Apple's Mixed Reality Headset to Feature iOS-Like Interface, Advanced Hand Tracking, and Will Work as Second Display for Mac
The AR/VR headset that Apple has been working on for years now is set to launch in 2023, which means rumors about the device are picking up. Bloomberg today shared some information on the headset's interface, the apps it will feature, and how it will work.
Apple's mixed reality headset will have an "iOS-like" interface that will include "many functions" available on the iPhone and iPad, with the headset also able to serve as an external display for a connected Mac. Users will be able to see their Mac's display in VR, controlling the Mac with a physical keyboard and trackpad/mouse.
Using the headset will "feel familiar to Apple users," with an interface that is close to identical to the look of an iPhone or an iPad. There will be a Home screen with app icons that can be rearranged, as well as customizable widgets.
Eye and hand-tracking will be a "major selling point" for the headset, with Apple using external cameras that can analyze a user's hands and eyes. According to Bloomberg, the wearer will be able to control the headset by looking at an on-screen item to select it, then using gestures to activate the on-screen item. Unlike other headset options, Apple will not rely on a physical controller.
Likely to be named "Reality Pro," the headset will be able to switch between augmented reality and virtual reality. Augmented reality will overlay virtual objects on the real world, while virtual reality is an entirely virtual environment that shuts out the wearer's surroundings. Augmented reality functions will work through a pass-through mode that will use the exterior cameras on the headset, and swapping between AR and VR will be done with a Digital Crown-like control knob.
Video conferencing will be a focus, with Apple adding FaceTime-based video chatting capabilities and meeting rooms. A user's actual face and full body will be rendered in virtual reality for interactive meetings, with the realistic avatars available for one-to-one chats. FaceTime with multiple participants will use less detailed icons like Memoji.
Apple is working on VR content with media partners like Disney and Dolby, as well as updating Apple TV+ shows and movies to work with the headset. Apple's aim is to provide viewers with the experience of looking at a giant screen in an environment like a desert or outer space.
Apps will include Safari, Photos, Mail, Messages, Apple TV+, Apple Music, Podcasts, and Calendar, and the headset will have a dedicated App Store for third-party content. Siri will be able to be used for text input, as will an iPhone, iPad, or Mac keyboard. Apple is working on an air typing feature, but it is not expected to be ready for launch.
For those who wear glasses, Apple will provide custom lenses that are able to sit within the enclosure, and Apple is expecting users to wear AirPods to get an audio experience on par with the visual experience that the headset provides, though it will have built-in speakers.
As previously rumored, the headset will have an external battery pack to prevent it from overheating on a user's face due to the high-end Mac chips used for the device. The battery is approximately the size of two iPhone 14 Pro Max models stacked on top of one another, and it will power the headset for around two hours. An external battery will allow users to swap one battery and charge another to use the device for a longer period of time.
Other AR/VR rumored headset features include 4K microOLED displays, more than a dozen cameras, iris tracking, facial expression detection, and more, with details available in our roundup. The headset is expected later in 2023, perhaps as soon as the spring, and it will sell for somewhere around $3,000.
To get people interested in the headset, Apple Store locations will have a dedicated area where it can be demonstrated and tested after launch.