Apple's mixed reality headset could debut in 2022

Analyst expects a high-end device that supports both augmented and virtual reality

Apple's long-awaited mixed reality headset could make its debut at the end of next year, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo‌. 

The analyst for TF Securities made his latest forecast in a research note seen by MacRumors and 9to5Mac. He predicts that Apple will launch the headset in the fourth quarter of 2022, and expects it to support both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).  

Kuo's suggests the headset will a high-powered device, claiming it will include two processors; a high-end M1-like processor with a similar amount of computing power to the Mac, and a lower-end chip for sensor-related computing. 

The high-power chip will be necessary to drive two 4K OLED displays, he added, explaining that it will need at least six optical modules to process video from outside the headset, and will need to do so continuously. 

Kuo also predicted that Apple could attempt to replace the iPhone with an AR device in a decade, but said that it would need to sell a billion devices in that time to succeed. 

However, the headset would stand the most chance of success if it operates independently of the iPhone, Kuo suggested. "If the headset is positioned only as an accessory for the Mac or iPhone, it will not be conducive to the growth of the product.

"An AR headset that works independently means that it will have its own ecosystem and provide the most complete and flexible user experience." 

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It's still unclear whether the device will operate independently of the phone, at least in its first iteration. A report from The Information in September predicted that it would need another device nearby. 

Apple first filed a patent for a mixed-reality headset in 2013, and advertised a VR engineering job the next year. Since then, the industry has seen several attempts to introduce virtual and mixed reality. Microsoft tried the HoloLens and supported third-party hardware with mixed reality in Windows, while Google shifted the focus of its Glasses product to the enterprise. 

Now, however, a battle is emerging in the mixed reality market, with Oculus owner Meta already planning a mixed reality metaverse environment. This kicked off with Oculus Horizon Worlds and a virtual meeting space for business called Horizon Workrooms. Meanwhile, Microsoft is planning Mesh for Teams to tackle immersive business meetings. 

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