Apple's mixed reality headset could have an external screen to show people your facial expressions

Apple Mixed Reality Headset Vr
Apple Mixed Reality Headset Vr (Image credit: LetsGoDigital and Concept Creator)

What you need to know

  • Apple's mixed reality headset could have a display on the outside, showing how the wearer's face looks during use.
  • Apple was reportedly concerned that wearing a headset would cut people off from the outside world.

Rumors of Apple working on some kind of mixed reality headset are far from fresh but a new report has shared more information about how the project has struggled to ship a product. According to that report, and to deal with concerns from people on the team, Apple may be putting an external display on the headset so that people can see what you look like.

The story, reported by The Information goes that the headset team found themselves having to deal with concerns put forward by members of Jony Ive's design team, not least the fact that people wearing a headset are cut off from the outside world — people can't see them, and they can't see what is going on around them.

They believed VR alienated users from other people by cutting them off from the outside world, made users look unfashionable and lacked practical uses. Apple's industrial designers were unconvinced that consumers would be willing to wear headsets for long periods of time, two of the people said.

But there was a solution — not to be deterred, Rockwell and his team set about finding a solution. That solution involved putting cameras on the outside of the device so that the wearer can see what's happening around them. But to deal with allowing others to see what's happening behind the headset, a new solution needed to be devised. That solution required an external display that would show people what the headset's wearer looked like — facial expressions and all.

The men came up with a solution to address the concerns of Ive's team. For example, they proposed adding cameras to the front of the headset so that people wearing the device could see their surroundings, said the three people. But the feature that ultimately sold the industrial designers on the project was a concept for an outward-facing screen on the headset. The screen could display video images of the eyes and facial expressions of the person wearing the headset to other people in the room.

That might not sound like something a lot of people would want and we have to imagine that is a feature that could be disabled as required, but its mere existence is interesting. Of course, we might never get to see it — design alterations happen and features change, after all.

The current belief is that Apple will announce its mixed reality headset at some point next year, but it'll have a price to make the eyes water. At up to $3,000, you have to wonder whether that external display is behind the high price.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.