Apple plans to enter a new product category next year, launching its first mixed reality headset. Rumors indicate that the next headset will support AR and VR technologies, and it will have features that will eclipse competing products.
With the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, Apple’s hardware and software led it to dominate these categories within a few years of entering a new market, and it’s likely the same will happen with augmented and virtual reality. We’ve rounded up 10 supposed features for the AR/VR headset that will set it apart from its competition.
4K micro-OLED displays
Apple uses two high resolution 4K micro-OLED displays from Sony which are said to have up to 3,000 pixels per inch. Comparatively, Meta’s new top-of-the-line Quest Pro has LCD screens, so Apple is going to offer much more advanced display technology.
Micro-OLED displays are built directly on chip wafers rather than on a glass substrate, allowing for a thinner, smaller, and lighter display that is also more energy efficient compared to LCDs and other alternatives.
Apple’s design will block peripheral light and the display quality will be adjusted for peripheral vision to reduce the processing power needed to operate the device. Apple will be able to reduce graphical fidelity at headset peripherals with the implemented eye tracking feature.
More than a dozen cameras
Apple equips its AR/VR headset with more than a dozen cameras, which will capture motion to translate real-world motion into virtual motion. We say we have two downward-facing cameras to specifically capture leg movement, which will be a unique feature that will allow for more accurate movement tracking.
The cameras will be able to map the environment, accurately detecting surfaces, edges and room dimensions, as well as people and other objects. The cameras may also be able to do things like enhance the little guy, and they’ll be able to track body movement.
For privacy and security, the AR/VR headset integrate an iris scanner which can read the user’s eye pattern, allowing an iris scan to be used in place of a password and for payment authentication.
Iris scanning on the AR/VR headset will look like Face ID and Touch ID on iPhone, iPad and Mac. This could allow two people to use the same headset, and it’s a feature not available on competing headsets like Meta’s new Quest Pro.
Facial expression tracking
The AR/VR headset cameras will be able to interpret facial expressions, translating them into virtual avatars. So if you smile or frown in real life, your virtual avatar will make the same expression in various apps, similar to how the TrueDepth camera system works with Memoji and Animoji on iPhone and iPad.
Thin and light design
Apple is aiming for comfort, and the AR/VR headset is said to be made from mesh fabric and aluminum, making it much lighter and thinner than other mixed reality headsets on the market. Apple wants the weight to be around 200 grams, which is much lighter than Meta’s 722-gram Quest Pro.
In March 2021, Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo said current prototypes were about 200 to 300 grams.
3D sensing modules will detect hand gestures for control purposes, and there will be skin sensing. Apple will allow voice control and AR/VR headset will support Siri like other Apple devices. Apple has tested a finger-worn thimble-like device, but it’s not yet clear what kind of input methods we’ll get with the new device.
The mesh fabric behind the eyepieces will make the headset comfortable to wear, and it will have the choice of interchangeable Apple Watch-like headbands.
One headband is rumored to provide spatial audio-like technology for a surround-sound-like experience, while another offers extra battery life. It’s unclear if these will launch, but headbands with different abilities are definitely a possibility.
Unique app experiences
The headset will run a new operating system called rOS, aka “Reality OS”. Apple designs unique apps specifically designed for a virtual reality experience. Apple is said to be planning a VR FaceTime-like experience with Animoji, where you might see a 3D Animoji or Memoji character version of a person instead of the person themselves.
The aforementioned facial expression detection would allow the headset to read facial expressions and features, matching this in real time for a realistic conversational experience. Apple is working with media partners for content that can be viewed in virtual reality, and existing services like AppleTV+ and apple arcade are supposed to fit into the helmet.
A recent rumor of unknown reliability indicated that Apple is working on a new version of Messages app which could feature a new home view and chat rooms specifically for virtual and augmented reality chat features.
Apple silicon chip
Rumors suggest that Apple will use two Mac-grade M2 processors for the AR/VR headset, which will give it more built-in computing power than competing products. Apple will use a high-end main processor and a low-end processor that will manage the device’s various sensors.
With two Apple silicon chips inside, the headset won’t need to rely on a connection to an iPhone or Mac for power, and it can work on its own.
For more on everything we’ve heard about Apple’s work on the AR/VR headset, we have a dedicated summary that brings together all the rumors.