Apple’s 2017 VR announcements (Part I)

Robert Scoble
6 min readSep 30, 2016

Here is my view of what Apple is going to announce in September 2017. First, though, Pantomime just showed me its multi-party augmented reality system, which is the video above. Makes sense you’ll see more from this company in the future since it shows off how Apple could take phones, tablets, and more into the future.

Below is a script of what I think Apple will announce. If you don’t have time, basically Apple is going to blow away the rest of the industry with a new iPhone 8 that is VR enabled, but that closes the gap to the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. Some of these things will be announced by Google next week, but Apple will go further.

Then Apple will show a preview of its new “Apple Holographic” mixed reality glasses that will come in 2018. Finally, Elon Musk will come on stage and show you how these new glasses will use the Apple Holographic product to completely transform the auto industry.

Where did I learn this? Some from suppliers, some from simply making an informed guess because I’ve been traveling the world talking with a ton of different players in the virtual reality and mixed reality spaces.

Here we go.

SCENE: Apple’s new headquarters in Cupertino where Apple is announcing the iPhone 8.

FADE OUT: Music lowers. Lights lower. Leave audience fidgeting in the dark for a few seconds.

FADE IN: Three quotes up on huge giant screens.

“I think its best days are behind it,” Sanford C. Bernstein on CNBC.

“The post-Jobs Apple … lacks a breakthrough product,” Walt Mossberg, The Verge.

“Apple under Tim Cook’s reign has become predictable and boring.” Kate MacKenzie, Mac360.


FADE IN: Turn on spotlight on Tim Cook as he enters the stage.


Welcome to our gorgeous new headquarters. The headquarters that the iPhone made possible.

There are some in this community who think I haven’t been doing my job for the past five years. That Apple can’t innovate. That I can’t bring out thrilling new products.

There are some, even, who think I have lost Steve Jobs’ playbook, even though he handed that to me personally.

Well, over the next 60 minutes Apple will either ship or announce more new technologies, thrilling products, and innovations, than Apple has shipped in its 40 year history.

Let’s start. It’s the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. Today I’m happy to announce the iPhone 8.0. An extraordinary advancement to the iPhone line.

FADE IN: Video of iPhone 8.0’s new screen.

TIM COOK: Years ago we introduced the retina screen. (Pulls an iPhone 8.0 out of his pocket). Today we are taking the screen to a whole new level. The iPhone 8.0’s screen is not just 4K, but is edge to edge, and has a new design that lets us turn pieces of the screen basically on and off, saving battery life, but really what we need that for is VR.

You’ll notice that our screen gives better refresh rates, better colors, and is thinner and uses less power. Why does that matter to VR? You’ll see.

Let’s turn around this gorgeous new design.

Now, you’ll see some new things on the back. You might have heard of Microsoft Hololens. Where did that come from? The Xbox Kinect team. Where did that start? With a licensing deal with a small company in Israel named Primesense.

You might have missed, but Apple bought the company and, today, has 600 engineers working on this new 3D sensor technology.

Today a Primesense Strip is included in every iPhone 8. What makes it different? It joins a hyper small array of lasers, along with hyper small optical sensors to make a 3D image of the room. Note that it does that faster than the competition, like Google Tango, and that it works better in bright sunlight than Tango, and includes more detail, too.

Let me introduce XXXXXXX XXXXXXXX who will show us this remarkable sensor.

Keep in mind you’ll see this strip in other products we are working on, too. TV, iPad, etc. More on those later. But this strip lets you do walk around in VR (we call it in the industry “six degrees of freedom). Basically it lets the iPhone 8 match what the expensive VR systems like Oculus Rift do.

<<Demo from Primesense team>>

TIM COOK: Thanks XXXXXXX XXXXXXXX for showing us what this amazing sensor can do. Now, lets take a look at another key technology in the iPhone 8: the GPU.

For years Apple has been the GPU speed leader. Last year our GPUs were 10x faster than the ones in the Huawei phone (#3 manufacturer). This year our GPUs are five times faster than last year.

What does this mean?

A phone that doesn’t overheat when playing VR. It is also a phone that does much more artificial intelligence. Let’s see a demo of that, lets talk with XXXXXXX XXXXXXXX from Sephora about how the GPU lets the phone draw more polygons per second than any other phone, which lets you have more realistic VR and augmented reality experiences.

Why Sephora? They have shipped amazing augmented reality makeup in their iPhone app for more than a year now. Lets see how much nicer augmented reality makeup is on the iPhone 8.

<<Demo from Sephora>>

TIM COOK: Thanks XXXXXXX XXXXXXXX for showing us your amazing augmented reality app. Now, let’s take a look at the other pieces of the iPhone 8. Look at the camera.

The camera continues the work we introduced last year with a new dual lens design, but this year we have the point cloud data from the Primsense sensor that can computationally be joined with the camera’s data so a new kind of photography is possible. Volumetric. Here, let me show you. You take a photo with your iPhone 8 and now, using the virtual reality capabilities of the new phone, you can actually walk around the image you captured. Or lay it on top, as a Hologram. Isn’t that cool? Let’s have XXXXXX XXXXXXX come out to demonstrate the new, improved, camera in the iPhone 8.

<<More camera demos>>

TIM COOK: OK, lets see the new VR headset. We call it “Apple’s VR World.” It has some things that makes our system way better than the competition. For instance, we’ve added a new kind of hyper quiet and efficient cooling system so your face doesn’t get sweaty, which fogs up the lenses, like happens on many of our competitors.

It also has eye sensors, which let us do a new kind of compression. Foveated rendering. By letting us only present a lot of detail where your eye is actually looking we can make the apparent speed as high as an Oculus Rift or a HTC Vive, which runs off of a much bigger GPU card in a PC. We don’t need that. Let’s have XXXXX XXXXXXXX come out to demonstrate that.

<<Demo of something like >>

TIM COOK: Now, why do we need VR? Especially when I have been telling you that mixed, or, augmented reality is way more important? Well, lets take you through about a dozen different things you can do.

<<Basketball demo>>
<<Shooting demo>>
<<Ski jumping demo>>
<<Archery demo>>
<<Tennis demo>>
<<Racing demo>>
<<Journalism demo>>
<<Hollywood movie demo>>
<<Football game demo>>
<<Frisbee demo>>
<<Facebook Toybox Demo>>

TIM COOK: OK, you’ve seen a variety of things in the new Apple VR World and we’ve shown you the amazing iPhone 8, with Retina 2.0 screen, new hyper fast GPU from XXXXXXXX, new Primesense Strip volumetric capture device, new amazing cameras, and a world-leading new controller that is nicer in your hand and can be used to grasp things

How much will it all cost? Starting at $799 for a 128GB model, but all models come with an included VR headset and one of our new controllers to thank you for being an iPhone customer for the past 10 years.

I think you can see that this is an exciting year to be an iPhone customer…

(This is the end of Part I, Part II will come soon)

Oh, wait, Google is going to announce some of this next week. :-)