Price, features, functions, strategy… we know more about the “Reality Pro”, Apple’s future mixed reality headset.
And if he was the new “revolution” of Apple? More than 20 years after the iPod and 15 years after the iPhone, Apple has never seemed closer to shaking up the codes by launching a new product. The iPad certainly made a splash in the early 2010s, but it didn’t mark a real break with computers and smartphones. Same observation for the Apple Watch, Tim Cook’s first product after the death of Steve Jobs. With Reality Pro, the Apple brand can move into a new world: that of virtual reality and augmented reality. Furthermore, Apple would not even choose between the two and would offer a headset for mixed reality, i.e. combining VR and AR functionality.
Rumors have been circulating about the American giant on this matter for years. As usual, the company waits for the right moment before investing in a segment and launching a product capable of transforming a market. Always very well informed, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman gives us the cover and gives us a detailed account of what awaits us.
Please note that Apple has not yet made its headset official, and some information provided below is subject to change. We will update this article regularly.
iOS 3D: towards an interface inspired by the iPhone
For its first mixed reality headset, Apple knows it will be expected on several key elements. One of them concerns the interface, which must be sufficiently fluid and accessible. To meet the challenge, the brand tries to offer an experience “familiar to Apple users”. The 3D interface would be similar to iOS/iPadOS and the headset will be able to display a Mac screen.
It could act as a secondary screen for Apple brand computers. As such, it will be able to replicate many functions of the iPhone and iPad. There will be the main services of the brand, such as Safari, Photos, Mail, Messages and Apple Music. The App Store will not be outdone and would allow you to install third-party applications. Internally, the operating system is called xrOS.
You can use Siri assistant or the keyboard of an iPhone, iPad or Mac to enter text.
Eager to bring something new, Apple would equip its headphones with a hand and eye tracking system. According to Mark Gurman, these capabilities will be a “major selling point”. They may outperform those of the competition while the helmet will have a slew of external cameras (15) and internal sensors. They will be responsible for analyzing the user’s hands, gestures and eyes.
You will then be able to operate the device simply by looking at an item on the screen to select it. Instead of a joystick, the helmet can also be controlled by hand. Pinch your thumb and forefinger will trigger a task, without having to hold anything.
As the latest headset from parent company Facebook, there’s a push to use both virtual reality and augmented reality. Virtual reality will deliver immersive experiences while AR overlays virtual content onto real content. As mentioned above, the helmet will have two ultra high definition screens supplied by Sony. The 4K micro-LED tiles, the same technology as a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, are persistently mentioned. The helmet will be suitable for people who need correction.
The device will have a crown, similar to that of the Apple Watch, to switch between virtual reality and augmented reality modes. By activating AR, the content will blur to blend in with the user’s real environment.
Apple is pushing the envelope on video calling and streaming
Like Meta, Apple wants to use its headphones for video calling and video conferencing. The company would like to leverage the processing power of its headset to offer realistic VR avatars that can show 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. You will still be able to make group calls, but additional users will appear as Memoji (Apple emoji).
At the same time, the future helmet promises to be formidable for viewing immersive content. Apple would like to emphasize immersive video with specially adapted VR content, with support from partners such as Walt Disney and Dolby Laboratories. The Apple TV+ platform will be entitled to an update to work with future headphones, and there will also be VR sports content. The aim is to give the viewer the impression of watching a film on a giant screen in different types of environments (desert, space, etc.).
To reinforce the immersion, you will need to use AirPods to benefit from spatial audio. In fact, helmet speakers won’t necessarily be up to such 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 cut processor for handling graphics and mixed reality. This second chip will be called Reality Processor, if the brand’s applications are to be believed.
That power, however, raises questions about warming. To keep your face from overheating, Apple plans to use an external battery instead of an internal one. It will be housed in the user’s pocket and connect to the helmet via a cable. As with high-end Macs, a fan will also be integrated to prevent excessive heating. The battery is said to be roughly the size of two stacked iPhone 14 Pro Maxes, around 15cm tall and over a centimeter thick. Despite everything, we shouldn’t expect significant runtime as that would be about a short two hours. Too right to see each other again Avatar: The streamunless you have more than one battery.
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What will it be called?
There’s still some doubt about the real name of Apple’s first mixed reality headset. For now, the brand has registered the names Reality Pro and Reality One.
When it comes out?
Apple plans to make an official announcement as early as this spring, between March and June. If we rely on the manufacturer’s habits, a presentation could 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 is already shaping up to be the ideal place to go into detail on the software aspect of the headset.
The headset will launch later in the year, probably not until September. Back to school is essential for Apple, but this launch of the Reality Pro may not necessarily coincide with that of the future iPhone 15. Furthermore, it is not certain that we will see this helmet in France from 2023.
Indeed, Reality Pro promises to be a gamble for the company. The latter wants to take her time and would launch her helmet in the USA first. It would then be launched in other countries, while production of the device is expected to start in February in China.
How much will this mixed reality headset cost?
Unfortunately, future mixed reality headsets won’t be affordable for everyone. The desire to offer an advanced experience with the latest technology will not be without consequences on the sale price. The Reality Pro would retail for around $3,000, and the euro/dollar conversion is never to Europe’s advantage.
No doubt customers will line up and Apple will invite users to try its headphones. The brand expects to sell 1 million headphones in the first year of its launch. We are a long way from the 200 million iPhones sold a year, but the important thing is elsewhere for Apple. Apple wants to show its know-how first and does not expect to make any short-term profits. On the other hand, the platform could help the group reap profits.
Note that Apple plans to install “shops within the shop” to demonstrate the headset. Attracting customers to its stores is also an opportunity to showcase the brand’s other products. It will be interesting to follow whether the headset has an influence on iPad or AirPods sales.
Can we hope for a more accessible model?
YES ! Also according to information from Mark Gurman, Apple is already working on a less expensive variant. It would cost around $1,500, a price close to what Meta charges for its mixed reality headset. However, this “budget” version won’t be released until late 2024 or early 2025.
With its probable Reality Pro, Apple plans to enter a segment that is still in its infancy. The AR/VR market remains, for the time being, a niche market and this first headset shouldn’t be an exception to the rule. Competitors, such as Meta, can already offer powerful devices like the Meta Quest Pro, but sales remain modest.
However, we shouldn’t underestimate the power of Apple as it remains one of the rare brands capable of getting an entire industry off the ground. We also see that the Californian giant does not close any doors and plans to offer a viewer focused on entertainment and productivity. What helps convince the general public of the interest of such a helmet and insiders to turn to the Apple ecosystem.
The apple brand needs a new relay of growth, especially as its sales are likely to stagnate this year. If the iPhone remains its flagship product, the company knows it has to invest in new projects. It’s already doing it in services, and now there’s a lot of anticipation around an “Apple Reality” product.