Apple VR is tipped for a release this year, and with 2023 upon us, we won't have long to wait to find out what Apple has in store for its mixed reality headset, which will apparently offer immersive virtual reality and augmented reality experiences.
If you didn't already know (where have you been?) virtual reality uses computer-generated images to create simulations of 3D environments and images that you can interact, often through the use of a headset. Currently, big players on the market include Samsung (Gear VR), Sony (PlayStation VR), and the artist formerly known as Facebook (Meta Quest 2).
Augmented reality is similar, but different. It uses computer-generated images super-imposed over the real world to create dynamic experiences that combine virtual reality and the real world, you've probably seen good examples of both online or on YouTube, but this year it's Apple's turn to enter the fray with its rumored Apple Reality Pro headset, which will offer a combination of mixed and virtual reality experiences in typically Apple fashion, including a typically Apple price tag.
Apple VR: AR, VR, or both?
Apple's headset is reportedly a mixed-reality headset. That means it will offer full virtual reality experiences (think Meta Quest, Beatsaber, etc.). However, it is also expected to feature an augmented reality offering that can overlay virtual assets on top of your real-world surroundings (think Minecraft Earth, Pokémon Go).
Apple CEO, Tim Cook, recently teased in an interview with China Daily USA that Apple is "incredibly excited about AR". Cook also said that he thinks we are still in "the very early innings of how this technology will evolve" but that he couldn't be more excited about the opportunities in space. While we know Apple is working on an AR-focused device as well, it's possible that Cook could be hinting at the Apple VR headset and its AR capabilities.
On January 23, 2023, a report from Mark Gurman at Bloomberg indicated that the headset will support both virtual and augmented reality. Gurman said that the headset, like the Apple Watch and AirPods Max, will feature a Digital Crown which "lets users switch between VR and AR. When in VR, the wearer is fully immersed. When AR is enabled, the content fades back and becomes surrounded by the user’s real environment."
Apple VR: Release date rumors
According to the latest reports, Apple VR's headset is set to be released in the second half of 2023. The project has reportedly been delayed and is behind schedule. Ming-Chi Kuo predicts the headset will be unveiled either at an event in the Spring or at WWDC 2023.
More recently, the ultra-reliable Mark Gurman at Bloomberg has suggested Apple will reveal its new headset before WWDC in June. That means we can expect to see Apple Reality Pro some time in the next 5-6 months, but we might not see it in stores and on shelves until later in the year. This seems to make sense as an earlier unveiling would give developers time to create apps and experiences for Apple Reality Pro.
Apple Reality Pro: rxOS operating system
According to Mark Gurman, the Reality Pro's operating system is called rxOS, and is interally codenamed "Borealis," possibly a nod to the visual spectacle of the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights.
According to The Information, the rxOS operating system will be able to run existing iPhone apps from iOS as 2D windows, however there will also reportedly be a big focus on virtual meetings and education uses.
Apple VR: Name
In a report at the end of August 2022, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reported that Apple has filed multiple trademarks regarding the potential naming of its headset and the processor that will power it.
According to the report, Apple has filed trademark applications through proxies for the names "Reality One," "Reality Pro" and "Reality Processor," in the US, EU, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Costa Rica, and Uruguay.
Apple VR: Design
The below drawing is an artist's impression of photos seen by The Information of Apple's AR headset, sporting a fairly regular VR 'goggles' section described as a "sleek, curved visor", and a mesh, interchangeable headband.
Whilst Apple's VR headset was once thought to be a companion device that would use a hub for much of its processing power, it is now understood Apple VR could be a standalone headset that doesn't require any external processing.
Reports indicate the headset will be made from a mixture of lightweight materials including glass and aluminium. It may also feature a Digital Crown like the Apple Watch and AirPods Max that will be used to change between AR and VR.
According to a recent report, the new headset will feature a battery pack that the user wears on their waist, connected to the headset by a cable. This will help to reduce the weight of the headset and will allow for hot-swapping batteries during playing sessions so you don't have to take your headset off and charge it or revert to a wired connection.
Despite the pack being expected to come in around the size of two iPhone 14 Pro Max's glued together, the headset is expected to only feature around two hours of battery life.
In a freelance contest run in January 2023, a 3D artist by the name of Ahmed C., created an incredible concept of what the Reality Pro headset could look like. Looking at the concept image below, you can see how Apple could take inspiration from the AirPods Max, Apple Watch, and iPhone for the design elements that make up the headset.
Apple VR features
Apple's headset is tipped to be a "pricey" and "niche" competitor to established VR headsets. In early 2021, a huge story from The Information claimed that Apple's VR headset would have two 8K displays for high-fidelity visuals. It will also reportedly come with eye and hand-tracking technology for full immersion.
The Apple VR headset could run on Apple's new Apple silicon chips, which recently debuted in its new Mac lineup. According to Bloomberg:
"Apple is aiming to include some of its most advanced and powerful chips in the headset along with displays that are much higher resolution than those in existing VR products."
Gurman has even said that the M2 chip — Apple's newest silicon darling — is slated to be the brains of the Apple VR.
The Information reports that Apple's headset will use small motors to automatically adjust its lenses for a better viewing experience.
The headset will also reportedly feature an external battery back instead of one built into the headset itself. This might sound clunky and will make for one extra cable. However, it will also significantly reduce the weight of the headset and would mean you could hot-swap your battery for another external one, rather than taking it off to charge it.
The headset reportedly not only has two inward-facing displays but a large outward-facing display that can show the facial expressions of the person wearing the headset. It will also purportedly have a 120-degree field of view.
The headset apparently doesn't work with third-party Bluetooth headphones and doesn't have a headphone jack. Instead, it will work with AirPods or through speakers built into the headset.
In January 2023, Gurman added some additional details as to what users can expect in terms of a FaceTime experience with the headset. The reporter said that "the headset’s FaceTime software will realistically render a user’s face and full body in virtual reality. Those avatars will allow two people — each with an Apple headset — to communicate and feel like they’re in the same room. The technology differs from virtual meeting rooms on Meta’s headset, which creates a more cartoon-like avatar of the user."
The report also noted that the headset will "show immersive video content, serve as an external display for a connected Mac, and replicate many functions of iPhones and iPads."
Apple VR: Price rumors
Brace yourself. The Information reports Apple's VR headset could cost a whopping $3,000. It was previously reported it would be an expensive product that would cost much more than current competitors, priced between $300-$900. According to JP Morgan, Apple VR could cost more to make than the iPhone 12. All signs point to Apple VR costing a very large sum of money. Similarly, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman suggests the headset will cost between $2,000 and $3,000.
Several Apple leakers have described the Apple VR headset as "game-changing" and "industry-leading," two sets of adjectives that usually aren't followed by cheap.
Apple VR is coming
Like winter in the Game of Thrones series, we know Apple VR is coming. The company has repeatedly talked about AR and VR are the future, and it has been increasing the AR capabilities of its products in recent years.
Surprisingly, the rumors and leaks around Apple VR have been pretty sparse, which likely means we are all in for a real treat when Apple finally announces what they have been working on all these years.
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Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.
Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9
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