The Apple VR/AR headset is hopefully coming later this year — maybe as soon as June’s WWDC 2023 event. But a recent patent filing may have just unveiled how Continuity will unleash the full power of the mixed reality headset.
According to Patently Apple (opens in new tab), the European Patent Office recently published a patent application for "Multi-Device Continuity for use with Extended Reality (XR) Systems." This patent is designed around the Continuity (opens in new tab) feature that currently exists on Apple devices, allowing users to seamlessly work across Apple products from the iPhone 14 Pro to the latest 14-inch MacBook Pro and more. Most recently we saw this feature used in the Continuity Camera that Apple introduced in macOS Ventura, which allows users to use their iPhone as a webcam.
Within Continuity is a feature called Handoff, and it seems that this feature in particular is at the core of Apple’s new patent application. Handoff allows users to start a task on one Apple device and then pick up the task on another Apple device. This feature currently works across a number of Apple apps, but the applications for Apple’s mixed reality headset are truly impressive.
According to the patent application (opens in new tab), Apple wants its mixed reality headset to connect with all your Apple devices, even though it reportedly won’t need an iPhone to operate. In the patent application, Apple lays out a scenario where a user with the VR/AR headset on looks at an email on their iPhone, then uses a hand gesture to pull a virtual overlay of that email from the iPhone display onto a larger virtual display projected within the headset.
But the capabilities of Handoff don’t stop there. Using hand gestures — which appear to be a key feature of the controller-less mixed reality Apple headset — a user wearing the VR/AR headset can swap music playing on their iPhone to a HomePod with just a hand gesture or even a glance. If the Apple VR/AR headset can truly achieve this level of interconnectivity, it may be the breakthrough that mixed reality needs for mass acceptance, even if it takes a generation or two to become affordable.
When to expect Apple’s VR/AR headset
Apple’s VR/AR headset — potentially dubbed the Apple Reality Pro — is expected to be launched at this year’s WWDC in June, even if units aren’t yet ready to ship. It is expected that Apple will also debut a brand new operating system called xrOS, which is aimed specifically at Apple’s future mixed reality devices.
While there have been several delays prior to this point, we are relatively hopeful that this is the year we get Apple’s first foray into mixed reality. Stay tuned to our Apple VR/AR coverage for more updates as we approach the potential June launch.