Apple's AR headset could be powered by 'realityOS'

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

Apple has been long rumored to have an interest in both virtual and augmented reality, and the expectation is that the company will launch a VR/AR headset next year, with AR-focused Apple Glasses following at some point afterwards. 

A whole new form factor requires a tweaked operating system, and it looks like that’s what Apple will be providing, with iOS developer Rens Verhoeven spotting a reference to “realityOS” in App Store upload logs. 

“This at least confirms it 1) has its own OS & binaries and, 2) has a realityOS simulator,” added another developer, Steve Troughton-Smith. Although he did go on to add that this “could just be a remnant of somebody’s pull request from a fake account.”

But one thing we can be reasonably sure of is that this isn’t a code name. Not only because the whole point of code names is to hide a product’s purpose, but because Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported back in 2017 that the operating system was called “Oak” internally at Apple.

Add to that the fact that the naming convention matches Apple’s other operating systems — think iOS, macOS, iPadOS, tvOS and watchOS — and it seems likely that this is an official Apple name. Though, of course, such things are subject to change, especially when we’re so far off from a product being officially unveiled.

While we had previously heard that Apple’s VR/AR headset would be with us this year, the latest reports suggest it’s now a 2023 product with Apple possibly struggling with the thermal challenge of offering M1 Pro level graphical output in a headset. This problem could potentially be sidestepped if the headset piggybacks off other hardware, like a Mac or iPhone, but there have been conflicting reports as to whether Apple will ultimately go down that route.

The smart glasses — something that Apple apparently views as replacing the iPhone in the next decade — are further away still. And that’s perhaps unsurprising given the need to get the form factor right for mass adoption at the first attempt. The last thing Apple wants is for its next big thing to end up next to Google Glass on the tech scrapheap due to an underwhelming first iteration. 

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.