David Lewis Talking Tech & Audio

WWDC 2023 – the deal is about to get very REAL and it’s going to be momentous!

The rumours and wait, it seems, are nearly over – Apple is on the verge of announcing something big!

WWDC 2023 - the headset

And then it happened

WWDC is only ten weeks away.

The WWDC 2023 event is normally a pretty big deal every year, but it is not every year that Apple is on the verge of announcing a product as revolutionary as their long awaited mixed reality headset.

The press release landed, oddly enough, on my birthday, and it caused the inevitable flurry of interest in the Apple & tech community that you’d expect.

When & where

So, we now know the dates for this year’s WWDC developer’s conference. It’s to be held from Monday 5th June through Friday 9th June at Apple Park.

The first surprise is, that the conference is not to be in person. It had been widely thought that Apple, this year, would return to a full, in-person event. But, what they have actually done is replicate last year’s formula. That means that WWDC will mainly be an online event, and will be open to developers at no cost.

Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide Developer Relations, said in yesterday’s press release that;

“WWDC23 is going to be our biggest and most exciting yet, and we can’t wait to see many of you online and in person at this very special event!”

On the first day of WWDC, Apple will host an all-day, special meeting for a handful of developers & students. Those in attendance on the day will be able to watch first-hand, both the keynote, and State of the Union pre-recorded videos. They’ll also meet some Apple employees, and attend the Apple Design Awards.

The random lottery that will decide who is in attendance, is open to current Apple Developer Program members, Apple Entrepreneur Camp alumni, prior Swift Student Challenge winners, and current Apple Developer Enterprise Program members. To submit your request, follow this link.

Cards to their chest

If you’ve followed this annual WWDC news cycle before, you’ll know that the pundits love to try to and tear apart the invite artwork, to decipher what we may be in store for at the event. I’ll come back to that in a bit.

But first, what do we know that Apple is going to showcase at this year’s WWDC.

Well, we know for sure, as it’s in the official press release, that they’ll be showing off iOS 17, iPadOS 17, tvOS 17, watchOS 10, and macOS 14, which are all standard, and to be expected. But, interestingly, no mention of hardware.

At it’s core, WWDC is to show off those new OS. Its intention is to get developers onboard, and excited about them, and to begin to develop their apps ahead of the full, public release in the fall.

The development of the headset though, whatever state it is in, has taken its toll company-wide. The rumours about iOS 17 had been that it was to be a bug fix, and improvement year, a ‘tune-up’ fix, similar to macOS Snow Leopard. We’d been warned not to expect any exciting new, headline features.

But recently, Bloombergs Mark Gurman had reported, that there had been a change of heart. Apparently, we are now to get “user requested features” in iOS 17.

Codenamed Dawn, the OS could include a revamped CarPlay app, that will integrate more closely with vehicle functions such as air conditioning and FM radio. And, Siri is also expected to get a tweak, with the wake-up command dropping the “hey” part of the Hey Siri phrase.

Sideloading is coming

This is the most significant change that we are expecting in iOS 17 that’s coming at WWDC 2023.

Initially, it will only be available in the EU, but for the first time, sideloading is coming to iPhone and iOS. If this does come to pass, it will be a massive change of direction for Apple. I can only assume that it is first being launched in Europe to quell the glare of political intensity on their App Store.

News on macOS, iPadOS, tvOS, watchOS, or even HomePodOS is scant – and when I say scant, I mean there have been no rumours at all. This probably links back to the lack of manpower resources at Apple – because of, you guessed it, the headset.

Is it going to happen?

So, getting back to the invite artwork, and what we can take away from that.

As much as I am not one to get too caught up in the hype, the first thing that struck me upon seeing it, was a visor. It looks about as obvious-a-clue as there could be. The ultra-thin lenses, could also depict the pancake lenses that are expected to be used in the headsets’ visor.

If it is not a link to the headset, then what could it be? A wi-fi network mesh system that they’ve been keeping secret?

If it is to be the headset we see, then, we are on the verge of something momentous. This will be the first new product category for Apple, since 2015 and Apple Watch. Only Apple Car would be a bigger step than they are about to take, by jumping in to the world of mixed reality.

So, assuming they will release the headset in June – or at least showcase it ahead of a full release (again like Apple Watch), what can we expect? Where are the rumours leading us?

Putting it together

I’d expect Apple to use their familiar aerograde aluminium, some super strong, and lightweight carbon fibre, plus innovative mesh fabrics.

All of this is to ensure it’s as light as possible – probably, under 150 grams. The strap is thought to have integrated audio. The band will be a mixture of hard and soft parts, wrapped in a 3D knit fabric – like Apple Watch bands, for the most comfortable fit over longer periods of use. New bands and designs will likely be released in the future – again, much like the bands for Apple Watch.

Since this will be a pro product, it’s likely to steal MacBook Pro style detailing, such as the curved edges and black air vent cuts. It’ll include a button and crown like the AirPod Max for quick and easy interaction.

The headset will use either a rear camera or front cameras to capture an updated view of your face. It will also use sensors in the light seal face gasket with machine learning to move your avatar face to exactly match yours.

It will use hidden cameras on the sides, bottom, and top to capture lighting information about your surroundings. All that information combines with images from the passthrough cameras to generate a light pattern for the peripheral display.

This will help increase the Field Of View, or FOV, from the reported 120 degrees, and, crucially, it’ll also help prepare your eyes for the super bright 4k micro-OLED Sony screens that the headset uses.

Finally, using an iris camera and sensors, the device will reposition the screens to exactly match your face, allowing the lens to get as close to your eyes as possible.

Wrapping up

Apple, of course, are the masters when it comes to marketing. They are class leaders. They will let us know what they want us to know – no more, no less.

If this was a steer towards the headset, then it was an intentional one, make no mistake. But, if the headset is to be their “and one more thing” moment, what of the Mac Pro?

Surely, they would not dilute the attention of the press from the headset release, with the release of the overdue Mac Pro, would they? This Mac just does not seem to fit in anywhere currently. As much as it has always been the top-dog, now, with Apple silicon, and the super powerful Mac Studio, it’s place at the top of the pile seems to be at risk.

Will it now just meekly be released via the pressroom? Will they just gracefully retire it? It is so long overdue now, its future seems confused at best, or at worst, in jeopardy.

Whatever, come 6pm BST, on Monday 5th June – I know where I’ll be. One way or another, this is going to be an exceptional WWDC!

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