Combining augmented reality and virtual reality, the headset will be the company’s first major new product category since the introduction of the Apple Watch in 2015.
Apple’s board of directors has reportedly been shown a mixed-reality headset, indicating that the next product launch could be coming soon. Bloomberg†
Comprising virtual and augmented reality functionality, the headset would be the company’s first new major product category since the introduction of the Apple Watch in 2015. Apple has also accelerated development of its reality operating system (rOS), the software that will are running on the headset, suggesting the headset could be launched in a few months.
Apple aims to roll out the headset in late 2022 or sometime next year, with a consumer release slated for 2023.
SEE: Metaverse Cheat Sheet: Everything You Need to Know (Free PDF) (TechRepublic)
The virtual reality headset is expected to have external cameras to stream images to high-resolution interior screens using a technique called “pass-through” augmented reality. It also features advanced processors similar to those used in the latest Macs, along with ultra-high-resolution displays.
Bloomberg said that while the first model will include both VR and AR, Apple is also developing standalone AR glasses, codenamed N421, which will be released later this decade. AR superimposes digital information and images on top of the real world.
The current device is codenamed N301 and has reportedly been in development since about 2015.
The team that developed the device encountered several difficulties along the way, such as finding applications and content that would have broad appeal, Bloomberg said. Some of the technical challenges involved overheating and refining the device’s built-in cameras, Bloomberg said.
The company is also working on integrating AR versions of the main iPhone apps for the headset, along with new apps that will provide the ability to stream immersive content and hold virtual meetings, Bloomberg said.
No initial pricing information has been released, though some reports estimate the headset will carry a price tag of around $3,000.
Former Apple chief designer Jony Ive reportedly disagreed with the decision to release a virtual reality headset, preferring the idea of augmented reality glasses. Ive, who left the company in 2019, is also said to have rejected a plan for a standalone headset and one that can be wirelessly linked to a processing hub in a user’s home, according to Bloomberg.
The mixed-reality headset will inevitably face competition from other tech giants, including Meta, Sony, and Microsoft when it finally launches. Earlier this month, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg previewed the company’s “Project Cambria” VR headset, which is similar to Apple’s device and will feature pass-through AR. It will cost more than $800, the company said.
Google is also developing stand-alone AR glasses.
According to IDC, the AR and VR headset market grew 92% last year to more than 11 million units. Meta’s Quest 2 headset is currently the market leader, with about 78% of sales in 2021. As Meta moves deeper into the metaverse, the company lost $10 billion in 2021 alone.
Bloomberg said Apple’s entry into the mixed reality headset market is likely to boost sales in the industry over time.
Apple has never confirmed that it is developing a headset, but its Technology Design Group division, which works on VR and AR technology, has hired about 2,000 employees. So far, Apple has released ARkit software for the iPhones that allows apps to overlay digital images through the device’s camera.
The company holds its annual WWDC developer conference virtually in June, with a keynote presentation that typically includes announcements about new products. Apple also holds launch events for new iPhones in the fall.
Apple has declined to comment on the mixed-reality headset, Bloomberg said.