Apple’s Powerful AR/VR Headset May Also Be Amazingly Lightweight

Apple Mixed Reality Headset Credit: Antonio DeRosa
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There’s every indication that Apple’s first “mixed-reality” AR/VR headset is going to be a beastly powerhouse when it comes to capabilities, but what’s remarkable is that it looks like it won’t be a beast when it comes to size and weight.

Even though we’ve known that Apple has been working on an augmented reality headset for years, it wasn’t until more recently that it became apparent that Apple is shooting for the moon with its first release, preparing to build the AR equivalent of the Mac Pro, rather than a device designed for the masses.

Since then, we’ve been hearing numerous reports of all the technology that this device is expected to pack in, and it’s downright staggering in scope – Apple Silicon that outperforms Apple’s own blazing M1 chip, the highest-resolution displays ever found in a VR product, advanced LiDAR scanners, plus 15 independent camera modules and eye-tracking features that could even include iris recognition for authentication.

By all reports, this thing is going to be so powerful that it may even need a fan to keep it cool — something that Apple consciously removed from its new M1 MacBook Air.

So with all of this tech packed in, we wouldn’t blame you for thinking that this is going to be a massive device, but apparently, that’s not the case, according to venerable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. 

In fact, it won’t be enough for Apple to simply make it the same size and weight as competing AR/VR headsets — Apple intends to make it even lighter

Way More Power at Half the Weight

In a research note seen by 9to5Mac, Kuo, who has been offering other unique insights on Apple’s headset plans recently, said that Apple is aiming to keep the weight of the headset under 150 grams. 

At just over 5 ounces, that’s less than half the weight of just about any other virtual reality headset on the market. For example, the Oculus Quest 2 weighs in at over a pound (503g), and that was actually a decrease from the original Quest, which came in at 571g, or 1.25 pounds. HTC’s Vive and Microsoft’s HoloLens are also both on the higher end of that same weight range. 

So, needless to say, a 150-gram mixed-reality headset would be an absolute game-changer. Remember that this is a device that you need to wear on your head, and the heavier it is, the more uncomfortable end fatiguing it’s going to be to wear it for long periods of time.

Although Apple’s debut wearable headset — the AirPods Max — is far from the lightest in its class, an AR/VR headset is a completely different type of device where minimal weight is much more critical. Headphones distribute weight to each side of the users’ head, balancing it across the headband, while an AR/VR headset would have all of its weight in the front optical systems, increasing the potential for neck strain. 

According to Kuo, Apple plans to accomplish this by using ultra-short focal length Fresnel lenses, which are known for their improved field of view and reduced weight and thickness, but going with a more hybrid design that will offer enhanced optical performance at a much lighter weight. 

Back in January Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported that Apple was already cutting corners by shrinking the space in front of the user’s eyes, suggesting a design where custom prescription lenses could be inserted in the headset, since there wouldn’t be enough room for users to wear glasses. 

Gurman had also indicated that Apple’s engineers have also looked to lighter materials, such as fabric, rather than plastic or aluminum, to avoid adding any unnecessary weight. 

This aligns with Kuo’s recent report, which also reveals other areas in which Apple is working toward lighter materials. For instance, the lenses will likely be made from plastic, rather than glass, although it’s not clear yet whether those will have the same level of durability.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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