The Apple mixed reality headset is a new, long-rumored virtual-reality project that the Cupertino-based tech giant has up its sleeves, and all the gossip is trickling in to give us insight on Apple's vision for its place in the VR headset market.
With conglomerates like Sony, Valve, Microsoft, and Facebook jumping at the opportunity to tap into a lucrative market, Apple wants a piece of the pie, too.
According to insider information obtained by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, there’s been a secret unit at Apple — shh, don’t tell anyone — working on a VR headset for the past seven years. But delays and setbacks plagued the VR unit due to strong-minded Apple hot shots butting heads on how to best design the VR headset for maximum market disruption. Now, it may be set to arrive as soon as January 2023.
Now, if you think that’s juicy, stick around to ingest all the riveting information we’ve gathered from Apple insiders and leakers for a more fascinating insight into Apple’s mixed-reality headset, including specs, release date, price, and more.
Apple mixed reality headset latest news and rumors (updated April 6)
- A new report claims that Apple plans on releasing the mixed-reality headset in June during WWDC 2023.
- Apple's AR/VR headset will reportedly not require a companion device, like an iPhone. On top of that, you may be able to interact with it by using something called "in-air typing."
Apple mixed-reality headset release date
The rumored release date for the Apple mixed-reality headset is June, just in time for the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC 2023), an annual gathering typically held at Apple Park in California.
Keep in mind, however, that there have been reports revealing that Apple's AR/VR headset has been delayed several times. For example, according to The Information (opens in new tab), the Apple VR headset has previously been slated to hit store shelves in 2022.
And then, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the mixed-reality headset was reportedly supposed to be revealed in January 2023, but of course, that time frame as come and gone.
Although insiders claim that the mixed-reality headset is slated for a June release, Kuo recently tweeted that there's a chance that Apple may, once again, delay the head-mounted display to late 2023.
Apple mixed-reality headset price
According to The Information, The Apple mixed-reality headset will reportedly cost a whopping $3,000, which mirrors the price tag of other premium systems such as Magic Leap's $2,295 AR goggles and Microsoft’s $3,500 Hololens 2. However, this price may have been reduced to somewhere between $2,000 to $2,500, according to Kuo.
According to the Financial Times, Apple is only expecting sell around one million units of the headset in the first year. This hints that the Cupertino-based tech giant expects this AR/VR headset to be a niche product that only a few can afford. The Financial Times also added that Apple expects to cater to the enterprise market with this device, so this mixed-reality headset will likely not cater to the average Joe.
If you're feeling discouraged about the $3k price tag, don't worry! According to Medium blog post from Kuo, the Cupertino-based tech giant is reportedly rolling out an affordable option of the Apple AR/VR headset during its second-generation era. Kuo didn't specify a price point, but it will surely be less expensive compared to the $3K model.
Fans should expect the affordable, second-gen AR/VR headset to hit the market by the first half of 2025.
Apple mixed-reality headset official name
According to trademark fillings believed to be associated with Apple, the forthcoming headset could be branded as "Reality One" or "Reality Pro." It's also possible that these names could represent different tiers for the mixed-reality headset.
Hawk-eyed tech pundits also discovered trademark filings for "realityOS" and "Reality Processor." The former is, of course, likely name of the operating system that will power the highly anticipated AR/VR headset. The latter may represent the chipset that the Cupertino-based tech giant will stuff inside its long-rumored head-mounted display.
Apple mixed-reality headset design
One of Apple’s biggest obstacles with the AR/VR headset is finding a way to pack powerful hardware into a sleek design that could potentially upend the VR market. Unfortunately, the secret Apple AR/VR unit (known as the Technology Development Group or TDG) kept running into issues with overheating.
TDG, spearheaded by Mike Rockwell in 2015, decided to rectify the overheating problem by unburdening some of that powerful hardware from the headset. Rockwell then made the move to construct a small stationary hub, which resembles a small iMac, that would accompany the VR headset.
This Mac-like hub would connect to the VR headset wirelessly, and it would help the system retain its svelte form while still remaining competitively powerful thanks to the stationary hub — and that would be the end of the overheating problem. However, there was someone at Apple who hated Rockwell’s stationary hub idea: former Apple Design Chief Jony Ive.
Ive envisioned an all-in-one headset for the Apple VR headset — no additional peripherals needed. Rockwell disagreed. With the hub he designed, the VR headset would blow its rivals out of the water. Without it, consumers would have to settle for a less-powerful headset. But in the end, Apple’s big wigs sided with Ive. They wanted to sell an Apple VR headset sans the hub.
So what does Apple’s working VR headset look like now? Bloomberg Businessweek’s secret source revealed that the VR headset is visually similar to Facebook’s Oculus Quest headset, but smaller.
The leaker also added that instead of a plastic body, the VR headset will sport a fabric material. This rumor has been substantiated by another Bloomberg article that we reported on at the tail-end of January. Apple plans on using a fabric exterior for the VR headset in order to reduce the device's weight.
To further reduce the device’s weight, Apple is planning to use a fabric exterior. That’s a departure from the metal designs Apple uses for most products, though it has used plastic for devices like AirPods, that need to be light, and fabrics for the HomePod speaker to improve acoustics.
Other reports, including sources from the Financial Times and The New York Times, say that Apple's mixed-reality headset looks more like ski goggles. It reportedly features a carbon fiber frame and a "reality dial" to increase or decrease real-time video overlays from the world around the user. It also purportedly comes with a hip pack with battery support, according to the New York Times.
Apple mixed-reality headset specs
Despite Apple VR’s secrecy, we’ve gathered a ton of information on specs and features you can expect from the Apple VR headset.
- Two 4K displays. Insiders say that the Apple VR headset’s display performance will be so spectacular that it will be difficult for users to differentiate reality and computer-generated simulations.
- External 3D-sensor cameras. The Apple VR headset will be equipped with cameras that can map the user’s surroundings, including silhouettes of nearby people, furniture and rooms. According to The Information, (opens in new tab) the VR headset will reportedly have 12 external cameras. Not only for tracking eye and hand movements, but also for the ultra-high-resolution displays.
- Powerful processors recycled from Rockwell's rejected hub. The processors are reportedly similar to the AMD-based CPUs that will replace the Intel chips on future macOS systems.
- A gaming app store. The Apple VR headset will have its own store so that users can purchase games and other VR-compatible apps.
- Video-conferencing capability. The Apple VR headset can double as a super high-tech communication system for virtual meetings.
- Video-streaming capability. Users will be able to enjoy immersive film and TV show experiences with the Apple VR headset. According to the NYTimes, the mixed-reality headset will function has a high-resolution TV with custom-made video content from Hollywood filmmakers (e.g., Jon Favreau, the man behind "Iron Man.")
- Siri voice command. What’s an Apple device without Siri?
- A virtual keyboard. According to a Bloomberg article published in January, the Apple VR headset will feature a virtual keyboard or "in-air typing"
- You'll have the ability to dive into AR drawing. The device will allow artists to draw and create with AR strokes superimposed upon their real-world environment.
What we want from Apple's mixed-reality headset
Consumer-friendly pricing. Apple products are known for costing an arm and a leg. However, companies such as Facebook have a strong foothold in the mainstream VR market with competitive pricing seen in products like the $399 Oculus Quest. If Apple’s VR headset is financially inaccessible, it may struggle to win over consumers. Expecting an affordable VR headset from Apple is just wishful thinking, though. Perhaps VR will be friendlier on the pockets in the future.
Comfortable VR headsets. Many VR enthusiasts complain that most systems on the market are uncomfortable, clunky — and well — not very 2020. On the plus side, the rumors indicate that sleek headsets are on Apple’s top-priority list. Some VR gamers also complain about mental fatigue and nausea after using a VR headset, so hopefully, Apple can find a way to circumvent these issues.
A tetherless design. Being bound by wires while gaming in virtual reality is no fun. But fortunately, according to leaks, Apple’s vision for its VR headset is a wireless, standalone device.
Decent specs and features. We’d love to see specs that make a VR system awesome, including wide-ranging human movements translated into the VR world, high-resolution displays, higher refresh rates, top-notch tracking and more. The Apple VR headset will likely not disappoint, according to the leaks.