Apple is reportedly readying a wide array of apps and services for its upcoming mixed reality headset, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. The company appears to be moving forward with plans to announce its first VR / AR headset at its Worldwide Developers’ Conference in June.
The Apple mixed reality headset (rumored to be named “Reality One” or “Reality Pro”) can allegedly switch between virtual and augmented reality. It will focus heavily on gaming, fitness, sports and collaboration tools. Customers who buy the device can use “millions” of existing apps in the headset’s 3D interface “with slight modifications” from developers. Additionally, Apple has reportedly been working with “a small number of developers” for months to optimize apps for the new product. Announcing the device months before its launch should also give other developers time to create new apps or adapt existing ones for its futuristic interface.
Although many of the product’s details have leaked before, a new morsel in this report is its ability to run Apple Fitness+ workouts in VR. (Imagine a virtual workout where you feel like you’re in the same space as the instructor.) In addition, it will allegedly support immersive sports viewing, leveraging the company’s streaming rights for Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball, as well as its 2020 purchase of VR sports startup NextVR. Likewise, the Apple TV app will let you watch videos in virtual environments like a desert or the sky.
The report says the headset will have a productivity focus, similar to the Meta Quest Pro. “The platform will support its Pages word processing, Numbers spreadsheet and Keynote slide deck apps, as well as iMovie and GarageBand for video and music production,” writes Gurman. It would also prioritize communication and remote collaboration, letting users see full-body 3D avatars of people they're talking with in FaceTime calls. Gaming will also be a primary focus. However, that wasn't always the case, as today's report says that Apple previously wasn't putting as much attention into that space.
Gurman also reiterates earlier reporting about the headset, including a Digital Crown like the one on the Apple Watch and AirPods Max headphones that lets you switch between VR (fully immersive, no real-world view) and AR (using cameras to combine your real environment and virtual elements). It would support running multiple apps simultaneously, “floating within the mixed-reality interface.” It could also remember where you were in your physical environment, leaving virtual elements in the same spot you left them. (We saw that feature as far back as the first HoloLens developer kit in 2016.)
The headset would also let you control it with eye gestures that determine where you’re looking and hand gestures like finger pinches to select items and navigate menus. In addition, it will have an in-air virtual keyboard and support physical keyboards for a more tactile typing experience. Its home screen could appear similar to the iPad’s with Apple’s familiar Control Center for toggling things like WiFi, Bluetooth and volume. Finally, it will support Siri voice control and use eye scans for security, acting as the device’s equivalent to Face ID and Touch ID.
Although the product will supply a robust feature set that will elicit curiosity, other companies have tried similar things but have yet to succeed. For example, although the cheaper Meta Quest VR headsets have done reasonably well as gaming devices, the more expensive Meta Quest Pro — with a similar mixed reality focus and productivity apps — has been a tougher sell to consumers. And Apple’s version will reportedly cost around three times as much — a staggering $3,000. On the other hand, Apple’s history requires us to keep a somewhat open mind: There were MP3 players before the iPod, smartphones before the iPhone and smartwatches before the Apple Watch. Those competing devices all had similar features but failed to capture the public’s imagination in the same way as Apple’s stylish and user-friendly variants.
Even if the product targets a niche audience, it could serve a purpose as a consumer-facing transition product pointing toward an eventual pair of AR glasses that passes for a regular pair of prescription frames. Seen by many in the industry as the holy grail of mixed reality, such a device could be worn all day out in the world, while the upcoming mixed reality headset expected in June would not.