Apple mixed reality headset may require AirPods for audio, H2 chip includes secret low-latency mode

The Information posted its latest roundup of technical details about the upcoming Apple VR/AR headset, a product that the publication has covered extensively across its many years of development. The device is finally expected to make its public debut this year.

One interesting tidbit in today’s story is the fact that the H2 chip inside the latest-gen AirPods Pro secretly supports a low-latency transmission mode, which is designed to work in collaboration with the H2 chip inside the headset. Although the headband will have integrated speakers, The Information says Apple may require AirPods to be used when communicating with others.

The report says the consumer headband includes speakers for the wearer of the headset, but the audio can be heard by nearby bystanders. Therefore, for privacy reasons, paired AirPods may be required for communication use cases so other people cannot eavesdrop on conversations.

It’s also suggested that only H2 chip AirPods would be supported, which would limit compatibility to the latest-generation AirPods Pro only. Other wireless headphones reportedly cannot be used as there is simply too much lag between what users hear and what they see.

The publication says Apple has made a “big push behind the scenes” to get the AirPods roadmap ready for the headset launch. If that is the case, presumably Apple would release other AirPods models with H2 chips inside by the time the headset is on sale.

A special alternate headband will be available for developers, likely allowing for the device to be hooked up to a Mac for development. However, The Information no longer expects Apple to promote freely-swappable headbands as a feature of the headset, a la easily interchangeable bands on the Apple Watch. Unlike Apple Watch bands, the headset headbands are more complicated as they contain electronic components and batteries.

The Information reiterates previously reported tech specs for the device, including 4K micro-LED displays for each eye, an outward-facing screen showing the user’s facial expressions to other people, as many as a dozen cameras and other sensors, all driven by the M2 chip.

The Information continues to believe the device will be priced in the vicinity of $3,000 with the product packing in ultra-premium components and chassis materials like aluminium, glass and carbon fiber. It is said to be much thinner and lighter than the just-released Meta Quest Pro.

A physical dial similar to the Apple Watch digital crown will be used to enter passthrough video mode, presenting the outside world through the screens, according to The Information. User input is mostly expected to come from hand gestures and voice recognition.

Apple has also reportedly tested accessory controllers like a ‘thimble’ and ‘wand’, but it is unclear if those plans are ongoing.

Gaming is not expected to be a primary use case for the product. Apple “sees videoconferencing as a potential killer app”, with virtual conversations conducted using digital avatars. Some groups inside Apple are working on augmented reality educational content. iPhone apps will also run in an overlaid 2D format.

Read the full story over at The Information. A release date for Apple’s first mixed reality headset remains unclear. However, it is expected to be officially announced sometime this year.

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