The long-rumored Apple AR/VR headset won’t focus on games, according to a trove of information leaking out about the upcoming product. And it won’t emphasize helping designers create VR and AR content.
Much of the development effort seems to have gone into making a communication tool. But the design team has reportedly struggled to live up to Apple’s expectations that it’ll be better than existing headsets.
Jony Ive made the Apple AR/VR headset what it is
The AR/VR headset will be Apple’s latest attempt to break into a major new product category. It’s clearly hoping to follow its previous course of taking a niche product and improving it to the point it goes mainstream.
But getting there hasn’t been easy.
Apple’s original vision was a headset for creative professionals to produce virtual reality or augmented reality content, according to The Information. It would have been connected to a base station running an Apple M1 Ultra processor.
After leaving the company, former head of Apple design Jony Ive reportedly stayed involved in the design process. And he helped shoot down the original concept in 2019 in favor of a consumer-oriented one with a built-in processor. However, that decision came with drawbacks.
“The headset that worked with a base station had superior graphics, including photorealistic avatars, while the stand-alone version depicted its avatars more like cartoon characters,” The Information reported.
Not a gaming headset
The Apple AR/VR headset is apparently nearing completion. And Mike Rockwell, the project head, hasn’t put a focus on gaming, even though that’s the primary use of rival products, like the Meta Quest 2.
“Four people who have worked on the project also criticized its lack of focus on gaming, a category of software that appeals to early adopters, which was important to the success of the iPhone and has been a big priority for Meta’s VR group,” The Information reports. “Those people said Rockwell’s group almost never mentioned games in internal presentations about possible uses for the headset. Apple isn’t developing game controllers for the device and is aiming to use hand tracking or in combination with a clothespin-like finger clip as inputs for the device.”
Perhaps the focus is on communication. The design supposedly will include 14 cameras, many of which are aimed at the wearer. “The cameras include those that will track the user’s face to ensure virtual avatars accurately represent their expressions and mouth movements, a marquee feature,” says The Information.
Will come with a ‘realityOS’ App Store
The Information‘s sources agree with earlier leaks that third-party developers will be able to make software for the Apple AR/VR headset, just as they can for iPhone, Apple Watch, etc.
It apparently will use realityOS as an operating system – this name has leaked out several times. (“rOS” is another possibility.)
The virtual reality and augmented reality headset supposedly underwent engineering validation tests earlier this year. And executives reportedly demoed it to Apple’s board of directors recently. The AR/VR headset could be announced as a soon as Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference keynote on June 6.