Apple's rumored augmented reality headset may support lifelike FaceTime characters.
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Apple’s rumored augmented reality headset may support lifelike FaceTime characters.

We predict Apple will finally unveil its rumored augmented/virtual reality headset in the near future. The item has been in development for a long time, and its release will mark Apple’s first foray into a new product category since the introduction of the Apple Watch in 2015. The rumor mill has revealed several gadget specifics. Much of what Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reports in his newest story on the headset—which may be dubbed Reality Pro—has previously been published.

It’s been rumored to be a stand-alone gadget with an iOS-like UI and the ability to pin widgets to the home screen. Additionally, it may function as an external monitor for a Mac computer. According to the article, users of Apple’s rumored “xrOS” operating system would be able to utilize Siri voice commands or a Mac, iPhone, or iPad keyboard to write text. Apple is said to be developing a method by which users may text while floating in the air, as in many science fiction films; however, this feature will likely not be accessible when the headset is first released.

Some of the features that are anticipated include health monitoring capabilities and app compatibility. Apple TV+ programming, including virtual reality entertainment, is said to be a priority for the business. There will reportedly be the opportunity to view film on virtual displays in settings like space or a desert, and Apple is said to have already conducted discussions with Disney, Dolby, and other media partners about virtual reality content. To get the full spatial audio experience, users may need to use headphones like as AirPods. Playing games on the gadget might be significant.

Potentially the most appealing feature of Apple’s headgear is its ability to monitor the user’s hands and eyes. It is expected that the gadget will have eye-tracking sensors and a number of external cameras for tracking hand gestures. The research suggests that users might choose an object (such as an app icon or button) by glancing at it and then squeezing their thumb and index finger to do the activity. If this method works as planned, users of the headset won’t need to rely on hand controls, which is not the case with competing products. However, the headset’s front screen might show the user’s eyes, which could be unsettling for some.

The gadget is said to feature virtual reality and augmented reality, with the option to toggle between the two by turning a digital crown à la Apple Watch. Full-color passthrough for augmented reality usage is available on Meta’s newest headset, the Quest Pro, and is anticipated from Apple.

As a result, Apple might be thinking about its customers who need to utilize corrective lenses. The majority of people who wear glasses have complained that virtual reality and augmented reality headsets cause discomfort. It has been speculated, however, that Apple would provide bespoke lenses that fit within the headset’s housing, perhaps improving comfort.

A feature of the headgear that hasn’t been discussed much is how it will manage FaceTime conversations between two people. A Memoji or symbol originally thought to represent a caller has been shown to be a myth. For group calls, that’s probably still the case. According to the article, when two people are using a Reality Pro headset, FaceTime can accurately portray their faces and bodies during one-on-one video calls. Apparent processing constraints restrict this capability from being made accessible during group calls. Many competing services, such as Meta’s, depict individuals in a more comical style (and don’t even feature legs).

Since the headset has not yet been released to the public, any of these features are subject to change before its release. To counter this, an M2 chipset is expected to drive Reality Pro. In order to process visuals and mixed-reality environments, a separate chip known as the “Reality Processor” is in the works.

Apple is said to be making Reality Pro out of metal, glass, and cushions that appear like the AirPods Max headphones, in contrast to the plastic used by most other headset manufacturers. However, the battery is not integrated within the gadget. Gurman claims the battery will be housed in a separate pack that is cabled to the headset and carried in the user’s pocket. While that and a cooling fan could keep the headset from overheating, they might also provide an unbalanced load on the head. Two hours is the estimated runtime on a single charge.

Apple might announce the product in the spring, ahead of June’s Worldwide Developers Conference, and launch it in the autumn. However, many people may be turned off by the price and so not purchase Reality Pro. The headset’s estimated $3,000 price tag has been floating about for a while. That’s a whopping 2x the price of the Quest Pro!

In doing so, Apple is taking a risk on a market that has not yet been fully embraced. According to the source, Apple predicts that the initial edition of Reality Pro would not generate a profit despite selling about 1 million devices in the first year. An additional variant, estimated to cost roughly $1,500, is said to be under development, however it may not launch until late 2024 or early 2025. The cheaper version might forego the Reality Pro’s 4K monitors in favor of lower-resolution ones.

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