In the past few months, rumors of Apple's work on a top-secret headset project have peaked. At the same time, the chatter has become increasingly tangled – Apple is reportedly planning to use mixed reality (MR) instead of just augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR). But how exactly will that work? What will the device look like? And what functions will it have?
This is where this summary comes in. We went through the rumors and reports to find the latest key information and then put it together in one convenient place. Here's everything we know about Apple's upcoming mixed reality headset, including price, features, and more.
Price and release date
Numerous outlets, leaks, and reporters have suggested launch timeframes for Apple's mixed reality headset, but consensus has formed on a date: 2022. The details are tight when it comes to the exact month of release, but the fact that so many People from different sources have come to the same conclusion that it might be a good bet.
For example, respected reporter Mark Gurman said in June 2020 that Apple could unveil the headset in 2021 and release it a year later, based on an alleged all-hands meeting of the Apple headset development team. Reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and The Information news agency both followed suit, forecasting the same launch year in 2022.
The information also gave details about the price of the headset, claiming it would cost $ 3,000. That would get it to the company of Microsoft's HoloLens 2 for $ 3,500, but at such a high price point, it would likely be limited to industrial use. That seems a little atypical for Apple.
However, Kuo has suggested a much lower price of $ 1,000. This puts the headset back in the consumer market (albeit on the high end) and is more in line with what we'd expect from Apple: expensive, but still mainstream and consumer-centric.
An all-round design and lots of cameras
What can Apple's mixed reality headset look like? Given the combination of AR and VR, chances are that it is a comprehensive set that will keep you up to date on how to use the virtual reality features. Anything that lets you see your surroundings – like Microsoft's HoloLens 2 or Magic Leap 1 – would get you out of the virtual world you are experiencing. Rumor has it that the Apple device will be completely wireless so you can move around freely without being pulled back by cables – another dive breaker.
Then there is the augmented reality page. To do this, the headset needs cameras to capture the outside world and send it back to you. According to The Information, up to a dozen cameras and lidar sensors will be mounted on the device. Apple has already integrated the latter into devices such as the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPad Pro to support augmented reality processing.
However, Kuo expects there will be 15 cameras – eight for AR, one for environmental awareness and six for “innovative biometrics”. It is possible that both versions exist as prototypes, with Apple being free to decide which to set in the future.
Light as a feather
What about the actual body of the device? This is interesting as it could be a real differentiator – and an asset – for Apple. According to a March 2021 report by Kuo, the entire headset could weigh just 150 grams, roughly half the weight of many competing devices. The $ 1,000 Valve Index VR headset weighs more than five times the Apple headset if Kuo is correct. To support this low volume goal would be to use lightweight fabric instead of heavy plastic in the frame.
The Information's report also included an interesting tidbit about the case of the headset: straps terribly similar to those found on the Apple Watch Sport Band could be used. It's not the first time that one Apple device has adopted design elements from another – the AirPods Max headphones, for example, borrow the fabric mesh of the HomePod Mini and the digital crown of the Apple Watch.
An 8K feast for the eyes
Not only does the exterior of the Apple headset sound promising, the interior could also offer some eye-opening functions – in the truest sense of the word in terms of screen resolution. It's rumored to be a whopping 8K per eye, which results in an unprecedented level of detail. For comparison: The HTC Vive Cosmos Elite offers a resolution of 1440 x 1700 per eye.
Apple is said to be pursuing high-quality images in a different way, with Kuo claiming the headset may have iris recognition based on the technology it sources said is included in the device (such as the cameras used for "innovative biometrics") be) earlier). Iris recognition can be used to authenticate you to Apple Pay, Kuo says, or to unlock your accounts. Here's how you can perform these tasks without having to take off the headset to enter a password on your iPhone.
Powered by an Apple silicon chip
If you get back to these cameras, they could enable eye and hand tracking capabilities. Apple has already patented ideas for these control methods in the past, both for the Mac and for a mixed reality headset. Don't be surprised if this technology shows up in Apple's MR headset.
One thing we haven't seen a lot of news about is the refresh rate and field of view used in the headset's displays. The refresh rate needs to be high enough to keep lag and motion sickness to an absolute minimum, and competing headsets typically aim at 90 Hz or higher. We'll have to wait and see what Apple decides on here.
All of this technology is powered by a specially designed Apple silicon chip, which Mark Gurman says is one of Apple's "most advanced and powerful" processors that could potentially beat the MacBook Pro's M1 chip. Apple's ARM-based chip architecture is incredibly efficient – so much so that the M1 MacBook Air doesn't even need a fan – making it ideal for a compact device like a mixed reality headset where it is important to to stay cool (both you and the chip for you).
Apple mixed reality headset: our wish list
It already looks like Apple is adding a ton of great features to its headset, but there are still a few extras we'd love to see. At the top of the list is the long battery life. After all, what's the point of having an excellent device to play with if it fails after a few minutes? Fortunately, the processor choice is good news in this department as Apple's custom chip has resulted in incredible battery life on its MacBooks. That could be countered by the super-high resolution the headset will apparently be using, but we keep our fingers crossed.
The word is that Apple is developing a special operating system called rOS (RealityOS?) That powers the headset. Apps and games must run on this system. However, we hope that due to the common Apple Silicon architecture, some level of cross-compatibility will be available in both the headset and Apple's other devices.
For example, it would be great if the headset could detect whether you're playing a game on your Apple TV or Mac, for example, and then mirror the content onto the headset with added mixed reality goodness (assuming the game is VR- compatible of course). It would be a shame if Apple limited the headset to use with rOS-compatible games and apps as developers might be put off having to build apps from scratch for the new operating system.
One final query concerns the control method of the headset. We don't know if the device comes with handheld controllers or relies entirely on gestures. If it's the former, then it's imperative that Apple consider haptic feedback. This is already included in every MacBook and Apple Watch, so Apple knows how the technology works. Gentle taps built into apps and games are a great addition that won't break your immersion.