Here’s what we know about its upcoming mixed reality headset

Price, specs, features, strategy… we know more about the upcoming mixed reality headset from Apple, ‘Reality Pro’.

And if it was Apple’s new “revolution”? More than 20 years after the iPod and 15 years after the iPhone, Apple has never seemed closer to shaking up the codes with a new product release. The iPad certainly made an impression in the early 2010s, but it didn’t create a true break between computers and smartphones. The same observation for the Apple Watch, Tim Cook’s first product since the death of Steve Jobs. With Reality Pro, the Apple brand can move into a new world: virtual reality and augmented reality. Moreover, Apple will not even choose between the two and will offer mixed reality headsets, that is, combining VR and AR functions.

The American giant has been rumored for years. As always, a firm waits for the right moment before investing in a segment and launching a market-changing product. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, always well-informed, gives us coverage and a detailed report on what to expect.

Please note that Apple has not yet made its headphones official and some of the information below is subject to change. We will update this article regularly.

iOS 3D: Towards an iPhone-inspired interface

For its first mixed reality headset, Apple knows to expect a few key elements. One of them concerns the interface, which should be quite fluid and accessible. To overcome the problem, the brand tries to offer an experience “Familiar with Apple users”. The 3D interface will be close to the iOS/iPadOS interface and the headset will be able to display the Mac screen.

© Antonio De Rosa

It can act as a secondary display for Apple brand computers. Thus, it will be able to replicate many functions of iPhone and iPad. The brand’s core services will be there, such as Safari, Photos, Mails, Messages and Apple Music. The App Store will not be left behind and will allow you to install third-party applications. Internally, the operating system is called xrOS.

The Siri assistant or the iPhone, iPad or Mac keyboard can be used to enter text.

Impressive Features

Wanting to bring something new, Apple will equip its headphones with a hand and eye tracking system. According to Mark Gurman, these opportunities are a “Main selling point”. While the helmet will have multiple external cameras (15) and built-in sensors, they may be ahead of the competition. They will be responsible for analyzing the user’s hands, gestures and eyes.

Apple mixed reality headset concept
© Antonio De Rosa

After that, it will be possible to control the device by simply looking at the item on the screen to select it. The helmet can also be controlled with hands rather than a joystick. Pinch thumb and index finger will activate the task without holding anything.

Like parent company Facebook’s latest headset, it has the ability to use both virtual reality and augmented reality. When AR overlays virtual content over the real, VR will deliver immersive experiences. As mentioned above, the helmet will have two ultra-high-definition screens provided by Sony. The 4K micro-LED tiles are the same technology as in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. The helmet will be suitable for people who need correction.

Apple mixed reality headset concept
© Antonio De Rosa

The device will have an Apple Watch-like crown to switch between virtual reality mode and augmented reality mode. By enabling AR, the content will blur to blend into the user’s real environment.

Apple is pushing the envelope on video calls and streaming

Like the Meta, Apple wants to use the headset for video calls and video conferencing. The firm wants to use the processing power of its headsets to offer realistic VR avatars that can display the user’s face and body during FaceTime calls.

However, this feature requires a lot of power and will be limited to one-on-one conversations. It will still be possible to make group calls, but additional users will appear as Memoji (Apple emojis).

At the same time, the future helmet promises to be huge for viewing immersive content. Apple wants to emphasize immersive videos with specially adapted VR content, with support from partners such as Walt Disney and Dolby Laboratories. The Apple TV+ platform will be eligible for an update to work with the upcoming headset and will also include VR sports content. The goal is to give the audience the impression of watching a movie on a giant screen in different environments (desert, space, etc.).

Apple mixed reality headset concept
© Antonio De Rosa

To enhance the immersion, it will be necessary to use AirPods to take advantage of the spatial sound. Indeed, helmet speakers will not necessarily be up to par for this type of use.

Where does this power come from?

Inside the headset is a variant of the M2 chip currently found in Macs and iPads. To support it, Apple will add a processor chip for handling graphics and mixed reality. This second chip, if the trademark claims are to be believed, will be called the Reality Processor.

The future helmet would have a variant of the M2 chip. © Apple

Such power, however, raises questions about warmth. Apple plans to use an external battery rather than an internal one to prevent the face from overheating. It will be placed in the user’s pocket and connected to the helmet via a cable. As with high-end Macs, a fan will also be integrated to prevent overheating. The battery is said to be about the size of two iPhone 14 Pro Max, about 15 cm tall and more than a centimeter thick. Despite everything, we should not expect a significant autonomy, since it will be about two short hours. Very fair to see again Avatar: The Waterwayunless you have multiple batteries.

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What will it be called?

There is still some doubt about the true name of Apple’s first mixed reality headset. For now, the brand has registered the names Reality Pro and Reality One.

When will it come out?

Apple plans to make an official announcement in the spring, between March and June. If we trust the manufacturer’s habits, the presentation may take place in March or early April, but the calendar can still change. Either way, an announcement is expected before the annual developer conference. WWDC usually takes place in early June and already promises to be the ideal place to detail the software aspect of the helmet.

The headset will probably launch at the end of the year, not before September. Back to school is important for Apple, but it’s not said that this launch of Reality Pro coincides with the release of the upcoming iPhone 15. Moreover, it is not certain that we will see this helmet in France from 2023.

Indeed, Reality Pro promises to be a bet for the firm. He wants to bide his time and will launch his helmet in the US first. It will go on sale in other countries later, and production of the device should begin in February in China.

How much will this mixed reality headset cost?

Unfortunately, the upcoming mixed reality headset won’t be for everyone. The desire to offer a cutting-edge experience with the latest technology will not go unnoticed in the selling price. The Reality Pro will sell for around $3,000, and the euro/dollar conversion is never in Europe’s favor.

No doubt, customers will line up and Apple will invite users to try out their headphones. The brand plans to sell 1 million headphones in the first year of its launch. We’re a long way from 200 million iPhones sold per year, but the bottom line is elsewhere for Apple. Apple first wants to show its know-how and does not expect to make short-term profits. On the other hand, the platform can help the group to make a profit.

Apple mixed reality headset concept
© Antonio De Rosa

Note that Apple plans to install “stores within stores” to display the headset. Attracting customers to their stores is also an opportunity to promote other products of the brand. It will be interesting to see if the headset affects iPad or AirPods sales.

Can we hope for a more affordable model?

Yes! Also according to Mark Gurman, Apple is already working on a cheaper option. It will cost around $1,500, which is close to what Meta is asking for a mixed reality headset. However, this “affordable” version won’t be released until late 2024 or early 2025.

Our opinion

With the supposed Reality Pro, Apple plans to enter a segment that is still in its infancy. The AR/VR market remains a niche market for now, and this first headset should be no exception to the rule. Competition like Meta can already offer powerful devices like Meta Quest Pro, but sales remain shy.

However, we should not underestimate the power of Apple, which remains one of the rare brands that can take over an entire sector. We also see that the Californian giant is not closing any doors and plans to offer headphones focused on entertainment and productivity. What helps convince the general public of the interest of such a helmet and turn professionals to the Apple ecosystem.

The apple brand needs a new growth relay, especially since sales are expected to stagnate this year. If the iPhone remains a flagship product, the firm knows it needs to invest in new projects. It already does this in services, and now there is strong anticipation around the Apple Reality product.

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