“Apple Reality” headset rumours abound!
There will always be rumours flying about the world’s most valuable company, but when it comes to the Metaverse, Apple appears to be following the familiar, tried, and tested strategy that has got them where they are today. Specifically, to deploy innovative, premium products into existing, established markets. Think the introduction of the iPod into the mp3 player market, and the launch of the iPhone into the mobile phone market, both innovative, premium products that blew the competition completely out of the water. So, it’s understandable that there’s a significant degree of excitement and speculation around an Apple headset. But what will it look like? What will it do? And, more importantly, when will The Metabite be able to get our hands on one?
As to what it will look like, Apple has a very specific aesthetic, pioneered by previous Chief Design Officer Jony Ive. Ive was instrumental in designing the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad, and was inspired by legendary industrial designer Dieter Rams, who's "less but better" approach can be clearly seen in the Apple product range. Ive left Apple in 2019 and was succeeded by Jeff Williams, the man behind the success of the Apple Watch, but Apple’s conservative approach to its product design is probably here to stay, so expect a slimmer, sleeker version of Meta’s Quest 2 headset. This probably means the pancake optic technology expected in Meta’s upcoming Project Cambria headset, which allows for a more compact, less bulky, and more comfortable headset.
So, what will they do? Apple’s mission statement is: “to bring the best user experience to its customers through its innovative hardware, software, and services”. On this basis, The Metabite expect nothing but the best. But what does this mean? In terms of experience this means high resolution visuals that enhance the immersive experience. The Varjo VR-3, currently billed as the world’s most advanced professional virtual reality (VR) headset, packs a hefty visual punch with 70 pixels per degree (PPD) across a 115 degree field of view. But it comes with an equally hefty price tag of around $3,400 along with a one-year subscription starting at around $800. The cheaper ($1400 for the full kit) HTC Vive Pro 2 provides around 25 PPD across a 120-degree field of view. If we compare this with consumer-grade headsets, then the Meta Quest 2 provides just under 20 PPD across an approximately 100-degree field of view for $300. Apple’s Retina display, has a pixel density of 60PPD, which is comparable to the Varjo VR-3, and so high that the human eye can't detect individual pixels at a normal viewing distance. So, expect Apple to be pitching at this level or above. In terms of immediate content, expect subscription links to Apple Arcade and Apple TV+.
A key question is where Apple will be pitching their headset. As a standalone VR device? or a combined VR, augmented reality (AR) device? Apple CEO Tim Cook has previously called AR “critically important” and it’s easy to see the draw of AR to Apple because it provides an additional sales channel for existing and new content (and Apple has the world’s largest AR platform in the form of the App Store). In terms of Apple headset additional content, expect a user interface with quick links to the App Stores greatest hits including Clips, Snapchat, ARki, Minecraft Earth, For All Mankind: Time Capsule., DSLR Camera, Hot Lava, Apollo’s Moon Shot AR, IKEA Place, AR Quick Look, and Museum Alive.
And when can we expect to be able to get our hands on an “Apple Reality” headset? Well, it’s currently anticipated later this year, or sometime in 2023, depending on your sources (we're opting for the latter or even later, as a result of the ongoing global chip shortage). One key consideration will likely be the release date of Meta’s Project Cambria headset, which is billed as a more powerful, higher specification, higher price point alternative to Meta’s existing Quest 2 headset, placing it right in Apple product territory. This could come as soon as the latter half of 2022 – Meta’s recent distancing from big Metaverse conferences would suggest it’s in full development mode, focusing on hitting a big announcement milestone.
The day Apple launches a VR headset should be a very good day for the future of the Metaverse. When the world’s most valuable company joins the party, it’s probably a party worth going to.
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