It seems more and more that Apple’s next big thing won’t be something that fits in your pocket or purse. It could rather be another portable device. Analysts Ming Chi-Kuo said in 2021 that Apple’s “goal is to replace the iPhone with AR within 10 years.” Here’s everything we know so far about Apple’s rumored mixed reality headset.
Apple AR/VR Headset: Latest Rumors
January 11, 2023: Apple recently released preview versions of the Apple Music, TV, and Devices apps for Windows PCs. References to “Reality OS” and “xrOS” have been found in the code of the Devices app.
January 3, 2023: The Information has an article that claims to reveal several new technical details about Apple’s device, including a waist-mounted battery pack, digital crown, how it works with AirPods, and much more.
December 1, 2022: In another first for Bloomberg, Mark Gurman reports that the operating system for Apple’s AR/VR project has been renamed from “realityOS” to “xrOS,” and that the heads of many of Apple’s internal apps are involved in the development. Project.
September 25, 2022: Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman wrote in the Power On newsletter (subscription required) that Apple’s headphones could be released in 2023.
June 6, 2022: The New York Times reports that Apple “has enlisted Hollywood directors like Jon Favreau” to develop content for your next headphones.
Apple AR/VR Headset: Release Date
The latest rumors mainly come from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, who reports that the operating system (xrOS) and other software developed for the headphones are now live with a planned release date of 2023.
The latest rumors suggest a potential reveal in the spring, followed by more detailed information for developers at WWDC and a consumer release in the second half of 2023.
Apple released a preview version of a “Devices” app for Windows PCs (in which one would manage iPhones and other devices on a Windows PC as iTunes is phased out; Macs use Finder for this task). Twitter user @aaronp613 discovered references in this version’s code to “Reality OS” and “xrOS”, the operating system codenames for Apple’s Reality headsets.
Supposedly, the headset will be called the “Reality Pro,” though rumors about Apple’s end-consumer branding are notoriously sketchy.
Apple AR/VR Headset: Design
While the ultimate goal of Apple’s AR project is to produce a fashionable pair of smart glasses, the first version will be much larger than that, weighing between 300 and 400 grams, according to Ming-Chi Kuo. The first-generation Apple Earbuds will reportedly be an Oculus-style earphone with a woven mesh-wrapped body similar to the AirPods Max. It might look like a sleeker version of Google’s Daydream headphones, which also had a soft cloth body. A patent application for a “head-mounted display unit” also detailed several areas of fit, meaning comfort will be a focus area. Supposedly, the device is made of aluminum, glass, and carbon fiber to minimize weight.
However, we don’t know much more about the design of Apple’s AR device. While Jon Prosser has reported that Apple is working on a prototype AR glasses, the latest rumors suggest that a bona fide pair of glasses will likely still be years away. In January, Ming-Chi Kuo reported that Apple will use “pancake” lenses to keep weight and bulk down. The current design is said to resemble high-tech ski goggles.
While rumor has it that Apple experimented with an integrated headband battery like the Meta Quest Pro, it eventually settled on an external battery that you’d strap to your waist or keep in a pocket, attached to the headphones with a magnetic connector. (think Magsafe on MacBooks) power cord. A charge is said to last only a couple of hours, but you can change the batteries to use the device for longer.
Interestingly, Kuo says that Apple is already working on a second-generation model (via 9to5Mac) that will launch in 2024 with a “significantly lighter” and “updated industrial” design.
The New York Times reported in June that the headphones “look like a pair of ski goggles.” The information says that a small crown-like digital wheel on the side will allow users to seamlessly switch between fully virtual (VR) and seeing their surroundings (AR).
Apple AR/VR Headset: Audio
According to a report from The Information, the latency of most wireless headphones or earphones is too high for their purposes, so users will have to use one of two solutions. One is a headband with built-in speakers (much like the one on the Meta Quest Pro), the other is to use recent AirPods models, which can enter an “ultra-low latency” mode when connected to headphones. Apparently, the headphones contain the H2 processors (found in the second generation AirPods Pro).
Apple AR/VR Headset: Screens
As a mixed reality device, Apple’s headset is rumored to handle both virtual and augmented reality via a pair of high-resolution 4K OLED displays made by Sony, including eye-tracking technology. The headphones will reportedly feature more than a dozen cameras and sensors, according to The Information, that will project a view of the real world onto the screens as if you were looking through transparent glass. Presumably, it will use OLED or mini LEDs and will incorporate Apple’s Ceramic Shield coating as well.
In January, Display Supply Chain Consultants reported that the headset will have “three display modules” made up of two Micro OLED screens and an AMOLED panel. The AMOLED screen is apparently a low refresh screen that faces Exteriorto show others your facial expression and reduce the discomfort of interacting with people wearing the headset.
Small internal motors are said to automatically adjust the lenses and screens to match the IPD (interpupillary distance, which is the distance between the eyes) of the wearers, giving a full 120-degree field of view.
Apple AR/VR Headset: Processor and Specs
According to Kuo (via Macrumors), Apple’s AR headset will have two processors, with the high-end processor having “computing power similar to that of the M1 for Mac” and the secondary chip responsible for “sensor-related computing.” “. Sounds like a lot of processing power for a headset, but if the headset needs to power a pair of 4K displays, it’s going to need a strong chip. Reports also say that it will need to be connected to an iPhone, just like the original Apple Watch.
Kuo also reported that the headphones will support Wi-Fi 6E, which is also rumored to be coming to the iPhone 14. Presumably, it will also have at least 8GB of RAM and a 256GB hard drive. We don’t know anything about battery life yet, but Kuo says that improving battery life will be a focus of the second-gen model. Kuo reports that the headset will come with the same 96W power adapter as the MacBook Pro, suggesting that it will have a large battery.
The information says that the device is powered by a primary SoC with CPU, GPU, RAM, and storage, along with a secondary custom image signal processor that unites all inputs from all cameras into a single representation of the outside world, and communicates with the SoC via a custom ultra-low latency streaming codec developed by Apple.
The headset is also said to employ short- and long-range LiDAR to develop a 3D map of its surroundings.
Apple AR/VR Headset: Apps and Functionality
As a mixed reality device, Apple’s headset will also be able to handle AR and VR apps, opening up the headset to a variety of apps. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman also said the games could have “a strong focus” on the platform, as well as “media consumption.” He expects Apple to work closely with developers and media partners to create content that can be viewed in virtual reality on the device. Apple is also likely to lean into virtual reality content with its own TV+ service.
Surely Apple will also have apps dedicated to AR-type things, like the Measure app and things like the tool that lets you see a 3D rendering of Apple products before you buy them. In a December report, Gurman also said that Animojis and FaceTime VR on the iPhone could be positioned as “the Zoom of the new age.”
The earbuds are expected to come with new versions of core apps like Messages and Maps, and reports claim that Apple recently recruited the head of engineering from its iWork productivity apps, Notes app, and Apple News to work on the earbuds.
We’re told we can also expect a SDK and App Store for third-party apps.
The New York Times reported in June that Apple “has enlisted Hollywood directors like Jon Favreau” to develop content for its upcoming headphones. The report says Favreau is “working to bring (Prehistoric Planet’s) dinosaurs to life on headphones.”
Apple AR/VR Headset: Price
As for pricing, rumors suggest that the first iteration could be an extremely expensive device, possibly costing several thousand dollars. In December, a report from Display Supply Chain Consultants noted that volume estimates for AR headset displays “look low for next year,” likely indicating high price (and low sales). Priced out of reach for most people, the AR headset would primarily be a proof-of-concept device for fans and developers, but no less exciting for the future of Apple wearables.
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