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WWDC 2023: How Apple has been preparing for launching its MR headset for years

Apple is set to host WWDC 2023 next week. At the event, the company is expected to unveil its much-awaited AR/VR headset.

Edited By: Shweta Ganjoo

Published: May 29, 2023, 09:01 PM IST


Story Highlights

  • Apple is set to host WWDC 2023 starting June 5.
  • Apple is expected to unveil its MR headset at WWDC 2023.
  • Apple has been offering ARkit for almost six years now.

Apple Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC) 2023 is right around the corner. At the event that will kickstart on June 5, the company will be unveiling its next generation of operating systems, which includes iOS 17, macOS 14, watchOS 10, and tvOS 17. In addition to this, the company is also expected to announce how it will allow sideloading apps on its platform, at least in the European Union. On the hardware side, Apple is expected to announce its first 15-inch MacBook Air and its much-awaited augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)-based headset dubbed as the ‘Reality Pro’.

Now, this is not the first time that reports have hinted towards the iPhone maker launching a mixed reality (MR)-based headset at the WWDC. Over the years, countless reports have detailed the possibility of the company giving us a sneak-peak to its rumoured headset if not make it available right away. Reports have also detailed the possibility of the company introducing a new operating system, dubbed as xrOS or simply rOS, for its MR headset for several years now. But so far, that possibility has been replaced by more reports citing delays on Apple’s part in developing a device that meets its standards.

But this year, Apple could finally take the curtains off the device that has been in the making for almost seven years now.

What we know about Apple’s MR headset so far?

A lot, apparently.

According to the most recent reports, Apple’s MR headset is likely to be slightly different from what it had envisioned the device to be when it started. Instead of having a sleek design like the now-dead Google Glasses, Apple’s MR headset is likely to be a fully functional computer that can be strapped onto a user’s face and is not tethered to an iPhone or an iPad, at least wirelessly.

The device is expected to come with two high-resolution 4K micro-OLED displays with up to 3,000 pixels per inch resolution for an immersive viewing experience. It is expected to be powered by Apple’s M2 chipset and use over a dozen cameras for tracking a user’s face so that Apple’s virtual avatars accurately represent faces and other movements in virtual world. It will come with eye and gesture tracking functionalities and be available with prescription lenses for users who need them. Additionally, the MR headset is expected to have an external battery back — something that users can keep in their pockets — which would make it lighter in weight compared to some of the other VR headset and maybe even have a longer battery life.

On the software front, Apple’s MR headset is tipped to run the xrOS or rOS and offer a host of interesting features and apps from games to fitness programmes to advanced FaceTime capabilities and if all goes right, even Maps in virtual reality.

That said, Apple’s upcoming MR headset is expected to be cheap (by VR headset standards) at all. It is expected to cost around $3,000, which is roughly 2.47 lakhs.

Apple has been weaving support for AR/VR headset in its devices for years

As mentioned earlier, Apple has been preparing for launching its AR/VR headset for years now. This is not just in terms of developing the product and the software that will make it usable for people at large, but also in terms of weaving support for the technology to integrate with its other products and services when the time is right.

Apple CEO Time Cook back in 2016 had told investors that the company was investing heavily in AR and that it considered it a ‘great commercial opportunity’, as reported by The New York Times. Around the same time, the company hired an engineer, Mike Rockwell, from Dolby Technologies and tasked him with leading the effort to develop its AR/VR headset.

Then in 2017, the company introduced ARkit in 2017 that allowed developers to use the iPhone’s camera and a bunch of other sensors, including motion sensors, to place digital objects in the real world and let people interact with them. A year later came ARKit 2 — successor to ARkit. It’s a platform that allows developers to integrate shared experiences, persistent AR experiences tied to a specific location, object detection and image tracking to make AR apps more dynamic. At the same time Apple also unveiled the Measure app for iOS, which uses AR to gauge the size of real-world objects, as well as a new open file format with iOS 12, which is designed to more deeply integrate AR throughout iOS and make AR objects available across the ecosystem of Apple apps.

At WWDC 2022, the company introduced ARkit 6 that brought support for 4K videos for providing high-resolution video support during AR experiences. It also brought support for HDR video and high-resolution background image capture and Motion Capture, that allows developers to capture the motion of a person in real time with a single camera.

In addition to this, Apple has also improved the camera technology that it uses in its Pro-series iPhones by powering them with advanced sensors such as LiDAR sensors. The company first introduced the tech in the iPad Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro back in 2020 and since then it has become a standard part of the company’s ‘Pro’ package. LiDAR sensors give these devices advanced depth-sensing capabilities.

Add to this, functionalities and services such as emojis and Apple Arcade. What do all these products, services and functionalities have in common, besides Apple? Perhaps, an MR headset?

Apple’s MR headset and its xrOS could be one knot that ties all these loose ends and prove to be another’s iPhone or maybe even the AirPods moment in Apple’s history. In any case, Apple has been readying all its products and services to stay in tune with its next-big device for a long time now and this year, we could finally see it happen.

Author Name | Shweta Ganjoo


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