's Wayne Ma outlined struggles that Apple has faced during the development of its long-rumored AR/VR headset. Now, in a follow-up report, he has shared several additional details about the wearable device.

Apple headset render created by Ian Zelbo based on The Information reporting

For starters, one of the headset's marquee features is said to be lifelike avatars with accurate facial expressions captured by 14 cameras:

Other challenges, such as incorporating 14 cameras on the headset, have caused headaches for hardware and algorithm engineers. The cameras include those that will track the user's face to ensure virtual avatars accurately represent their expressions and mouth movements, a marquee feature.

The report adds that Apple's former design chief Jony Ive has remained involved with the headset project as an external consultant to the company:

One person familiar with the matter said Ive's consulting work for Apple since he left includes the headset, adding that he is often brought in to help his former team push through their preferences in areas such as battery, camera placement and ergonomics over those of engineers. Two people said even after Ive left Apple, some employees on the headset project were still required to make the trek from Cupertino to San Francisco, where Ive has a home, to get his approval on changes.

Ive has continued to tweak the headset's design. While earlier prototypes had the battery in the headband, he prefers a design that would tether the headset to a battery the user wears, similar to Magic Leap's headset design. It couldn't be learned if this approach will make it into the final design.

The initial version of Apple's headset is said to lack a focus on gaming:

Four people who have worked on the project also criticized its lack of focus on gaming, a category of software that appeals to early adopters, which was important to the success of the iPhone and has been a big priority for Meta's VR group. Those people said Rockwell's group almost never mentioned games in internal presentations about possible uses for the headset. Apple isn't developing game controllers for the device and is aiming to use hand tracking or in combination with a clothespin-like finger clip as inputs for the device, multiple people familiar with the project say.

As previously reported, Apple was considering having its headset be tethered to an external base station for some computing tasks, but the headset is now expected to be a fully standalone device. The report claims that the base station was going to use the same chip that was later announced as the M1 Ultra for the Mac Studio.

The headset itself is expected to be powered by two chips, with a streaming codec to reduce latency. The main chip in the headset will be equivalent to the M2 chip that is expected to debut in new MacBook Air and iPad models later this year, the report claims.

The full-length report can be read at The Information with a subscription.

Apple's headset is currently expected to be released in 2023. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman recently reported that Apple's board of directors received a demo of the headset last week, suggesting that the device is nearing completion.

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