A Cheap AR Headset? Here’s What We Know About Apple’s Foray Into the Not-Metaverse Metaverse

A Cheap AR Headset? Here’s What We Know About Apple’s Foray Into the Not-Metaverse Metaverse
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Apple is usually tight-lipped when it comes to releasing detail on absolutely anything before the ‘thing’ is officially announced. But there’s no shortage of buzz around its rumoured VR/AR headset.

Last month, we heard that the VR/AR headset could arrive as early as January 2023. Although, the timeline for Apple’s upcoming headset release is something of a moving target.

Following reports from May that mentioned trademark filings, in a state of the VR industry blog posted to Medium, analyst Ming-Chi Ku predicts that Apple’s entry into the space will be a catalyst for the growth of virtual and augmented reality, and dubs the company a “game-changer for the headset industry.”

In his writeup, Kuo predicts that Apple will release an AR/MR (augmented/mixed reality) headset with video see-through capable of providing an immersive experience. Apple has focused its efforts primarily on AR, but Kuo says its hybrid headset will “boost the demand for immersive gaming/multimedia entertainment.”

Software developers in February unearthed references to “realityOS” in App Store upload logs and GitHub repositories used by Apple. These sightings were posted to Twitter at the time by developers Rens Verhoeven and Steve Troughton-Smith.

In the above tweet are references to a “com.apple.platform.realityos” within the same block of code as an existing platform “com.apple.platform.watchos.” May reports said the realityOS name has resurfaced in trademark filings seemingly linked to the company. Vox Media product manager Parker Ortolani took to Twitter to share two United States Patent and Trademark Office filings he found registered by an unknown company called Realityo Systems LLC. The trademark was filed on December 8, 2021 for categories such as “peripherals”, “software” and “wearable computer hardware.”

While this could be some random company’s trademark, 9to5Mac believes there’s evidence that links this specific trademark to Apple. Realityo Systems LLC shares the same address as Yosemite Research LLC, the shell company Apple used to secure trademarks for past versions of its macOS operating system, including macOS Monterey.

The headset, according to Kuo, will be the “most complicated product Apple has ever designed” and consist of parts from multiple external suppliers.

According to reports from earlier this year, Apple wants it known that it isn’t keen on following Meta into the metaverse when its AR headset is released.

In a newsletter from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, we learned Apple has rejected the idea of an all-virtual world for its long-rumoured mixed reality headset. As you all know by now, an all-virtual world is the premise for the metaverse. According to the report, the very idea of a metaverse-like existence for the VR headset is “off limits”. Instead, it says the focus of Apple’s VR headset would be on short stints of communication, content viewing and gaming.

It sounds like Apple CEO Tim Cook won’t follow the lead of Facebook, er, Meta, and just about every other company that has chimed in recently to discuss the ways they can bring us closer to a poorly defined, ill-conceived future where the physical and digital world melt together via the use of VR, AR and mixed reality.

When we say ‘mixed reality’ this usually means augmented reality/virtual reality. There’s only a number of ways the device can look, but as the device is yet to be officially confirmed, we’re left to assume it will be a VR headset as you know it, but smothered in the Apple feel.

Though Apple hasn’t confirmed any details about its headset, recent reports have painted a vivid picture of what to expect. The most telling comes from The Information, which cites anonymous sources as saying the headset will run on a 5nm TSMC chip (with similar power to the M1). The headset will reportedly include two 8K displays, more than a dozen cameras for hand-tracking, and will retail for upwards of $4,000. Oh, it’s expected this thing will also incorporate 14 cameras.

But Kuo this week said he thinks the company is already working on a second-generation AR/VR headset set for a 2025 release, this time featuring both a high-end and a more affordable option.

Initial reports indicated you might require an Apple iPhone to enjoy the VR headset, but it seems this will just be the same as any other Apple device: the experience is better with an iPhone, but not a requirement.

“All eyes will be on Apple as it launches its first headset next year,” IDC research director Ramon Llamas wrote recently. “Further iterations will likely show evolution that will grow by leaps and bounds.”

Rumours about Apple’s mixed reality headset have been swirling for over a year and we’ll keep you updated as soon as anything new bursts through the noise.

This post has been updated since it was first published.