How An Ultralight Apple Headset Could Transform VR

More vision with less discomfort

Key Takeaways

  • Ultralight virtual reality headsets could be more comfortable and practical than current models, experts say. 
  • A rumored upcoming Apple VR headset could be lighter than an iPhone. 
  • For those who can’t wait for an Apple headset, the lightest headset available right now is the Dlodlo V1 VR headset, which weighs around 3.1 ounces.
Someone wearing mixed reality smartglasses touching transparent screen.
Westend61 / Getty Images

Experts say a new generation of ultralight virtual reality headsets could be far more comfortable and capable than current models. 

A rumored upcoming Apple VR headset could be lighter than an iPhone. The Apple iPhone 12 weighs in at 164 grams, compared to 503 grams for the popular Oculus Quest 2 VR rig. A new generation of headsets could bring the weight way down and pave the way for more applications. 

"You’ll want a VR headset to be light for the same reason you want traditional eyeglasses to be light—comfort," Jay Wright, the CEO of the virtual reality software company Campfire, said in an email interview. 

"Devices that are too heavy or that don’t balance the weight effectively will cause fatigue, pain, and frustration with prolonged use."

Big Picture, Little Weight

The upcoming Apple headset, which mixes virtual and augmented reality, could use a hybrid ultra-short focal length lens to keep its weight under 150 grams, according to a note by research analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Kuo said the lenses would be made of plastic and that the headset will feature Micro-OLED displays. 

In previous reports, Kuo has said that the Apple headset will have a sophisticated eye-tracking system. The headset will be able to detect where the user is looking, if they are blinking, and include iris recognition that will automatically identify users. 

"Devices that are too heavy or that don’t balance the weight effectively will cause fatigue, pain, and frustration with prolonged use."

Bloomberg reports Apple's VR and mixed-reality headset could arrive next year. The headset is supposedly in the late prototype stage. But be prepared for sticker shock. Rumor is that Apple's VR headset could cost as much as $3,000. 

For those who can’t wait for an Apple headset, the lightest headset available right now is the Dlobio V1 VR headset, which weighs in at around 3.1 ounces, noted technology advisor Rob Enderle

"As far as best, that's a little fluid at the moment, but that is probably the Varjo XR-3 Mixed Reality Headset," Enderle added. "It isn't that light, and it is far from inexpensive, but I'm not aware of any headset that outperforms it yet."

Wright recommends the currently available Oculus Quest 2. "It’s among the lightest and also arguably the best when you consider the quality and breadth of available consumer content," he said.

Apple isn’t the only manufacturer working on new VR headsets. New approaches to headset design will allow VR headsets to be lighter, less prone to causing VR sickness, and "will make us feel less disconnected from our surroundings," Wright said. 

The Future Looks Light

Future technologies could make VR even lighter. VR contact lenses are under development, but we need to refine wireless power to provide enough power safely and lighten and improve tiny displays, Enderle said.

Mojo Vision is working on smart contact lenses that offer augmented reality in which digital information overlays the real world. The company’s product, called Mojo Lens, includes an ultra power-efficient image sensor, Steve Sinclair, the company’s senior vice president of product and marketing, said in an email interview. 

Two mechanical engineers looking at a part diagram while wearing smart glasses.
Monty Rakusen / Getty Images

The lens also will have what the company claims is a world-record pixel pitch of over 14,000ppi and a pixel density of over 200Mppi, making it the smallest, densest display ever designed for dynamic content.

"Mojo Lens overlays images, symbols, and text on users’ natural field of vision without obstructing their view, restricting mobility or hindering social interactions," Sinclair said. "It can be controlled using your eye movement and gaze—to react to where you’re looking and what you’re looking at."

The company hasn’t announced a ship date for the Mojo Lens, which is still under development. But Sinclair said the technology could help the approximately 45 million people who wear contact lenses in the US. 

"In addition to being small and discreet enough to wear with other equipment and eyewear, Mojo Lens will provide a better field of view than smart glasses because the display built into our lens will project information wherever you are looking," he added.

"And the power required to run Mojo Lens will be significantly less than smart glasses, which means they can operate longer and be more useful throughout your day."

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