Update: Not everyone at Apple was on board with the Apple VR/AR headset, and at least two Industrial Design team members left as a result
The rumored Apple AR/VR headset might've just passed a major milestone, bringing it closer to an official launch. A prototype was shown to Apple investors last week, according to a new report.
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman (opens in new tab) said the demonstration indicates "development of the device has reached an advanced stage." Gurman's sources said the headset's software is being worked on and will be called rOS — r for "reality."
Speculation about an Apple headset started several years ago, but reports ramped up starting last year. Previous intel pointed to a 2022 or 2023 debut, though delays seemed inevitable.
If investors in fact witnessed a functional prototype, it seems like the the mixed-reality headset could be viable for sale by late this year or early next year. Though there's no way to know whether the demo unit was operational or just a design dummy.
As we're nearing WWDC, we might anticipate AR-related announcements during the keynote. But we don't think Apple would first unveil the software for an entirely new hardware category for the company. It would likely launch both the device and its operating system at the same time.
What we know about the Apple headset
According to Bloomberg's reporting, the Apple AR/VR headset is being worked on by a team of about 2,000 employees. It's powered by a "variation of the M1 chip" that appears in the MacBook Air M1 and MacBook Pro M1, and the headset also packs ultra-high-resolution screens.
Apple has apparently faced a number of challenges during development, including overheating and refining the device's on-board cameras. This, along with some high-profile departures, led to several delays along the way.
The new headset would go up against Meta's Project Cambria headset, which is expected to cost north of $800. Apple's headset could cost "upwards of $2,000."
Mixed signals on Apple AR/VR headset launch timing
On Thursday we reported the Apple’s VR/AR headset launch could be some way off, according to insights from The Information (opens in new tab). The Information allegedly spoke with 10 sources with knowledge of Apple's headset journey, who say multiple factors have delayed the project's progress. Competing for resources shared between Apple's other hardware division has apparently proved a challenge, as has agreeing on a design.
The Information's intel makes it seem the headset isn't ready for paying customers, but there are other Apple AR/VR headset launch timing rumors to consider. Analyst Jeff Pu of Haitong International Securities said the headset reveal could happen next year, while Bloomberg's Mark Gurman said Apple could announce it this year and launch it sometime in 2023. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has remained firm on a 2023 release.
If there's one thing we know for certain, it's that Apple will not launch a headset until it works as desired and integrates with other Apple devices, as the company's customers have come to expect. Even with the best VR headsets like the Meta Quest 2 old news by this point, Apple presumably cares more about getting it right than getting it in stores.
Apple's VR/AR headset will be one of the company's biggest announcements ever. Yes, even with the iPhone 14 on the horizon, because it would be an entirely new product category for Apple.