Apple to Announce Their First Ever Augmented Reality Glasses in 3 days… Here’s What to Expect

[Update: Apple announced the Vision Pro headset at WWDC. Read all about it here]

Apple hasn’t launched a single new product category since they unveiled the AirPods back in 2016. Sure, the AirPods Max debuted in 2020, but it wasn’t a bold leap as much as natural progression. The point I’m really trying to make here is that it’s been a while since the company was ‘recklessly innovative’, and it seems like we might just get a taste of that three days from now at WWDC.

Augmented Reality has always been Tim Cook’s favorite buzzword, and he’s consistently pushed for Apple to have a presence in this space. It’s expected that all this will culminate in what analysts and leakers call “Reality”, Apple’s first XR headset. This cutting-edge device, expected to be unveiled at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, aims to pioneer the relatively uncharted realm of mixed-reality technology. With a price tag of approximately $3,000, the ‘Reality’ headset has been seven years in the making, and has been apparently filled with controversy too, with a large chunk of Apple’s own employees expressing doubt and disdain. However, here’s everything we know about the Reality headset (or could it be a pair of glasses?) that’s set to launch this Monday.

Concept Images by Kylin Wu
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The headset’s design journey has oscillated between being thick and obtrusive, like your average VR headset, to being as slim as a pair of spectacles, or realistically, a pair of chunky ski goggles. At its heart, however, lies the innovative xrOS, designed to provide an interface that echoes the familiar iOS experience. The new operating system (which is pretty much confirmed thanks to a trademark filed by Apple in New Zealand) is set to revolutionize how users interact with their devices, presenting a traditional Home Screen in an entirely new dimension filled with apps and customizable widgets.

One of the most exciting features of ‘Reality’ is its ability to merge digital elements with the real world. The xrOS software could potentially project AR app interface elements onto actual objects, creating a seamless mixed-reality overlay effect. This represents a significant leap forward in AR technology, blurring the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds. According to MacRumors, the ‘Reality’ device will achieve this using “dual high-resolution 4K micro OLED displays with up to 3,000 pixels per inch for a rich, realistic, and immersive viewing experience.” To operate the device, the user’s hands and eyes will be monitored by over a dozen optical cameras. The user can select an on-screen item by simply looking at it and activate it by making a hand gesture, such as a pinch.

The core of xrOS will feature re-imagined versions of Apple’s staple apps. From Safari to Messages, Apple TV+ to Apple Music, users will have the flexibility to work with multiple apps simultaneously, ensuring a dynamic and engaging user experience. Apple is also set to transform existing services into immersive viewing experiences. Imagine watching videos in virtual reality as if on a giant screen, or engaging in guided meditations enhanced by immersive visuals, audio, and voiceovers. Services like Apple Fitness+, Apple TV+, and a 3D version of Apple’s collaborative Freeform tool are set to offer these radical experiences in xrOS. In addition to the reimagined versions of existing apps, Apple is likely to introduce new offerings tailored to the unique capabilities of the ‘Reality’ headset. These would include a Books app for immersive reading, a Health app focusing on psychological wellness, and a Camera app that can capture images from the headset’s cameras, promising a whole new level of interaction and engagement.

Apple is reportedly also working with a select number of game developers to help them update their existing content for mixed reality. Furthermore, Apple reportedly has a robust set of tools that will allow non-developers to create their own AR/VR experiences, even without coding skills. These user-created AR apps could be distributed on the App Store alongside developer-created apps​​.

The Reality headset doesn’t come without its fair share of controversy. It remains one of the most divisive products even within Apple’s own company, with multiple people leaving the project to move to other divisions within Apple, or leaving the company entirely. Multiple engineers have expressed their opinion that Tim Cook should wait before the product is “good enough” for consumers… a feeling that people on Apple’s board have expressed too. Cook gave multiple key executives and personnel a preview of the Reality headset a little over a month ago, one of them being credible Apple reporter Mark Gurman of Bloomberg. However, it seems like Cook’s been adamant about releasing the headset as soon as possible, although as a developer product rather than a consumer-ready gadget. This will probably help set the groundwork needed to make a much more consumer-friendly Reality headset somewhere down the line. Until then, we have our fingers crossed and our calendars set for June 5th, 10 am PST!