Apple HQ is BUZZING right now, and all because of one thing…
Their AR/VR headset.
We’re pretty certain that the wait is very nearly over, and it’ll finally come to market within the next few months.
But, as we get closer to getting our hands on a pair, the details that are leaking out are changing, and developing virtually every week.
Today I’m goingtry to cover as many of those new details as possible, including the name, details about the lenses, power supply, and specifications. I’ll even take a look in to some patents for the headset too…plus some leaks about the spring event where it may be launched.
What’s it going to be called?
Let’s start with the name.
Contrary to popular rumours that have been doing the rounds, we are pretty confident that they will be called Apple Vision and not Apple Reality Pro, as this device is an evolution of the medium of television.
The newly designed operating system that will work across all Apple devices in your ecosystem and will be called Reality OS or, possibly, even XR OS. We know that a shell company named, ‘New Zealand Intellectual Property Office’, continues to file trademarks globally for xrOS.
This new OS is both exciting and crucial. It will be this, that will mesh together your Apple ecosystem. Imagine being able to glance down at the blood oxygen reading you’ve just taken on your Apple Watch, but being able to see your blood moving, or arteries pumping…
This will be new functionality for all your Apple products on top of what they can already do.
So much manpower is now being thrown at this project at Cupertino, that the rest of the year could be pretty barren for other new, revolutionary, devices.
iOS development is behind schedule, and Apple just gave us a load of new Macs and even the new HomePod, right at the start of the year. Apart from the new Mac Pro, the only other ‘for sure’ product this year, will be iPhone 15.
This is Apple’s first new category since Apple Watch in 2015, and they know everyone will be watching – but equally, they know it won’t be perfect on release.
They’ll make sure to market the heck out of this headset – pointing out that the first owners are trailblazers – at the cutting edge. They’ll stress to emphasise that this first iteration is a platform to test the very latest of technology that this headset represents, and they’ll be keen to get customers involved. Don’t forget, this is the new, caring, sharing, post butterfly keyboard Apple – the ones that gave us back the SD card slot – so they are now all about listening these days.
That will help them to justify the initial high price point, while managing expectations about it being a fully formed product with a set market position.
It will allow for new device development and act as a ‘north star’ for the experience of future products that will follow, such as the smaller form-factor glasses when they do eventually come out.
The tech behind it all
The device will have groundbreaking technology behind it.
There will be numerous, external cameras, and these will analyse the user’s hand movements, with internal sensors reading your eyes.
Via the simple twist of a digital crown, similar to Watch Ultra, or AirPod Max, wearers will be able to jump in and out of AR/VR. In the AR world, digital content will be laid over the top of the real world.
In VR, you’ll be immersed within the headset, in an entirely digital world. Apple will offer users with prescription glasses custom lenses that sit within the headset itself.
The device will also break with tradition, and be a totally handsfree experience. There’ll be no hand-held controller options…initially, anyway, but, they’ll be working towards bringing out an input/output haptic experience to the OS as quickly as possible.
You’ll be able to input text with gestures, or Siri, or even hook up a physical keyboard if you really wanted to.
The power will come from a waist mounted battery pack, that will attach to the headset via a MagSafe type braided cable. The size and weight of the battery is expected to be around the size of two iPhone 14 Pro Max’s, and should be good for over two hours of use.
The battery-pack, which will be some kind of white plastic, will have an LED status indicator, just like an AirPods case.
We can also imagine that, similar to the bands on Apple Watch, Apple will develop accessories for the headset, including belt clips, and shoulder straps.
Have you ever noticed, that any products that Apple release, that are worn next to the skin, like Apple Watch, or AirPods, are curved and rounded…well, that is what can expect from Apple Vision.
The front passthrough lenses’ll be made from some kind of a glass / plastic material, with sensors hidden around the edge of the screen. The world facing cameras will include LIDAR scanners, sky, and floor facing sensors.
Odds are, Apple is working on some kind of clever outward facing cameras. You need cameras exactly where the eyes are for the best pass-through effect.
A magnetic connector for that braided power cable will be attached to the head-strap, and will be engineered in such a way as to not interfere with any movements – even lying down. It’ll come with some kind of self-tightening mechanism, but not much else is really known about the strap at this stage – there aren’t many clues, not even from the patents.
The most likely set of the patent applications, though, tells us it’ll be a half rigid half elastic design, so it feels more like glasses with cutouts where your ears go. There will be some kind of audio built in to the strap, but to get the full Spatial audio experience, well, for that, you’ll need a pair of AirPod Pros.
The face gasket will be magnetically removable – just like AirPods Max. The patents tell us that the gasket against your face will match the contours of your face. It’ll be equipped with a 3-point sensor system to help read your face shape, create your digital avatar, and detect any big movements.
The details from the patents are give us opposing details, however – some saying the cushion will look similar to the ones found on AirPod Max, while other patents suggest they will be more of a mesh type material.
For a few reasons, I believe the mesh material to end up being the more likely option. The mesh would be able to support, and learn more face shapes, and it could include integrated technology better, such as face shape and movement sensors. But, most importantly, it’s better for airflow to the face – helping to reduce those annoying funny red-marks and ease back on the sweat.
What do we know about the back lens and sensors?
The Inter-pupillary distance, or IPD will be self-adjusting – if you don’t know what that is, well, that is the distance between the centre of your eyes, and the lenses, and that will adjust automatically on Apple Vision – possibly with some kind of motors. There will be at least 8 user facing sensors.
There will be a secondary peripheral display within the lens or around the outside of it. This will give a field of view of at least 120˚. These inside lenses will have a resolution of at least 4K per eye.
Video calls is another area in which Apple hopes to steal a thunder from its main rivals.
Whilst Meta creates a cartoon-type avatar, Apple are looking to realistically render the wearers entire face, and body. Assuming both parties have an Apple Vision headset, then the meeting experience should feel like you are in the room together.
Initially, this will only be available for one-to-one calls, due to the crazy amount of processing power that’ll be required. Group calls will be an option, but only with more Memoji based characters instead.
Tim Cook is, at heart, an operations man, and he’ll be aware of the importance of driving wearers to their services – in particular, Apple TV. Apple TV with neRf technology could prove to be a perfect partner for the headset.
It’s quite possible that Apple is working with partners such as Disney or NBA to bring us a whole new experience.
Imagine that sports venues or theatres have the right camera infrastructure their side, by simply twisting that crown, you could be transported from watching the ball game at home, to being court side at the Lakers, or being involved in a Disney parade.
We could be about to see some very exciting innovations in the way we consume TV & movies. Technically, both visually and the audio could soon be as good with Apple Vision as it would be if you went to an IMAX movie theatre. It really could happen!
The Mac connection
The Apple Vision headset will also act as a monitor for your Mac.
Whilst Apple perfects the technology to type midair, Apple Vision will use Siri to input text (good luck with that!). This will be a stand-alone feature, and, unlike Apple Watch, won’t rely on your iPhone.
All this means that you’ll be able to use supported apps such as Photos. Safari, Calendar, Mail, and Messages, directly from within the new headset.
Gaming will clearly be an important area for this new product, and it’ll be powered by Apple’s dedicated VR engine.
The recently released M2 chip will be at the heart of the device, along with ‘Reality Processor’ — a processor dedicated to driving the graphics, and mixed-reality experiences.
Planning it all out
As you can tell, there is a hell of a lot going on with this headset. All this heavy processor work creates heat, even using Apple silicon, and the engineers were aware, that all this heat, close to the user’s face, could prove an issue.
Which neatly brings me back round to my belief that the Apple Vision will go with that mesh design material on your face, to help reduce heat as best as possible. If, or what active cooling there will be, we are not yet sure about.
The device, which will be made largely of glass, aluminium, and even carbon fibre, will hopefully be launched before summer, at a price of at least $3000.
It looks very much as if no stone has been left-unturned in the development of this product.
Whilst it will all take some getting used to it for sure, it does seem that Apple is hell-bent, on making this a high-end, unique experience.
Who knows, it could well go the way of iPad and Apple Watch — apart from the hardcore enthusiasts, initial uptake may be slow, but what’s the odds that within five years, this thing is massive!
As to when we’ll finally get our hands on this headset is still not clear. But one thing I am pretty certain about, is that the planned spring event, the likely dates for which, are either 21st or 22nd, or 27th or 28th March – won’t go ahead if the headset isn’t ready. Apple intends for the spring event to be all about Apple Vision.
A lot rests on this Apple Vision headset…in more ways than one!
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