Big buzz around Apple's highly anticipated AR/VR headset ahead of WWDC 2023

Apple WWDC 2023 is around the corner and here is a sneak peek at one of its most-awaited products - the AR/VR headset.

| Updated on: May 31 2023, 14:57 IST
Apple WWDC 2023 event: iOS 17, 15-inch MacBook Air and more set to launch soon
Apple AR/VR headset
1/5 iOS 17: One of the most highlighted announcements of WWDC 2023, Apple is expected to stuff your iPhones with new features. From a dedicated Journal app, a Mood Tracker, a Control Center upgrade, increased functionality for Dynamic Island, added features for Apple Music, and much more -- iPhone fans have a lot of expectations from iOS 17. (Pexels)
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2/5 15-inch MacBook Air: As per Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, a larger MacBook Air can be launched at the event. The device is expected to feature a 15.5-inch display and will be powered by either the 8-core or 10-core GPU variants of the M2 chipset.  (HT Tech)
Apple AR/VR headset
3/5 Mixed Reality Headset: Apple's highly-anticipated mixed reality headset may also be unveiled at the upcoming event. According to rumours, the headset is expected to come equipped with dual 4K micro-OLED displays and numerous cameras to map the environment and monitor facial expressions, gesture-based control methods, and more. (Representative) (AFP)
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4/5 watchOS 10: Not just iPhones, but Apple Watch users are expected to get the watchOS 10 announcement. It may come with some important features such as a new widget system to check information without opening the app, a customizable Digital Crown, a redesign for Apple Watch Home Screen, and more. (HT Tech)
Apple AR/VR headset
5/5 Other software updates: Moreover, iPadOS 17, macOS 14, and tvOS 17 are also expected to be introduced.  (Unsplash)
Apple AR/VR headset
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The Apple AR/VR headset, rumoured to be named “Reality Pro,” has been generating much excitement and speculation in the tech community. (Representative Image) (Unsplash)

Technology fans across the world are agog for Apple's keynote on June 5 at the tech giant's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). The annual conference, which will go through June 9, is a chance for developers and hardcore Apple fans to get a sneak peek at the company's product line up and updates. Moreover, there are engineering sessions, one-on-one lab appointments, and the Apple Developer Forums, where the audience has a chance to engage with Apple engineers.

The expected announcements this year include iOS 17, iPadOS 17, macOS 14, watchOS 10, tvOS 17, and, potentially, the much-awaited AR/VR headset.

The Apple AR/VR headset, rumoured to be named “Reality Pro,” has been generating much excitement and speculation in the tech community. While Apple has remained tight-lipped about its plans, various leaks and rumours have emerged, providing us with intriguing insights into what the highly anticipated device might offer.

A look at Apple's patent filings shows that the tech company has been experimenting with virtual reality and augmented reality technologies for more than a decade. However, after ARKit, the company's framework and software development kit that developers use to create augmented reality games and tools, Apple fans have been expecting its first wearable AR/VR device in 2023.

The tech giant has also been ramping up research into AR and VR with a serious attempt at pairing the technology with Apple products. Also, the company has been hiring talent in the same space and acquiring several AR/VR startups.

Online, chatter is buzzing surrounding the release. For example, some Redditers are discussing how a potential high resolution screen for the device could negate the need for bulky Mac monitors going forward.

Design and Form Factor

Design wise, the headset is rumoured to share much in common with the Facebook Oculus Quest virtual reality headset. But could it be better? Well, Oculus Founder Palmer Luckey, who has apparently tried the device, tweeted, “The Apple headset is so good.”

That said, one of the crowning glories of the Reality Pro is that the user can apparently switch between VR and AR with a small, Digital Crown-like dial on the right side of the headset. Many, like journalist Jan Wöbbeking of Mixed, think this could be an iPhone moment for Apple, beating Meta in this arena.

Another key aspect is its sleek and lightweight design, which Apple may cut down by using an external battery pack to be worn at the waist rather than an integrated battery built into the device. The headset is rumoured to offer an impressive display, boasting high-resolution and excellent image quality.

For an immersive viewing experience there will be two high-resolution 4K micro OLED displays with up to 3,000 pixels per inch, according to reports. Apple is rumored to be implementing over a dozen cameras into the headset to track hand movements and gestures. Users can use hand gestures to interact with an item they have selected from the display, making this a gamer's dream.

League of Legends captain Akshaj Shenoy said, “The introduction of augmented reality by a company like Apple is going to be huge for the creative and gaming sector. Games which can interact with the environment and its surroundings are only going to show more development. Who knows, we might be able to see Pokemon Go make a comeback?”

The AR features will use external cameras to display the user's surroundings inside the headset. Apple's ARKit framework, which has already been successful in its domain, may be integrated to provide developers with a robust platform for creating immersive experiences.

In addition, considering the Apple WWDC is principally about interacting with developers, the showcase of the new device could also include information about the Software Development Kit (SDK). “The launch of an SDK is significant bc [SIC] it will allow for the creation of a value chain, and an ecosystem of apps, services, and APIs built around Apple's core hardware product,” tweeted Avantika Mehra, a consultant and cognitive science graduate from the University of Virginia.

Apple is renowned for its powerful hardware, and the headset is expected to incorporate a custom Apple silicon chip, specifically designed to handle the demanding computational requirements of AR and VR applications, ensuring smooth performance and a high level of responsiveness.

The Mystery of the Front Display

One of the hottest rumours is that the Reality Pro has a front display that reveals the facial expressions and eye movements of the wearer to those in front of the VR user. The feature is apparently a solution for Apple's concerns about how VR cuts the user off from the world in contrast to AR which immerses the user into his or her surroundings, a sentiment echoed by Apple CEO Tim Cook over the years

According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, the front display is indeed present in the headset, but Apple commenter John Gruber says including it was just a joke made by the Apple team. If indeed Apple has provided this front display, it will be a real interest grabber considering the likes of this have yet to be seen in the market.

High Priced

Apple has reportedly priced the headset at a whooping US$3,000, in line with its other products but much more expensive than an iPhone. Meta's Oculus headset costs around US$400. However, Apple fans online think it could be a red herring, “probably intentionally leaked by Apple so that they can set expectations and then surprise everyone when it's $1,500 or $2,000 instead of the reported $3,000. This same scenario has played out many times with iPhone, iPad, etc.”

The high price also indicates that Apple isn't directing this product at the general public yet. It's more likely aimed at developers, content creators, and professionals. When it does direct it to the layman, the prices and features might be different. In fact, the rumour is the Apple team is already deployed on a more affordable version of the AR/VR headset.

Will Apple's Headset Win the Market?

We can't be certain that this headset will indeed be an “iPhone moment” for the tech giant, but these things aren't entirely predictable. Concerns regarding the headset remain about its price, which could be a reason for it being rejected.

Headset sales dropped 20.9% in 2022, according to IDC data, which cited slow user adoption, people emerging from pandemic-related lockdowns and a challenging economic environment as potential factors.

The analyst firm also mentioned a lack of competitors in the space, and a new headset from Apple could breathe a breath of fresh air into the market.

In fact, futurist commentator Paul Barron seems to think that this particular headset might change many things. He tweeted, “Apple AR and VR is about to shift computing and #AI to a next gen [SIC] consumer technology that will impact #stocks #crypto projects and the future of #NFT.”

Also, bringing out this new headset at the WWDC2023 might be a wise decision on the tech company's part, considering the crowd will be all pro-Apple. Some people are comparing the potential reveal of Apple's new headset to when the iPhone was introduced back in 2007, amid doubts. But, of course, as we know today, it was a roaring success.

By Navanwita Sachdev, The Tech Panda

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First Published Date: 31 May, 13:41 IST