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Apple AR/VR headset primed to revolutionize virtual reality

Published May 20th, 2022 1:13PM EDT
Apple Logo Sign
Image: Arnaud Journois/PHOTOPQR/LE PARISIEN/MAXPPP/Newscom/The Mega Agency

We’ve seen a multitude of reports in the past few years detailing Apple’s purported mixed reality glasses. Various sources claimed the headset was in development, providing unconfirmed details about the design, specs, and expected price of the wearable. The number of reports increased recently, indicating that the first-gen Apple mixed reality glasses are getting closer to release.

A new scoop from a prominent Apple leaker now claims that Apple has shown the AR/VR headset to the board, which signals that a launch is imminent.

What are mixed reality glasses?

AR is short for augmented reality. It describes a technology that lets companies like Apple display digital content on clear lenses so that they combine with a person’s real-life surroundings.

VR stands for virtuality reality, and it’s a product that’s already widely available. It’s also widely used for gaming. Like AR glasses, we’re looking at a head-worn device for VR experiences. But this wearable is usually bulkier and it covers the user’s eyes entirely.

Combining AR and VR results in mixed reality experiences. Mixed reality devices tend to look more like VR headsets, but they also support AR features.

With that in mind, you can see why making mixed reality devices can be challenging, especially in the current landscape. That’s why Apple reportedly had to delay release plans for its mixed reality goggles in the past few years.

However, if Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman is correct, Apple has just shown the mixed reality headset to its board of directors. That’s a significant milestone for any Apple product, indicating that development has reached an advanced stage.

The board is typically the first group to see future products outside of the employees working on Apple’s highly secretive projects.

Oculus Quest 2
Oculus Quest 2 headset Image source: Oculus / Amazon

When will Apple release the AR/VR glasses?

Apple’s board consists of CEO Tim Cook and eight independent directors. The board is said to meet at least four times a year, making the purported mixed reality glasses demo all the more critical. The most recent meeting took place last week, according to Bloomberg.

Separately, Apple is said to have ramped up the development of rOS in recent weeks, which is short for reality operating system.

These developments indicate that Apple might unveil the mixed reality glasses in the coming months. A release date might follow in 2023. It’s not clear how soon Apple could start selling the gadget, however

The report reiterates claims from previous leaks that the headset will be quite pricey. It might cost more than $2,000, which is pricier than competing devices.

But that money will buy users a device that doesn’t need to be tethered to a computer or smartphone, which is how most VR headsets operate.

Instead, the Apple mixed reality glasses will feature its own powerful processor, which might be even better than the M1 SoC in current Macs. The AR/VR glasses will also feature ultra-high-resolution screens.

Furthermore, Apple is said to have tweaked its iPhone apps to deliver AR experiences on the mixed reality glasses. It’s also developing new apps that support streaming immersive content and holding virtual meetings.

HTC Vive Pro 2
HTC Vive Pro 2 Headset. Image source: HTC / Amazon

Apple’s mysterious team

Apple’s first-gen mixed reality glasses might launch some eight years after the company started development. A team of 2,000 Apple employees has supposedly been working on the project since 2015. The Technology Development Group, or TDG, operates from offices a few miles away from Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino.

Apparently, Apple planned to launch the mixed reality glasses in 2019, but it had to keep postponing the release.

The project has seen its fair share of roadblocks over the years that prompted the delays. The report notes issues with overheating and refining the onboard cameras. Moreover, Apple reportedly struggled to find compelling apps and content.

Finally, the AR/VR headset also saw internal pushback regarding the design and performance. Jony Ive, for example, wanted an AR-only experience. But that apparently won’t be possible for several more years. An AR-only device is also in the early stages of development, according to Bloomberg.

Apple has reportedly used the HTC Vive VR headset to test its AR software during the early stages of development. Then, it designed a scaled-down prototype headset that used an iPhone’s display, camera, and chips.

More iPhone coverage: For more iPhone news, visit our iPhone 14 guide.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.