The year so far in AR/VR: the 5 biggest announcements and what’s coming next

We're six months into 2024, and in the first half of the year we've been treated to a whirlwind of augmented and virtual reality tech goodness.

The star of the show was the Apple Vision Pro launch, but we’ve also seen Meta open up its Horizon OS to its former VR rivals, and Xreal launched new glasses and a spatial computing accessory that finally feel like the AR future we’ve been promised.

The year's far from over though, with hardware announcements expected from Meta and (if we're lucky) Samsung in the coming months – so let's dive into the year so far in AR/VR, and take a look at what we might see in the back half of 2024.

AR/VR in 2024: what have been the biggest announcements so far this year?

Lance Ulanoff staring at Apple Vision Pro in its case

The Apple Vision Pro came, but did it conquer? (Image credit: Future/Lance Ulanoff)

We can’t talk about AR and VR tech in 2024 without talking about the Apple Vision Pro – the most anticipated XR product launch maybe ever. Unfortunately for Apple, while its headset made a major splash when it launched in February – with our Apple Vision Pro review awarding it four-and-a-half-stars – the hype has since petered out, and the upcoming global launch on July 12 for Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and the UK doesn’t seem to have reignited major interest in the $ 3,499 / £3,499 / AU$ 5,999 device.

But the VR space was given a major shake up this year, even if not by Apple. That’s because Meta announced that its Horizon OS would be coming to third-party headsets – starting with devices from ASUS, Lenovo and Xbox. This is super exciting as the Horizon OS is the best standalone VR platform thanks to its intuitive UI, massive software library, and regular updates. 

Horizon OS going third-party should see the launch of a wider range of headset designs – focusing in distinct niches like gaming, productivity, exercise, and more – that aren’t held back by lackluster operating systems; which was the case for headsets like the HTC Vive XR Elite)

Though it wasn’t all good news from Meta as it cut support for the original Oculus Quest headset. April 30 was the last day developers could send app updates to the half-a-decade-old VR device, and August will mark the final month Meta will send out “critical bug fixes and security patches” to the device – so if you want to keep using your Quest library it might finally be time to upgrade to the Meta Quest 3 (which we’d recommend anyway so that you can enjoy upcoming exclusive like Batman: Arkham Shadow).

Lastly, in the AR space specifically, Xreal announced the Xreal Air 2 Ultra and a handy Xreal Beam Pro accessory – that’s basically a spatial computing ready smartphone. We haven’t yet had a chance to try out the Ultra, but its been billed as a more affordable alternative to the Vision Pro, complete with in-built cameras so you can interact with virtual elements with your hands (something you couldn’t do with previous models such as the regular Xreal Air 2).

AR/VR in 2024: what launches are we expecting during the rest of the year?

Girl wearing Meta Quest 3 headset interacting with a jungle playset

Will we see a new Meta Quest 3 this year? Probably (Image credit: Meta)

One headset that we’ll almost certainly see later this year is the Meta Quest 3S. This so-called affordable Quest 3 is believed to pack the Quest 3’s brain (a Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 chipset) in a bulky Quest 2-like body – as well as adopting a few other downgrades.

Meta hasn’t said much officially, but it has leaked the device twice. One leak involved its CTO accidentally showcasing it in the background of a Threads video, while the other saw the Quest 3S appearing accidentally on some Meta Quest Store pages as a compatible headset for some software. So this all but guarantees it’ll show up at Meta Connect 2024, which we know is scheduled for September 25 – 26.

Meta also dropped a surprise teased its first pair of AR glasses at the end of a blog post earlier this year, but we don’t expect they’ll launch in 2024 – with a leaked internal roadmap shared by  The Verge back in 2023 suggesting they’ll land in 2027, though a pair of precursor smart glasses are expected in 2025 to update its AI-powered Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses product line.

Getting back to 2024 releases, we might also see the highly-anticipated Samsung XR/VR headset. Samsung and Google announced its existence over a year ago, but haven’t had much to say on it since – with rumors suggesting they delayed its launch following reactions to the Apple Vision Pro. Hopefully that means it wasn’t pushed out of 2024 and into 2025 or beyond, but we’ll have to wait and see.

You might also like…

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

The 5 subtle AI announcements Apple made at its big iPad 2024 launch event

Today's Apple iPad Air and iPad Pro event was big on product launches, but quieter about AI. Or was it? 

While there weren't any AI announcements to rival the launch of the iPad Pro (2024) or new M4 chip, Apple did uncharacteristically mention 'AI' on eight different occasions during the event – and those covered five different new announcements about the tech.

Apple has previously been reluctant to join the chorus of AI hype, preferring to stick to the less zeitgeisty (if often more accurate) 'machine learning' during its launch events. But back in February, Tim Cook started making unexpectedly bold statements about AI, calling it a “huge opportunity for Apple” and that AI tools would be coming to Apple devices “later this year”.

So what exactly were those subtle AI announcements at the iAPd-centric Apple event? Here are the times the Cupertino crew gave us a taster of what's to come next month at WWDC 2024

1. The M4 chip is more powerful than 'any AI PC today'

An iPad sitting on a desk

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple's next-gen silicon had been rumored for the iPad Pro (2024), but it was still something of a surprise to see the M4 appear for the first time during a tablet announcement. Naturally, Apple was keen to flag its serious AI potential.

Tim Millet, Apple's VP of Platform Architecture, said that “the Neural Engine makes M4 an outrageously powerful chip for AI”, pointing to the simple example of it letting you isolate a subject from its background in 4K video with a tap in Final Cut Pro.

Clearly, Apple thinks its silicon makes for a strong foundation for AI apps, with Millet adding that “the Neural Engine is an IP-block in the chip dedicated to the acceleration of AI workloads”. And he finished with the bolder statement that “the Neural Engine in M4 is more powerful than any neural processing unit in any AI PC today”. We can't verify that yet, but it doesn't sound like an outlandish claim.

2. The Logic Pro 2 app has AI-powered Session Players

A hand holding an iPad that's running Logic Pro

(Image credit: Apple)

The Logic Pro app landed on the iPad about a year ago – and the new version that Apple's just announced has some AI-powered 'Session Players' for you to dabble with.

These are designed to play alongside the existing Drummer feature to give you something like a virtual band. Will Hui, Apple's Product Manager of Creative Apps, said: “Now Drummer is getting some new bandmates in a feature we call Session Players. We're introducing an all-new Bass and Keyboard Player, and like Drummer, they're built using AI.”

Given Apple's digital audio workstation was already a lot of fun, we're looking forward to giving them an audition.

3. The iPad Pro uses AI to help you scan documents

Image 1 of 2

A hand holding an iPad that's scanning a document

(Image credit: Apple)
Image 2 of 2

A hand holding an iPad that's scanning a document

(Image credit: Apple)

This might not be the most wildly exciting AI use case, but sometimes the tech is best suited to helping us with more mundane tasks – and Apple reckons it does just that with the iPad Pro (2024)'s AI-powered document scanning.

This comes courtesy of a new 'adaptive' True Tone flash, which works in tandem with AI algorithms to adjust the lighting depending on the document and ambient lighting. John Ternus, Apple's SVP of Hardware Engineering said: “We've all had the experience of trying to scan a document in certain lighting conditions where it's hard to avoid casting a shadow – the new Pro solves this problem.”

“It uses AI to automatically detect documents like forms and receipts,” he added. “If shadows are in the way, it instantly takes multiple photos with the new, adaptive flash. The frames are stitched together and the result is a dramatically better scan.”

We'll have to see how well that works in practice, but because it's built into iPadOS it'll also be in the Camera app, Files, Notes, and third-party apps, too.

4. The iPad Air 6 isn't left out of the AI party 

An iPad sitting on a desk

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple was keen to stress that the iPad Pro (2024) isn't the only tablet in its range suitable for AI-powered tasks or future apps, despite that tablet being the only one with the new M4 chip.

Melody Kuna, Apple's Director of iPad Product Design, said that “with M2, the new [iPad] Air is also an incredibly powerful device for AI. It's blazing fast for powerful machine learning features in iPadOS, like Visual Look Up, Subject Lift, and Live Text capture.”

So while the iPad Pro's M4 chip is capable of an impressive 38 trillion operations per second (which apparently makes it sixty times faster than Apple's A11 Bionic neural engine from the iPhone 8), the iPad Air 6 won't be left out of future AI apps and features on Apple's tablets.

5. iPadOS is just getting started with AI

A person sitting at a desk working on an iPad and monitor

(Image credit: Apple)

On a similar theme, Apple's final mention of AI during its long-awaited iPad launch was reserved for iPadOS.

Will Hui, Apple's Product Manager of Creative Apps, said that “iPadOS has advanced frameworks like Core ML that make it easy for developers to tap into the Neural Engine to deliver powerful AI features, right on device”.

Clearly, Apple is treading carefully with AI in its own apps, with only Logic Pro's session players and the iPad Pro's document scanning making much use of it so far. But it also put out a call to developers to tap the potential of its software (and chips) for AI-powered features. And we can expect to hear a lot more about those next month at WWDC 2024.

You might also like

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

The 5 best VR headset and AR glasses announcements at CES 2024

Every January, the Las Vegas convention centers are full to the brim with exciting new tech for CES, and that’s no different for CES 2024. And what tech is more exciting than the best VR headsets and AR glasses?

We scoured CES 2024 for the best VR and AR tech announcements. We drove in AR-powered cars, tested a bunch of different glasses, and even subjected ourselves to a haptic suit.

It was all worth it, though, to find five fantastic gadgets for this CES 2024 round-up. 

If you want to check out more of the awesome tech showcased at CES, we’ve got a guide to the 20 best gadgets of CES 2024 and the best wearable and fitness tech of CES 2024.

1. New Qualcomm XR2+ chip

This isn’t a VR headset, and, technically, it was revealed before CES, but we’re including it here because Qualcomm gave us a more in-depth look at the Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 at the Las Vegas tech convention. This chipset is going to feature in a number of the best VR headsets we see released in the next few years.

Key Snapdragon XR2 Plus Gen 2 specs, including that it has support fo 4.3k displays, 8x better AI performance, and 2.5x better GPU performance

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

This powerful successor to the XR2+ Gen 1 found in the Meta Quest Pro will power the next generation of enterprise headsets. This includes the Samsung VR headset being developed in partnership with Google.

In practical terms, the chipset can support displays up to 4.3K resolution per eye running at 90Hz, boasts a 2.5x better GPU performance than the XR2 Gen 2 found in the Meta Quest 3, and has 8x better AI performance. It can also support Wi-Fi 7 and full-color mixed reality passthrough.

Qualcomm is currently the name in the XR chipset game, and we expect the XR2+ Gen 2 will only further cement its position. And it might help rival XR gadgets prove they're just as capable as the Apple Vision Pro.

2. Asus AirVision M1 glasses 

Speaking of Apple, this year’s CES prize for the gadget that sounds most like a knockoff Apple product goes to the AirVision M1 glasses from Asus.

A mannequin wearing the Asus AirVision M1 while looking at AR spreadsheets floating in front of them

(Image credit: Asus)

The name might be reminiscent of the Vision Pro – sprinkling in aspects of the iPad Air and Apple’s M1 chipset found in some iPads and Macbooks – but is almost completely unrelated to Apple’s hardware. The only minor similarity is that these specs are a wearable AR display. 

The Asus glasses don’t function on their own; you need to plug them into a compatible phone or computer with a USB-C display port (meaning it can output video and audio through USB-C). These kinds of gadgets are admittedly a lot of fun, but our experience with them is that they’re still pretty pricey for what you get. The resolution is only full-HD, and you often need to buy several not-so-optional add-ons to get the most out of your experience – raising the price above the usual $ 400 / £400 / AU$ 600  price you already pay for smart spectacles.

We haven’t yet tried the Asus AirVision M1 glasses – nor do we know what regions they’ll be available in or when the launch date is – so we’ll reserve judgment on them for now. But if you’re after a pair of specs that lives up to what you expect from “AR glasses” the next item on this list might be a better pick.

3. Xreal Air 2 Ultra 

The Xreal Air 2 Ultra floating in front of a black background wqith the word 'Xreal' below them in red

(Image credit: Xreal)

Xreal makes some of our favorite smart glasses – you can find out more about the AR specs it made before in our Xreal Air review and Xreal Air 2 Pro review – and at CES 2024, it debuted something that promises to be even better than what we’ve seen from it in the past.

The Xreal Air 2 Ultra goes beyond simply projecting an AR screen in your real-world space like its predecessors. It’s a proper spatial computer complete with a camera – so the device can track your hands and identify real-world objects that virtual elements can interact with. 

However, while the glasses sound a lot like the Apple Vision Pro there’s one downside – you need an external device to power them. Specifically, Xreal lists only the Samsung Galaxy S22, the Samsung Galaxy S23, and a “custom computing unit” that is yet to be released as the gadgets fit for the job. If you aren’t interested in spatial computing you could use them as a wearable full-HD display for any gadget with a USB-C display port.

On the flip side, even if you buy a new Samsung phone, you could get a whole Xreal spatial computing package for around $ 1,000 / £1,100 if you can find a Galaxy S22 on sale. This is less than a third of the price of the $ 3,499 Apple Vision Pro – though it is a lot pricier than the $ 499.99 / £479.99 / AU$ 799.99 Meta Quest 3.

We don’t yet know how well this Air 2 Ultra experience compares to its rivals, but if it can deliver a solid experience Xreal could be on to a winner.

4. AR glasses in a car 

BMW AR Experience

My ride. (Image credit: Future)

BMW has been finding ways to bring XR tech to cars for a while. We’ve previously seen its efforts to bring VR offices and entertainment on your travels so car passengers can do more with their journey, but its CES 2024 demo centered on drivers.

Thanks to a pair of Xreal Air 2 glasses, we saw AR directions that guided us through the streets of Las Vegas (for the demo, we were in the passenger seat while someone else drove). We could also see warnings about upcoming potholes, stop signs, and how much charge the electric vehicle had left.

This was all just a very well-made research pilot to help inform the future of driving tech. But the BMW AR experience sold us on the idea, so we hope this kind of tech isn’t too far from being more than just a prototype. 

5. Sony’s enterprise headset 

Siemens Sony headset

(Image credit: Siemens)

Most people think of entertainment when they think of VR, but there’s a huge push to bring more XR gadgets to industry – a trend that the newly announced Sony XR headset continues.

Created in partnership with Siemens, the device is designed to help companies bring more stages of production – in particular, design and prototyping – into the metaverse. Using the headset, they can produce and analyze 3D models of their designs and diagnose any issues before investing in real-world prototypes.

In general, the headset looks pretty standard, but it does feature an odd pair of handsets. One is a more traditionally shaped VR controller, while the other is a ring. The advantages of this setup are that you have a hand free to more easily interact with real-world objects, and you can get hands-on with virtual objects while still having the convenience of buttons on a controller.

There’s not much more to say about the headset for now, but given its standalone design maybe it’ll pave the way for a successor to the PSVR 2 headset that’s no longer tethered to a PlayStation console.

You might also like…

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Meta Connect 2023 live blog: Meta Quest 3, VR and AI announcements

Welcome to the TechRadar live blog for Meta Connect 2023. We'll be keeping you updated with everything that’s announced at this year’s Meta event as it happens, as well as giving you our expert thoughts on all the hardware and software that’s announced.

This year we know the headline item will be the Meta Quest 3, a new VR headset set to replace the Oculus Quest 2 (the most popular VR headset ever made). Meta has called the Quest 3 its “most powerful headset” yet, but beyond this, its price and that it’ll have full-color mixed reality like the Meta Quest Pro there’s a lot we still don’t know – chiefly when it will release.

Alongside the Quest 3, Meta will likely show off other VR and AR tech it's working on (though expect a lot of the stuff to still be in fairly early development stages, based on previous years’ keynotes), as well as AI advancements it's developing. 

Meta Connect 2023 is here! I'm Hamish and I'll be with you for the next hour or so as Meta takes us through all of its VR and AI announcements. The biggest of which will be the Meta Quest 3 VR headset.

I'm super excited to see this new device, especially its mixed reality capabilities, as this seems to be a major focus for Meta. The Meta Quest Pro left a lot to be desired in this department, though, so the Quest 3 needs to be a big improvement if it wants to convince us that mixed reality is the future of XR tech.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Adobe Summit 2023 live: all the news and announcements from Day One

Welcome to our live coverage of Adobe Summit 2023. For the next two days (June 8 – 9), we’re on the floor at ExCel London to see what’s new from Adobe. 

CEO Shantanu Narayen will be kicking things off in the opening keynote, He’ll be joined by other Adobe execs and industry leaders to reveal the latest work from the company, and its impact. Expect plenty of focus on productivity, personalization, creativity, and, of course, AI. 

Day One is about to start – and we'll be here to provide all the updates as they happen.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More