Apple is building a wireless 8K VR headset to smoke the HTC Vive Pro

Launch date and spec are decided, now the tech available to humanity just needs to catch up

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Although it's barely mentioned VR (virtual reality), Apple has been making a big deal about AR in recent years, with the launch of ARKit helping developers to bring next-level, augmented reality experiences to punters, replete with Apple-flavoured magic, and directly via their phone with no need for a headset. 

Now, though, one eager Apple leaker is claiming the brand is gearing up to release a VR and AR headset… that's completely wireless… with a resolution of 8K per eye… in Space Year 2020 which, for those of you who are not good at maths, is in two years' time.

The lone Apple source, as reported by CNET, claims the headset will handle both VR and AR, with external cameras viewing the world around you so that data and graphics can be overlaid, similar to the Microsoft Hololens.

Given the sexy codename of T288, the intention is for the headset to have a resolution of 7680x4320 pixels per eye. So technically the display is 16K, if that's even a thing. 

To put that in perspective, using something as cutting-edge as a Samsung Galaxy S9 as a VR headset would give a resolution of, at most, 1480x1440 pixels per eye. 

The HTC Vive Pro, which is the current state of the art in home VR, and will be wireless from this summer when HTC's cord-cutting adaptor arrives, offers a resolution of 1440x1600 pixels per eye. With all the necessary wireless, controller, and sensor accessories and the kind of PC required to make it fly, the cost of the Vive Pro is well over £2000.

What we're talking about here is not only a huge leap forward in terms of screen resolution. It would also apparently require Apple to come up with a new Wi-Fi standard to transmit graphical data to the headset at that resolution. That's what CNET's source says, suggesting that unlike a Samsung Gear VR type of headset, the processing will not be built in to the hardware.

That in turn suggests that you would need to be within Wi-Fi range of a powerful Mac or PC, which straight away removes the possibility of 8K Pokémon Go, unless you're only going to be playing indoors, or plan to drag an iMac Pro down the street with you on a trolley, attached to a car battery.

The other alternative to the T288 being home-bound is that the processor box will be somehow pocket-sized and use a phone-like battery. This seems a little unlikely given the processing and power demands of generating 8K visuals live, but what do we know?

The source further claims that for VR, no external sensors will be required to track your location – HTC Vive and Oculus Rift require camera-like devices to be placed in your home to establish where you are in the virtual space. For AR, the GPS and the device's own cameras can geolocate you.

Given the current state of the VR market and the technology available, it's questionable whether we'll see this Apple VR/AR headset in 2020. However, given Apple's sheer wealth – it's currently being mentioned in conjunction with possible buyouts of anything from Condé Nast to Tesla – it stumping up the mega-bucks required to make a fantastical device such as this (for a market that still's barely taken off, so with no guarantee of recouping) is not something I'd entirely rule out.