Apple will rely on “realistic” FaceTime calls and content to sell its mixed reality headsets
To sell its mixed reality “Reality Pro” headset, Apple will have two two-point arguments: “realistic” FaceTime calls and content consulting. At least that’s what Mark Gurman said tonight Bloomberg : he expects production to start next month in China, with marketing probably only concerning the United States initially ? for around $3000 ?.
Suffice it to say that the goal of 1 million units sold in the first year – this is Apple’s forecast – seems pretty optimistic. But the manufacturer hopes to take the share thanks to the very advanced FaceTime function: it allows you to communicate with correspondents who are virtual but reproduced in a realistic way. Therefore it will be very different from the experience that Meta offers where cartoon avatars chat in virtual spaces.
Apple’s mixed reality headset will launch in the spring and be released in the fall
However, this realistic user rendering will only be a discussion between two people. For group conversations, you’ll have to settle for Memos or icons. Another part of Apple’s argument will be based on content. Apple will enlist half a dozen partners to produce content (including Disney and Dolby), while Apple TV+ will also be involved.
Users will have the impression of watching a movie on a giant screen, immersed in an astonishing environment (space or desert, for example). For audio, AirPods are required for spatial audio.
For that price, it needs to do a lot more than a simple Meta Quest 2. Therefore, Apple will consider “productive” functions, such as the possibility of making the headset as an external monitor for the Mac. Users will continue to control their computer with a keyboard and mouse (actual peripherals).
The helmet will immerse the wearer in a virtual universe, but the “skip” function will allow it to offer an augmented reality experience, that is, virtual elements placed in their live environment. The digital crown type dial will let you switch from one to the other in a flash.
Short battery life of two hours for xrOS?
The operating system, internally called xrOS, will be similar in functionality to iOS, but in a 3D environment: Safari, Photos, Mail, Messages, and Calendar will be included, as will Apple Music, Apple TV+, and Podcasts. The App Store will allow the installation of third-party applications.
The device will display a sort of 3D home screen reminiscent of the iPhone, with app icons and widgets that you can arrange to your liking. Text input can be via Siri, or via the iPhone, iPad or Mac keyboard. It is impossible a priori to type on the virtual keyboard “in the air” even if Apple seems to be working on it. On the other hand, we can point to virtual elements using our thumb and forefinger. From what we understand, manufacturers have worked hard to understand hand gestures as well as eye tracking.
The helmet will work with the M2 chip as well as a special processor (called the Reality Processor) to grind the graphics. A fan will also be integrated to prevent the machine from overheating and burning the user’s face. The latter must also carry a battery in their pocket, which will be connected to the helmet by a cable. The device will be as big as two iPhone 14 Pro Max stacked on top of each other. Despite everything, the helmet offers only a brief autonomy of two hours. Just for watching movies…
Although Apple hopes to rock the house with this product, the manufacturer is also aware that the high price and reduced autonomy will be a killer for many consumers. Especially with the general public whose budget for electronic gadgets is not as big as it used to be. However, Apple hopes that the appeal of the novelty will encourage people to jump into the Apple Store to at least test the device and, possibly, leave with the gadget in their hands.
Apple also intends to set up a “shop in a store” to demonstrate the helmet. For many of us, this must be the only way to test this product!