AR Hardware

Holokit X turns your iPhone into AR headset

Tomislav Bezmalinovic
Image of the Holokit-X smartphone holder.

Holo Interactive

Holokit X is a low-cost iPhone AR headset and an interesting experiment that shows what is already possible with Apple's AR technology today.

Apple has been researching and developing augmented reality for years. The best testimony to these efforts is the iOS interface ARKit, introduced in 2017. The development environment has been constantly improved and expanded with new features over the past few years and is now in its sixth iteration.

On the hardware side, the LIDAR scanner introduced in 2020 with the iPhone 12 Pro proves that Apple is experimenting with AR technology. The depth sensor is responsible for the 3D representation of space in AR applications, a basic requirement for credible augmented reality, as Apple's FloorPlan shows.

The company will reportedly unveil a mixed reality headset in early 2023 that captures the environment using cameras and displays it on opaque displays, where it can be augmented with AR elements - similar to the iPhone and iPad, only in the form of a dedicated face computer. With ARKit, Apple has already laid the most important software foundations for such a device.

The iPhone as AR hub for a headset

This is proven by a tech experiment by Silicon Valley developer Botao Amber Hu. His startup Holo Interactive developed a head mount made of plastic and a pair of lenses into which a recent iPhone is inserted. The cradle and smartphone become an inexpensive augmented reality headset powered by Apple's ARKit. The only piece of electronics in the plastic holder is an NFC sensor; the iPhone supplies everything else.

The AR projections are mirrored into view via the iPhone display from above. Users see the world through glass and simultaneously stereoscopic augmented reality elements in a field of view of 60 degrees.

Thanks to the iPhone camera and ARKit, the AR headset supports spatial tracking. The iOS feature AirDrop enables local multiplayer AR games as well as a spectator view: Bystanders can hold their iPhone or iPad on the scene and automatically see the AR elements superimposed.

Hand tracking is also supported and an Apple Watch becomes a simple motion controller if required. Apple's 3D audio technology with corresponding headphones provides spatial sound.

iPhone AR headset is available now

The idea of a smartphone mount for virtual or augmented reality is anything but new. What makes Holokit X special is its skillful implementation of Apple's AR features. Thus, the device shows what would theoretically be possible if Apple combined all AR components of the last few years in one headset.

According to a hands-on by tech magazine Wired, the image is "clear, colorful and quite sharp" and the headset itself is surprisingly comfortable to wear, even with real glasses.

The Holokit X costs $129 and can be ordered from the official website. It supports all newer iPhones, except for the iPhone Mini and iPhone SE. Holo Interactive recommends Pro models with LIDAR scanners, but a depth camera is not a requirement.

While the hardware is final, the software is still in development. The team of about ten wants to release the Holokit app in the App Store at the end of November. By then, more AR experiences should also be added.