After 7 years we are just weeks away – and we are getting a very good idea of what to expect
Apple wants Apple gets
So, it all started with a NASA engineer nigh on a decade ago, and here we are now under two months away from Apple’s Reality Pro mixed reality headset becoming an actual thing.
It’s about to become real!
We are now fully expecting that Apple will at the very least unveil it on June 5th at this year’s WWDC, although it will probably not go on sale until much later in the year – possibly even next year, we will come June, at least know what we are dealing with.
Most importantly from the company’s point of view, the developers will get one precious week to get hands-on with the headset to help them develop a new ecosystem ready for when the headset lands in the publics hands.
We’ve been told that CEO Tim Cook sees this device as the dawn of the post-iPhone era, and it will certainly go some way to enforcing his legacy when eventually steps down from the top spot.
In a recent interview with GQ Magazine, he gave us a few clues about what was coming.
It’ll be alright on the night
With such a groundbreaking device, a total departure from any safe norm will surely come the doubters. Cook is more than experienced and tough enough to endure those voices though;
“Pretty much everything we’ve ever done, there were loads of sceptics with it,”
A little further on in that same article when pushed a little harder about Reality Pro, Cook had this to say;
“If you think about the technology itself with augmented reality, just to take one side of the AR/VR piece, the idea that you could overlay the physical world with things from the digital world could greatly enhance people’s communication, people’s connection. It could empower people to achieve things they couldn’t achieve before. We might be able to collaborate on something much easier if we were sitting here brainstorming about it and all of a sudden we could pull up something digitally and both see it and begin to collaborate on it and create with it. And so it’s the idea that there is this environment that may be even better than just the real world – to overlay the virtual world on top of it might be an even better world. And so this is exciting. If it could accelerate creativity if it could just help you do things that you do all day long and you didn’t really think about doing them in a different way.”
Cook is clearly enthused about the subject and realises the importance of trying to adapt folks to begin to accept this new future.
I have made videos about the headset, working closely with my renders artist Marcus Kane and going over the latest Power On newsletter from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, it seems that Marcus and I were pretty much on the right track.
The wow factor
When Apple released Apple Watch it turns out they were very much backing the wrong horse with what they saw its future to be.
Believe it or not, on stage in 2014 Tim Cook said that Apple Watch was ”a highly accurate timepiece, a fitness tracker, a way to send personal messages to other wearers — and much more”. Turns out the much more is where the magic would lay, as we now know.
But where I can see the similarities being drawn between the now ubiquitous watch and the headset is what the developers make of it. At the watch launch, Cook said ”the list of features is a mile long and I’m certain when developers get their hands on the developer kit, the list will get even longer.” And this will be the way forward for the mixed-reality headset too – I’m sure of it.
They thought the watch would be best used as an Apple TV remote, and remote camera controller before the developers began to realise its strength lay in it possibly being the best wearable fitness tracker bar-none. Once the path forward was cast, the apps came fast & furious and the watch has never looked back.
A few of the one hundred or so executives that were recently summoned to Cupertino to take a close look at the headset were concerned that it didn’t have the wow factor that iPhone had on its release, but it seems those opinions are now changing.
Flesh on the bones
Based on some recent trademark filings we are now starting to learn what features the headset will be packed with when it originally ships. Turns out, that some of what we are now discovering, Marcus and I got pretty close to a month or so back in that video.
The initial heart of the apps that the headset will run will be lifted straight from iPadOS and enhanced for realityOS. We expect those apps to include Safari, FaceTime, Messages, Contacts, Maps and Music but they will all be adapted to blend AR and VR into the experience. And, after their week at Apple HQ in June developers should be able to adapt thousands of existing iPad apps fairly effortlessly ready for the headset.
Continuing from the success that Apple Watch has created with health apps, the headset will develop these further. It seems that a new VR-Focused Fitness experience is coming – an experience where you’d wear the headset while working out. That will work alongside another new app – a Wellness app that will focus on well-being, meditation and calmness.
Another area it seems we were close to getting right, was the immersive experiences it would offer for live sports. Marcus was convinced that Apple would heavily pull on their already established TV streaming platform that is now screening more and more live sports – turns out, as is often the way with Apple, that was no coincidence. A new portal for watching live sports in virtual reality is being worked on. Whether or not it will be ready at launch is not so clear, but it’s part of the master plan for sure.
Following in the same vein we also predicted being able to watch your favourite Apple TV+ programs in a far more immersive environment of your choice – that too seems to be in the mix.
As we predicted, the headset will be able to be used as an external monitor for a connected Mac, and this will pave the way for gaming to be a massive part of the Reality Pro’s overall experience.
There will be several ways that you’ll be able to control the headset including good old Siri, a connected keyboard, but more engagingly and interactively by hand and eye movement as well.
Collaboration and videoconferencing are seen to be natural partners for the Reality Pro headset. Virtual meeting rooms and realistic full-body avatars are the way forward in Apple’s eyes at least. The Freeform app that was launched and largely overlooked (I’ve never even opened it) last year should begin to come into its own with this ‘virtual’ collaborative future.
We predicted being able to watch your favourite Apple TV+ programs in a far more immersive environment of your choice – that to seems to be in the mix.
Connecting the dots
The big one we seemed to have got pretty much spot on is the way the headset will be powered and more importantly, connected to that power source.
Marcus was convinced it would have to have an external battery. He was certain it would be a hip-mounted pack that would connect via a cable to the headset via a small MagSafe puck.
We predicted that the interchangeable battery would offer around two hours of use and be the size of a couple of iPhones.
The important thing for Apple will be to hit the ground running.
The public is already sceptical, and Apple won’t be given much grace in getting the ‘vibe’ of the headset right. Meta has felt firsthand how fickle public reaction can be – particularly when it comes to walking into the new AR/VR territory.
That week in June at WWDC is going to prove crucial for Apple and the success of the Reality Pro headset. The opportunity to gather together as many developers as possible and give them as much time as possible with it will prove invaluable.
Apple will want to have a decent ecosystem built for the public launch. And this time round, unlike with the Watch, they will be looking and listening and reacting quickly to what the public is saying.
There will only be one bite at this particular apple.
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