Calling WWDC23 Apple’s “most significant product launch event in nearly a decade,” a report Friday relayed new information about the event’s headlining hardware — Apple’s first AR/VR headset.
While the headset won’t go on sale for months, WWDC attendees and media can try demonstrations of it in a large new structure at Apple Park, and in future demos throughout the summer.
Apple plans ongoing demos of AR/VR headset and warns some users
Apple’s AR/VR headset — probably called Reality Pro or XR Pro — will be the company’s first foray into a major new device category since the Apple Watch in 2015. In development since around that time, the mixed-reality headset is Apple’s stab at creating a platform that might one day replace iPhones and Macs.
Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman thoroughly described the device in his Friday report:
Apple’s first headset will be an ultra-premium device made of glass, carbon fiber and aluminum. It looks like a high-tech pair of ski goggles, features a new magnetic charger for power, has a curved front with an external screen to show a wearer’s facial expressions and eyes, and several external cameras to enable video pass-through, depth sensing and hand control.
High-def 4K micro OLED screens reportedly will render bright, vivid and extremely realistic-looking virtual images. An Apple M2 chip, 16GB of RAM and an external battery pack will do the heavy lifting, although the device reportedly will only run for two hours on a charge. Available prescription lenses might make it appealing to users who wear glasses.
The hardware’s high-end specs supposedly will blow away the competition (like the recently announced Meta Quest 3). And Apple’s headset likely will come with a price tag to match. Rumors indicate it will start at around $3,000.
Apple reportedly envisions the headset being used for communication — for instance, making FaceTime calls in virtual reality — as well as entertainment (like gaming and watching Apple TV+ shows and other videos), wellness (think meditation apps) and productivity. Gurman quoted an anonymous source who worked on the device as saying the headset will be “part ‘status symbol’ and part ‘future of the computer.'”
The company also plans to unveil a new operating system, dubbed xrOS, for the device at WWDC23.
Apple headset at WWDC23
As has been widely reported, the device’s unveiling should prove a major highlight of next week’s WWDC23, which tends to focus on software much more than it does hardware.
But Gurman’s wide-ranging new report noted Apple even built a big new structure for “controlled” headset demos during WWDC23 on its campus in Cupertino (also tweeted by Gurman):
Apple has built a large structure on the Apple Park campus to provide controlled hands-on demos of the device to some attendees and media at the conference. The company has set up an area at the basketball courts near its employee fitness center.
Gurman later tweeted about another spot Apple will provide for developers to go hands-on at the event:
It sounds like Apple will also have a hands-on area in the Steve Jobs Theater – open to developers — for after the keynote — in addition to headset building. The keynote will be played in the same spot as last year but there is a new shade to cover people and prevent sunburns.
And headset demos won’t end with WWDC23, by the way. Demonstrations during the summer will have certain focuses, according to Gurman:
Apple is also planning future demos through the summer. When it shows off the device, it’s planning to focus on immersive FaceTime in VR, Apple TV+ content and gaming.
As for a possible release date for the headset, Gurman reiterated “the company has discussed release dates ranging from after the iPhone 15 [September] launch to December to early 2024.”
Health and overheating concerns
Gurman also noted that Apple may let potential customers know about health concerns with the AR/VR headset:
Apple is also discussing notifying potential customers with certain conditions that they should not buy or use the device due to the impact AR and VR may have on their health. That includes people with Meniere’s Disease, past traumatic brain injuries, post-concussion syndrome, migraines and vertigo.
In addition, the report said overheating problems have arisen during AR/VR headset testing:
“Some testers have also found the product, which is nearing a development stage called DVT — or Design Validation Testing — to overheat,” Gurman wrote.