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The wonderful Virtual Reality Headset One – Apple’s 1st headset, but will it shine?

It seems the speculation is nearly over, and that Apple’s mixed reality headset could soon be with us. So, what do we know…

Virtual Reality Headset One
image courtesy of Ian Zelbo

The not so virtual future

Virtual Reality Headset One, or Reality One, is starting to look as if it may soon become a reality.

The headset is one of Silicon Valley’s worst kept secrets. Apple has been working on the augmented and virtual reality headset for years now, and a complete ecosystem to go along with it.

With CEO, Tim Cook recently confirming that there would be no more events this year, our attention now turns to 2023. And it seems very likely indeed that we won’t have to wait that long for the first release of the New Year. An event in January is being heavily rumoured, by those in the know, and if that event does come-off, then it will be for the launch of Virtual Reality Headset One – or, Apple’s highly anticipated headset.

As the release nears, if you peel back a few layers, we can begin to piece together a better picture of what me may be getting. The last time we had a January event, it was a seminal moment in Apple’s history, as it was for the release of the iPad. It seems January events are rare then, but monumental when they do occur. Let history be our guide.

What’s in a name

I mentioned that an entirely new OS has been developed for Virtual Reality Headset One. From the trademarks that have been registered, realityOS seems a highly likely option. The new operating system is now in its final internal testing stages, and will include native Apple apps, such as FaceTime, Messages, and Maps. Some leaks have emerged from Cupertino, suggesting that the codename for this latest iteration of realityOS, is ‘Oak’.

The ‘Reality’ name-tag would seem to be the route they are taking with the headset venture. Other trademarks registered in the past year include Reality Pro, and the one I used earlier, Reality One.

The chip inside

Here, there is less certainty, and a higher level of speculation. Bloomberg seem to think that it will be a high level M series chip, that will be at the heart of the Virtual Reality Headset One. Others suggest that the M chips will not be up to the task, and that Apple will eventually use a new, bespoke chip for Reality One. It does make some sense, as it will be asked to run 8K AR/VR content on battery power, and thus a custom chip makes more sense.

Given that this product will be high-end, with an anticipated ticket price of between $2500-$3000, the experience will have to be premium, and look to blow away the competition from the likes of the Oculus Rift, for example. It will almost certainly have a market-leading 10-camera array, with stunning display panels to match. Apple is aware that this Virtual Reality Headset One will be a niche product, and are planning a more ‘mass-market’, more affordable pair to come to market at some point in 2024.

We seem to be at the start of a long journey toward the AR/VR future, with the long-term goal being a more wearable, day-to-day version of the headset – Apple Glasses possibly being the end-point.

Work to be done

Some of the above, is smart speculation, but where we can start to get a real grasp of Apple’s vision, is with their recent job adverts.

Although last month, Cook mentioned that the company were being far more cautious in their hiring, he stressed that Apple were still recruiting, but in a very specific manner. Enter the search for new staff to come on board and become part of the growing Virtual Reality Headset One team.

To understand better how seriously Apple are taking Virtual Reality Headset One, you only need to look at who is heading-up the team. Daily, the group is run by Mike Rockwell, Apple’s vice president of AR/VR. And, as if that was not enough grunt to convince of the top-brass being thrown at this task, Dan Riccio is also on-side. Who’s he? Well, he is responsible for all hardware…and reports directly to Cook.

A healthy outlook

As we know, from Apple Watch, the Cupertino company is serious about health and wearables.

Reality One could see another big step forward in this area, and Apple know that. They have welcomed back to the fold Dave Scott. He was a member of the Apple Car unit for some time, but left in early 2021. He is highly respected within the medical & robotics sectors, which would seem to suggest that Apple are intent of exploring the health options available in the AR/VR world.

Productivity

Productivity is seen to be at the heart of the development of Virtual Reality Headset One. To oversee that, is one of the companies, long-standing, go-to men – Yaniv Gur. Having been with the company for over twenty years, his past tasks include the development of the productivity apps, Pages, Keynote & Numbers.

Not all the recruitment, for the Technology Development Group (TDG), is at the very highest level. Postings for a software producer have also been spotted. The role needed to specifically include experience in visual effects, and digital content.

Another job listing, spotted was for someone with knowledge of the 3D mixed-reality world. Again, the terminology was very specific. It mentioned becoming part of a team (TDG?), and having the abilities to ‘build tools and frameworks to enable connected experiences in a 3D mixed-reality world’. This would suggest that Apple is targeting a work space similar to the Metaverse.

All the job postings also mentioned that the applicants would need to be familiar with App Intents. In plain English, this means that any developments made are Siri & Shortcuts friendly.

And when will you get yours?

According to our good old friend, Ming-Chi Kuo, the event in January, will only be a launch with which to see the new year in.

Tools for developers would ship 2-4 weeks after the event, with pre-orders for the headset starting in the second quarter of 2023 with customers able to purchase the headset before WWDC 2024.

Wrapping up

All the evidence, and all those I have spoken with, seem convinced we at the precipice of Apple AR/VR, Virtual Reality Headset One future becoming a reality.

Certainly, looking at who Apple are trying to lure to the TDG, would suggest that we are on the back-end of this device’s development.

This will be seen as Tim Cook’s defining moment in his tenure at the top of Apple. One thing is for sure, he will want that legacy to be stellar. Although noting will be rushed, I just get the feeling that the first sighting of Reality One is now, not too far away.

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