Apple’s first VR/AR headset looks set to become a reality soon — Reality One running RealityOS to be exact, if branding leaks are to be believed. And now Bloomberg has lifted the lid on some of the experiences Apple is hoping to bring on day one.
While RealityOS will apparently run “millions” of existing apps via “small modifications” from developers, that sounds a bit like using a steering wheel to play Pac-Man: technically possible, but not a very satisfying way to get a high score.
Still, that will bulk up an app store that could well be a bit sparse at launch, though Bloomberg does give some snippets about some first-party Apple experiences coming to the headset. These include Apple Fitness Plus workouts in VR, if you’re the kind of person who will feel more motivated to perform if a trainer is virtually present (and don’t object to giving your brand new headset a new sweaty sheen).
The company is also hoping to upgrade the Apple TV Plus viewing experience with immersive sports viewing for its exclusive baseball and football coverage, and the ability to watch video on virtual giant screens in the environment of your choice. If you can’t be bothered to tidy your living room, why not watch Ted Lasso in a virtual desert instead? I mean, lots of reasons, but hey: it’s an option.
Apple will also be leaning into the tedious theoretical productivity benefits of the metaverse. Not only will you be able to see full-body 3D avatars of friends and colleagues on FaceTime, but Mac apps like Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iMovie and GarageBand will all be optimised for a virtual space.
A floating in-air virtual keyboard will be provided, apparently, as well as hand gestures like pinching items to select them. For old fuddyduddies who like things like ergonomics and reliability, physical keyboards will also be supported — though at that point, you do have to wonder why you’d put on a headset in the first placel.
To jump between virtual reality (an entirely virtual, rendered space) and augmented reality (cameras showing your physical space so you can combine virtual objects with the real world), there will reportedly be an Apple Watch-style crown on the side, helping you jump between the two.
What’s slightly worrying about all of this is there’s nothing mentioned that hasn’t been done in mixed-reality headsets before, be it the Meta Quest or the Microsoft HoloLens. But, hey: there were smartphones before the iPhone, smartwatches before the Apple Watch and wireless earbuds before AirPods. Somehow Apple managed to make itself market leaders in every space, despite not being shy about putting comically high price tags on everything.
This could be testing that strategy to the limit, though. Mixed reality headsets remain niche, and a rumoured NZ$4,775 price tag is hardly going to put this in impulse purchase territory. If anyone can make people forget how dorky a VR headset looks, it’s Apple, but this might be a challenge too far. We’ll find out soon enough.