Apple started a now-scrapped cheap VR headset project in 2017

Wearing a VR headset

Rumors about an Apple headset drawing upon augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology have been in circulation for some time.

This week, a report by The Information provided further context to that speculation, stating that the Cupertino firm attempted to make an affordable VR headset for the iPhone, conceived as a rival to Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR.

The lengthy article explains that the “cheap headset” would have enabled users to use their smartphone as a stereoscopic display “for basic AR and VR experiences.”

Most notable, however, is the allegation that the internal team working on the headset struggled to attract support from other parts of Apple. The team was apparently based in Sunnyvale, several miles away from Apple’s headquarters, allegedly to help “preserve the group’s invisibility to the rest of Apple”.

The report said that the team also “struggled with technical issues, including poor tracking of head movements”, which made it a challenge for the device to help people “feel comfortably immersed in digital environments.”

According to the article, it was intended that the headset would debut after 2019’s iPhone 11. Ultimately, however, the project was ditched by Apple, although some code indicating its existence did apparently leak during that same year.

As for when Apple might finally launch an AR/VR headset, reports currently indicate that this could happen sometime in late 2023. It was speculated early last year that such a device could break cover in 2022, but as this year wears on, it seems that the most we can hope for on that front is an announcement after the unveiling of the iPhone 14 in September.

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