Apple readies mixed-reality headset
November 16, 2022
CUPERTINO, Calif. – Apple Inc. is preparing to release its next major product – a mixed-reality headset that it hopes will vault the company into a new era of computing. The new headset and software are expected to be released next year. Bloomberg news is reporting the headset itself is likely to be priced between $2,000 and $3,000; it’s a high-end product that will pack a Mac-level M2 chip, more than 10 cameras placed outside and inside the device, and the highest-resolution displays ever featured in a mass-market headset.
It will run a new operating system dubbed realityOS, which will include mixed-reality versions of core Apple apps like Messages, FaceTime and Maps. The first version of the operating system, codenamed Oak, is wrapping up internally and should be ready for the new hardware next year.
Another key detail is the potential name, as it affirms the high-end nature of the headset. As Bloomberg reported earlier, Apple is behind the trademark filings for “Reality Pro” and “Reality One,” suggesting that the company is deciding between those two brands for the device. The “Reality” moniker makes sense given the operating system name and existing Apple AR development tools like RealityKit.
A few job listings indicate that Apple is ramping up its work to bolster the device with content. The company is searching for a software producer with experience in visual effects and game asset pipelines who can create digital content for augmented- and virtual-reality environments.
As the launch approaches, Apple has also made two key additions to the management team overseeing the device’s development: a former senior leader on its self-driving car staff and one of its most senior software engineering managers.
The group itself is run by Mike Rockwell, Apple’s vice president of AR/VR, as well as Dan Riccio, its ex-chief of all hardware who likely sees the product as his final initiative at Apple. Riccio reports directly to Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, underscoring the seriousness of the work.
With the new additions, Apple is bringing back a former senior member of its self-driving car unit: Dave Scott. Scott left the company in early 2021 during a time when several car executives were quitting. But he returned after a brief stint as the CEO of Hyperfine, a health company building mobile MRI machines.
Scott is known for his work in the medical and robotics industries – and for getting complex products ready to ship. His involvement could suggest some health applications for the headset.
Job listings posted by Apple also imply that Apple is looking to build a video service for the headset featuring 3D content that can be played in virtual reality. This would follow the company’s 2020 acquisition of NextVR, which partnered with artists and professional sports leagues to transmit VR content to headsets.
Apple is also looking for engineers who can work on development tools geared toward virtual and augmented reality. Unsurprisingly, it appears that the company wants its new operating system to use App Intents, which lets apps work with features like Siri and Shortcuts.
“We are looking for a software engineer who will work on the App Intents framework to help design and implement solutions to unlock deep system intelligence, enable new developer tools, and facilitate novel user interactions from application data models which are leveraged by a variety of system services such as Shortcuts, Siri, Search, and more,” one job listing for the TDG department says.
The most interesting job listing is one that specifically calls out the development of a 3D mixed-reality world, suggesting that Apple is working on a virtual environment that is similar to the metaverse – though don’t expect Apple to embrace that term. Its marketing chief said at a recent event that metaverse is “a word I’ll never use.”