Apple showed a mixed reality headset capable of both augmented and virtual reality to its board of directors last week and has engineers hard at work on an operating system for the device, according to a report from Bloomberg. The story notes that while this doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll see a headset announced at WWDC next month, it may indicate that an announcement is drawing closer.
Bloomberg says there’s historical precedent for the board seeing devices shortly before an announcement. Apple’s board reportedly got an early demo of Siri in 2011.
It also makes sense that Apple wouldn’t want to go all in on software development until the hardware is close to completion, so it knows what features and software to build. To that point, Bloomberg says Apple has “ramped up development” of “Reality OS,” or rOS, the operating system that would run on the headset. There’s also another reason a software push could mean that the device is nearing its final stages; it’s easier for hints and traces of software to leak out before an announcement. We’ve previously seen rOS mentioned in early iOS 13 beta builds, and it’s also shown up in logs.
This device has been in the works for quite a while. According to a story recently published by The Information, Apple board members got to demo a few prototype AR / VR devices in 2016. The report does make it clear that they were extremely early-stage devices (some were apparently modified HTC Vives, and one reportedly had a crane to keep the headset’s weight off the board members’ necks), made mostly to act as a proof of concept and to get funding for the project. Given Bloomberg’s report that the headset’s consumer release is planned for late this year or 2023, it’s likely the one recently shown off was much closer to its final state.
Leaks indicate that it’ll be capable of both completely immersing you in virtual content, as well as adding virtual elements to the real world, likely through a pass-through video feed. Form factor-wise, The Information reported it will have AirPods Max-esque fabric mesh and a headband that almost looks like a fancy Apple Watch loop.
There are also rumors from noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo that it’s powered by an M1-class chip. This seems to track with Bloomberg’s report from earlier this year that Apple had to push back the announcement thanks to “challenges related to content and overheating,” as well as difficulties getting the cameras just right. After years of waiting, though, we may finally be getting close to actually seeing Apple’s next new category of device.