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Apple VR/AR headset report just tipped how key feature could work

apple mixed reality headset render
(Image credit: Ian Zelbo)

Another week, another rumor about Apple’s upcoming AR/VR headset. This time focusing on FaceTime, and how Apple may handle the communication aspect of the headset — and how VR will work itself into the mix.

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has speculated on how this will work in his latest ‘Power On’ newsletter. In his mind, Apple could take a pretty novel approach to the whole situation. Rather than using Facetime with human faces, which would be difficult with a headset on, the Apple headset may instead use memojis instead.

Gurman says that he assumes the headset will be able to read a person’s facial expressions, mimicking them in the call in real time. That way there can be a fairly organic-feeling to the video call, but without having to show the person on the other end of the conversation.

Gurman also suggests that SharePlay could come into the equation, letting headset users enjoy music, movies, and gaming experience together, It’s already something that can be done in regular FaceTime, and it would certainly make sense to offer a VR-centric version as well.

The Apple VR/AR headset itself is rumored to run on the brand new realityOS — a name that was seemingly revealed in the App Store app update logs late last week. Though considering Apple’s penchant for naming its operating systems in this fashion, that name isn’t hugely surprising. 

It also leaves the door open to offer support for virtual and augmented reality — the latter of which Apple has been working towards over the past few years.

In the past Gurman claimed that Apple was focusing on the AR/VR headset as an entertainment, gaming and communications device. The first two are pretty easy to figure out, since a headset is, at its core, a screen right up against your face. Communication could lead to some complications, provided Apple wants to offer something distinctly different to what can already be done on an iPhone or Mac.

However, what Gurman has suggested would be a very interesting way to do it. Memojis are nothing new, and the technology that would be used to track and express facial movements could have a bunch of other interesting applications. 

It would be easy to speculate about the metaverse, which tech companies won’t shut up about, though Apple has reportedly downplayed its interest in the past. Gurman himself even claims the entire concept is totally off limits for anyone working on the VR/AR headset.

SharePlay would be just as useful in a headset as it is in an iPhone. After all, people aren’t always in the same place, and technology means we can bridge those physical gaps via the internet. The only difference is everyone has a screen strapped to their face.

We’re going to have to wait and see whether this pans out, and whatever else the Apple VR/AR headset might include. Rumors have suggested the headset may arrive towards the end of this year, but more recent doomsayers have suggested it may be delayed until early 2023. 

Tom Pritchard
Automotive Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.