We’ve been hearing bits and pieces about the Apple VR/AR headset over the past few weeks. The headset has had a long development, according to reports, and there’s still no sign of if and when it might arrive. However, a new report may shed some light on what’s been happening behind the scenes.
According to The New York Times (opens in new tab), Apple’s push towards augmented reality has been pretty divisive. At least two members of the industrial design team quit the project, over concerns about how the headset might change the way people interact. The Times claims that these concerns have only increased alongside the rise of concern about screen time with children.
This is not the first time we’ve heard reports about this. Last month a report from The Information included an anecdote about how Apple’s Industrial Design team had various concerns about VR as a medium. Among those concerns was the belief that VR “alienated users” and cut them off from the outside world.
This problem led to the headset being redesigned. Exterior cameras would let users see their surroundings, while an outward-facing screen would let other people see the headset wearer’s eyes and facial expressions.
It’s not clear which members of the industrial design team left because of the Apple VR/AR headset. However, it is clear that they aren’t alone in their fears regarding VR and the metaverse — even if Apple is reportedly uninterested in the latter. According to Statista (opens in new tab), adults have plenty of concerns about the metaverse with Facebook leading the charge: 87% of them are concerned about their own privacy, while 50% believe it will make it too easy for hackers to impersonate other people.
Psychological groups have also spoken out against the metaverse concept and the effect it could have on kids. (via CNBC (opens in new tab)). Mike Prinstein, chief science officer at the American psychological association, says that the metaverse is particularly dangerous to adolescents — and an “exacerbation of the problems that we’ve already started to see with the effects of social media."
The negative consequences include an increased feeling of loneliness, body image concerns, exposure to dangers content “related to suicidality."
Meanwhile Jana Partners LLC and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, who claim to collectively own around $2 billion in Apple shares, have written an open letter (opens in new tab) to the company. While it doesn’t mention VR or AR, the letter calls on Apple to take a “pioneering role” and set an example about how tech companies can protect young users from the unintentional consequences of smart devices, social media and screen time.
We know very little about the Apple VR/AR headset’s software right now, so we can’t say whether Apple will have taken these concerns into account or not. Though reports have suggested that the headset will not be designed for long term use — as Facebook is gunning for with the metaverse.
Instead the headset is supposed to be in use for “brief periods," with rumored focus being on communication, viewing content and gaming. But we don’t know how “brief” will be defined, and it’ll likely be limited by both battery life and how comfortable it is to wear.
We’ll have to be patient and see what Apple has in store for us with the headset, even if we don’t know when it’s going to be revealed. There have been rumors something could be shown off at the WWDC 2022 keynote later today, though others have dampened our expectations. We’ll keep you up to date on the latest news and developments in our WWDC 2022 live blog.