Apple AR headset slated for 2022 release

Concept by Taeyeon Kim

Apple continues to improve its camera sensors and augmented reality (AR) development kits, reportedly with an eye on future wearables using the technology. Apple is said to be releasing enhanced 3D camera sensors on the 2020 iPad Pro refresh. The same sensor could appear on 2020 iPhones later in the year, making it possible to scan and create three dimensional models from anywhere. This would set the stage for a combination AR and virtual reality (VR) headset for launch by 2022 or earlier.

According to Bloomberg, such a headset would be built around the 3D sensor system, allowing for AR content to be projected onto surfaces and objects anywhere in a room. The focus of the new wearable would be gaming, virtual meetings, and watching video, bringing Apple's mobile hardware offerings beyond the AirPods, iPhone, and Apple Watch.

The 3D sensor at the heart of the project is similar to the Face ID sensor on current iPhone models. Apple has 1,000 engineers working on its AR and VR development. The company allegedly briefed a large group of employees on its plans for the new devices. After the headset launch, Apple is rumored to be planning a lightweight pair of AR glasses for launch by 2023.

The concept rendering above by Taeyeon Kim takes existing Apple design language and imagines what a pair of AR glasses might look like. Yanko Design described the concept as "AR glasses Steve Jobs would be proud of" in a piece featuring Kim's renderings.

Time will tell what the AR headset and glasses look like, and what they are capable of doing. It's clear that Apple has something up its sleeve, with recent patents being filed on related innovations such as gaze tracking, holographic elements, laser range-finding, and thermal management solutions. Recent reports corroborate previous rumors on the T288 headset prototype and rOS, the reality operating system under development.