Apple is one of the world’s most successful tech companies. It helped to usher in the smartphone, with the introduction of the iPhone, as well as other product lines such as the tablet and the smartwatch. While it didn’t invent these gadget categories, the polish and marketing it put into its versions, like the iPad and Apple Watch, pushed them into the mainstream. Tech analysts have been wondering if Apple could do this with the VR space.
Apple is developing a mixed-reality headset, which is set for release sometime next year. You might be wondering what mixed-reality is, so here’s a quick explanation: Mixed-reality (MR) is virtual reality but the user still keeps a foot in the real world, quite literally. It allows users to interact with the digital, virtual world using their own feet and hands while still being immersed in the virtual environment. You’ll still need to wear a headset, which is unlike augmented reality (AR) where users can use a smartphone for example to overlay digital information over the real world (such as Pokemon Go).
Apple’s headset is said to be a premium product priced between $2,000 and $3,000, is likely to include an M2 processor, utilizes more than 10 cameras set within and without the device, and the highest-resolution displays ever to feature in a mainstream headset (according to Bloomberg). The OS for Apple’s headset is reportedly called realityOS, and will feature mixed-reality versions of Apple’s popular apps such as FaceTime, Maps, and Messages. The headset itself could be called “Reality Pro” or “Reality One” according to trademark filings. Meanwhile, a series of job listings, as discovered by Bloomberg, suggests what Apple has in store for the device.
One of the most intriguing of these describes what sounds very much like a metaverse. The listing seeks to hire developers who can work with a team to “build tools and frameworks to enable connected experiences in a 3D mixed-reality world”.
“You will work closely with Apple’s UI framework, human interface designers and system capabilities teams—pushing you to think outside-the-box, and solve incredibly challenging and interesting problems in the 3D application space,” it continues.
This 3D mixed-reality world sounds awfully close to the metaverses that companies such as Microsoft and especially Mark Zucerkberg’s Meta is working on. However, Apple doesn’t seem to like the concept as it’s been termed. At the WSJ Live conference last month, Apple marketing chief Greg Joswiak said the metaverse is “a word I’ll never use”.
Earlier at the same event, Snap founder Evan Spiegel had underlined key differences in how VR could be interpreted as tech products for the masses, believing a combination of phones and augmented glasses could prove to be more immersive. “The metaverse is living inside a computer,” he told the audience. “The last thing I want to do when I get home from work during a long day is live inside of a computer. There is a clear fork in the road between VR and AR.”
The specs and pricing of Apple’s MR device has been fairly confidently determined, but the exact design and shape of the headset is still unknown. The weight, shape, and basic practicality of these devices is important, but the industry is keenly watching the reveal of Apple’s device and how it’ll fare in the market. For better or worse, Apple is a brand that has a certain cachet associated with it. Many tech enthusiasts, despite the pricing, will be looking to see what Apple does with virtual reality, and the Cupertino company can rely on a core group of early adopters.
Apple also offers a different vision of VR than rivals such as Meta, while the vision itself is still not defined or revealed. Mixed reality could be a more easily approachable and immersive offering than the full-on VR headsets such as the Meta Quest offers. However, with the pricing positioning them as premium products it remains to be seen if these devices can become more mainstream such as Apple Watches and smartphones have become. Apple will need a killer app for its MR device or to make the experience so smooth and enticing that more people will want to buy in.
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