Everything Speculated About Apple's New Headset
Apple's upcoming VR headset has been the subject of much speculation and anticipation in the tech world. While Apple has yet to confirm any details about the device, rumors and leaks have provided some insights into what we can expect.
What Will It Be Called?
An official name for the headset hasn't been confirmed yet, but Apple has filed patents in multiple countries for the names "Reality One," "Reality Pro," and "Reality Processor."
The operating system is believed to be called rOS (or realityOS) which was revealed in Apple's code. It's been confirmed that xrOS is what Apple is calling it internally, and this name has been patented as well.
In terms of the design, reports suggest that the headset will be sleek and lightweight, with a focus on comfort and ease of use. Apple is known for its attention to detail when it comes to design, so it's likely that the headset will be visually impressive as well.
It's speculated that Apple's headset will weigh in at about 150 grams compared to 503 grams of a Quest 2 and 809 grams of a Valve Index, for reference.
It appears that the user will need wireless earbuds like airpods in order to fully enjoy spatial audio, the headset will come with speakers but be limited in their capabilities.
It will be a standalone device, meaning it won't require a separate computer or smartphone to operate (including an iPhone for initial setup). This will likely make it more user-friendly and accessible than other VR headsets on the market.
Apple's headset seems to be a premium, developer-centric product vs one aimed at consumers, and it might be a precursor for another future Apple XR product speculated: Apple Glasses.
However, other sources mention that the headset will focus heavily on gaming, media consumption and communication.
The headset will offer both augmented reality and virtual reality experiences, allowing users to interact with digital objects in real-world environments as well as fully immersive virtual worlds, and it's been reported that the transition from VR to AR will be a seamless one featuring a simple dial on the side of the headset.
Apple is said to be developing it's own XR store containing a number of exclusive games and apps for the headset, which could make it a compelling option for gamers and tech enthusiasts.
The European Patent office published a patent application for "Multi-Device Continuity for use with Extended Reality (XR) Systems." This currently works with existing apple devices allowing users to seamlessly work across various apple products such as iPhones and Macbook Pros. This means that potentially you'd be able to work from your Macbook or iPhone directly into your headset.
Users can create their own apps (without prior code knowledge) via Siri - by scanning real world objects and transform them into digital assets. Apps would still have to pass Apple's strict approval policy however.
It's expected that the headset will have a high-resolution display, with some reports suggesting that it will have up to 8K resolution (4k per eye). This would provide an incredibly immersive experience for users.
Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts that the headset will use pancake lenses, "a folded design to allow light to reflect back and forth between the display and lenses. This could allow for a headset design that's compact and lightweight."
It's predicted that the lenses will be auto adjusting for the user's IPD or Interpupillary distance - the distance between the pupils.
Apple's headset might have two displays, OLEDs or micro-LED panels in the front and one lower resolution AMOLED display on the back which would allow for foveated rendering like the PSVR2. Foveated rendering reduces the number of pixels rendered and combined with the eye tracking, only keeps clear what you are actually looking at. In turn, this reduces some workload of the headset.
There are currently no reports of refresh rate or field of view for the headset's displays quite yet.
The headset will reportedly be equipped with a high-resolution display and advanced eye-tracking technology, which will allow for more realistic and immersive experiences.
Eye tracking is expected to be used in multiple ways, from using Facetime to animate memoji, to using it as an iris scanner to detect the user wearing the headset - the same way Face ID and Touch ID are utilized on iOS devices.
There are also rumors that the headset will feature a LiDAR sensor, which would enable it to accurately map the user's surroundings and provide more accurate AR experiences. There will be an estimated 12-15 on the headset, already used with current apple products like iPhone 12 pro and iPad pro.
Ming-Chi Kuo however, contends there will be 15 cameras — eight for AR, one for environmental detection, and six for “innovative biometrics.”
There is currently no official information on what the controllers will be like for Apple's upcoming VR headset. However, there have been rumors that the headset may use a combination of hand tracking and finger devices.
Some guess that hand tracking and gestures will be used to pull a virtual overlay of an email from the iPhone display into the VR headset, or to be used to type in air on a virtual keyboard.
Others predict that while there won't be any traditional controllers, users may utilize a thimble like device on the finger. Patents have been released for VR wearables, smart rings for possible gesture control and another to detect if the users is holding an Apple Pencil.
Performance & Battery
Apple's headset may possibly contain two chips, the Apple M1 Pro chip but also an M2 chip with 16GB of RAM, and it's said to come with the same 96W charger as the 14-inch MacBook Pro.
There are multiple predictions on how Apple could handle battery life for such a potentially performant heavy yet lightweight headset:
Due to all the processing power required, an external battery pack might be required for 2 hours of battery life, similar to the Magic Leap 2 - it might be contained in a device that can be clipped into the waistband. It's predicted that this battery pack might be appropriately the size of two iPhone 14 Pro Max models stacked on top of each other. In the future Apple may also release an optional headband accessory with a larger battery pack, but comfort will have to be taken into consideration with this route.
It's also predicted that there will be Wifi 6E support allowing the headset to use a iPhone or Mac to do the heavy lifting and beam it back to the headset without the need for a cable.
Release Date and Pricing
The headset is expected to be released sometime in 2023, although there is no official launch date yet. Apple CTO Tim Cook is reportedly pushing the headset to be released this year but the industrial design team are trying to fight back against this decision, claiming that the headset just isn't ready yet, wanting to wait until "lightweight AR glasses become more technically feasible".
It's speculated that the headset may at least be unveiled at the WWDC 2023 event in June.
Between analysts Kuo and Gurman, it's estimated that the price could be as high as $3000 or at least upwards of $2000.
The headset may also be a bit hard to purchase as Apple may only ship about $250,000 worth of units, or one headset per retail store.
Overall, Apple's AR/VR headset is shaping up to be a highly anticipated and innovative device that could change the way we interact with digital content. While we don't know all the details yet, we can't wait to see what Apple has in store for us.