Following a Bloomberg report last November that Apple is planning an augmented reality headset under the code name T288, a wild new Cnet report claims that the headset will include both AR and VR features, as well as multiple cutting-edge technologies — dual 8K displays, next-generation wireless, and 5-nanometer processor components. Like Bloomberg, Cnet says that the headset is slated for release in 2020, though the newly claimed technologies would make it all but impossible to produce by then.
Citing “a person familiar with Apple’s plans,” Cnet claims that Apple is planning a standalone headset “untethered from a computer or smartphone” that will use a 5-nanometer processor, a technology that’s two or three generations ahead of chips currently in production. TSMC and Samsung are still in the earliest stages of manufacturing 7-nanometer chips using competing processes, and the first 5-nanometer CPUs are easily a year or two from trialing in mass production.
Notably, though the report uses the word “untethered” — a phrase typically associated with a truly all-in-one device — it also says that the headset will “connect to a dedicated box” that “won’t be an actual Mac computer” to act as its brain. To communicate the the box, Cnet says that Apple intends to load the new headset with a new wireless technology, specifically 60GHz WiGig — a yet-to-be-finalized update to the little-known 802.11ad standard that will also be called 802.11ay. The enhanced version is expected to be finalized at some point in late 2019, using unlicensed 60GHz spectrum to improve wireless speeds and range.
Last but not least, the report claims that Apple’s plans “so far call for an 8K display for each eye — higher resolution than today’s best TVs.” Of all the claims, this one is the least plausible, as even tower-sized computers with bleeding-edge graphics cards couldn’t support 16K of total display resolution today. China’s Pimax is currently struggling to achieve VR-ready frame rates with a single 8K VR display tethered to a computer. Even the best mobile processors available in 2020 will be incapable of producing enough pixels to fill twin 8K displays at the high frame rates required for VR.
Regardless of the plausibility of Cnet’s claims, it’s clear that Apple is pushing ahead on AR and VR initiatives. In addition to releasing and heavily pushing ARKit for its iOS devices, the company has been working on numerous patents relating to augmented and virtual reality, as well as next-generation screen technologies. A headset of some sort appears to be a lock for Apple, though the likelihood of it containing all of the elements suggested in the Cnet article is close to zero.