Apple’s upcoming mixed reality headset has been the subject of many reports and rumors over the past few years—that’s just the nature of the Cupertino-based black box. Now a new report from the Financial Times alleges we may see the company’s first XR device unveiled this summer.

The headset, which is still unnamed, is allegedly nearing its big unveiling, which is said to take place in June 2023, or around when the company traditionally holds its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).

The report maintains Apple CEO Tim Cook is the principal force pushing the device’s launch forward this year, which has apparently been a source of tension since as far back as early 2016.

The company’s operations team reportedly found itself at odds with the industrial design team, the former wanting to push out an early version of the headset while the latter hoped to delay in order to slim down the device.

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Cook is ostensibly backing the operations team, as he allegedly hopes to push out the first version of the company’s XR headset, which is said to be targeting enthusiasts at an eye-watering $3,000 price point.

Citing sources familiar with Apple’s plans, the company is expected to only sell around one million units of the XR headset over the course of 12 months.

Relatively low sales targets notwithstanding—Apple sells 200 million iPhones per year—the company is expected to go in for a “marketing blitz” to attract prospective users.

According to a Bloomberg report earlier this year, Apple may be putting its plans to release a full AR headset on hold, as the company is allegedly planning what is described as a “lower-cost version” of its MR headset first. That cheaper version is said to target a 2024 or early 2025 launch window.

Note: This list of the headset’s prospective features and specs have been gathered from a few disparate reports. None of the below has been confirmed by Apple, so please take anything you read here with a large grain of salt:

Reported Apple MR Specs

  • Resolution: Dual Micro OLED displays at 4K resolution (per eye)
  • FOV: 120-degrees, similar to Valve Index
  • Chipset: Two 5nm chips. Includes a main SoC (CPU, GPU, and memory) and a dedicated image signal processor (ISP). Chips communicate via a custom streaming codec to combat latency.
  • Battery: Waist-mounted battery, connected via MagSafe-like power cable to the headset’s headband. Two-hour max battery life, although hotswappable for longer sessions.
  • PassthroughISP chip contains custom high-bandwidth memory made by SK Hynix, providing low latency color passthrough
  • Audio: H2 chip, providing ultra-low latency connection with the second-generation AirPods Pro and future AirPods models. No 3.5mm and possible no support for non-AirPod BT headphones.
  • ControllerApple is said to favor hand-tracking and voice recognition to control the headset, but it has tested a “wand” and a “finger thimble” as alternative control input methods.
  • Prescription Lenses: Magnetically attachable custom prescription lenses for glasses-wearers.
  • IPD Adjustment: Automatic, motorized adjustment to match the wearer’s interpupillary distance.
  • Eye Tracking: At least one camera per-eye for things like avatar presence and foveated rendering
  • Face & Body Tracking: More than a dozen cameras and sensors capture both facial expressions and body movements, including the user’s legs.
  • Room Tracking: Both short- and long-range LiDAR scanners to map surfaces and distances in three dimensions.
  • App Compatibility: Said to have the ability to run existing iOS apps in 2D.

Design Rumors

  • Outer Shell: Aluminum, glass, and carbon fiber to reduce its size and weight. Cameras are largely concealed for aesthetic reasons.
  • Presence DisplaysOutward-facing display can show user’s facial expressions and also presumably eye movements. Said to be an always-on display similar in latency and power draw of Apple Watch or iPhone 14 Pro.
  • Dedicated Passthrough Switch: Digital Crown-like dial on its right side to switch between VR and passthrough.
  • Headstrap: Various available, including consumer-focused headstrap similar in material to Apple Watch sport bands with built-in speakers. Unspecified, but different headstrap targeted at developers.
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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • ray manta

    Every time there is a rumor about apple Headset a kitten dies.
    Please, STOP, enough is enough.

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      Play Catlateral Damage or Kittypocalypse in VR and then come back and tell me if you still want more kitten’s for VR instead of more Apple HMD rumors.

  • Tommy

    Have they announced any games or game support yet?

    • David Wilhelm

      iOS has had robust AR support for years, so there are probably a fair number of existing apps that can be ported easily — perhaps as easily as downloading the latest Xcode and rebuilding, depending on how the updated libraries handle user inputs.

      On that note, however, Apple has quite a reputation for requiring developers to update application builds simply to maintain OS and Store support. Hard to beat the PC in terms of backwards compatibility and LTS, imo.

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      Sort of. At Gamescom 2022 Owlchemy Labs of Job Simulator/Vacation Simulator/Virtual Rick-ality fame showed a teaser for an unnamed, hand-tracking only multiplayer game. Commenting on the input technology their CEO said

      “Hand tracking has provided an unprecedented level of communication between players. Bundle this new technology with players experiencing our quirky worlds with friends and you have all the ingredients for a magical VR experience.”

      The COO added

      “The first time we saw and used our own hands in VR we realized this is the future of the platform. Hand tracking lowers the barrier of entry into VR, making games more accessible and intuitive to more people. Playing games is much more fun when you’re using your actual body as the controller. Ever since we launched Job Simulator, VR players have been requesting a multiplayer game from Owlchemy. Our next project lets friends enjoy the classic Owlchemy experience together, with hand tracking opening the door to a whole new world of VR interactions.”

      Now of course this doesn’t mention Apple anywhere since the Apple HMD is still unannounced, and the headsets shown in the teaser are all Quest 2. But the teaser, which doesn’t show any in-game gameplay at all, has a very Apple vibe, with three women talking to each other while sitting in different location: at a table eating from a bowl, on a sofa stirring virtual tea in mid-air and outside on a beach, chilling on a lounge chair. They discuss an object they found in VR, then the woman on the sofa puts down her virtual tea, pokes the invisible object, lifts it with two fingers and finally grabs it with both hands and leads it to her mouth to eat it, while the other two yell that she shouldn’t.

      That pretty much the whole teaser. Not only does this play well with Apple’s critique that VR is mostly an isolated experience by emphasizing the collective exploration, a lot of that is also technically impossible with a Quest. The most trivial being using a Quest outside during a bright day, which will cause the tracking to fail due to all the environmental IR light, but also all the delicate hand movements and tracking objects very close to the face. And of course there is the fact that any mayor game developer creating a hand-tracking only title for Quest 2 with the improving, but still very lacking hand-tracking there, would pretty much have to be insane.

      So my guess is that this is actually an official launch title for the Apple HMD. It would be very Apple-like to team up with a veteran in VR interface design to create a show case app demonstrating the advanced hand-tracking features of their XR device. I first tried the pre-release version of the HTC Vive at Gamescom 2015, and what really blew me away weren’t the graphically impressive WOW moments in theBlu or Valve’s “Secret Shop” demo from the Dota 2 universe. It was making cans of Pomegranate-Cactus soup in a mixer or burning a CD in a toaster while grabbing items, opening door, twisting buttons and throwing things with my hands/controllers in an early version of Owlchemy Lab’s cartoony Job Simulator.

      And this is probably also the direction to look at. Don’t look at the specs saying 4K per eye and then try to imagine Quest 2 games, just with much higher resolution. Try to imagine what interaction could be like if you weren’t limited by controllers or hand gestures simulating these controllers that are basically limited to grab/not grab, move grabbed objects or point and press trigger, which leads to a lot of games requiring either shooting something, or hitting it with a sort of stick, or clumsily placing objects somewhere at the motor complexity level of toddler toys.

      • Guest

        Yeah, I hope they wipe controllers off the face of the earth, or at least have them end up as unrecognizable items in antique stores of the future!

        • Christian Schildwaechter

          Controllers still have a place when precise and quick input is required, like when simulating hand weapons or for the myriad of “hit that box” rhythm games.

          I personally hate playing with keyboard and mouse, and luckily I also don’t like first person shooters, otherwise I’d be screwed with a gamepad, though I still should try to get used to gyro aiming with my Steam controller. A huge collection of input devices lives on my desk, from multiple touch pads and mice to a graphics tablet and a 3Dconnexion Space Navigator, a 3D mouse for 6DoF movement in virtual spaces. There are boxes with weird one-handed VR bluetooth joysticks, trackballs, a Belkin Nostromo single hand gaming keypad and a Logitech Cyberman, a strange 2D/3D mouse combo from the 90’s DIY VR days, kept for historic reasons. Plus lost of other USB/MIDI input devices spread everywhere.

          All these serve(d) a purpose, and many will continue to do so, even if the mainstream input for almost all users is and will be keyboard and mouse. Similarly I’d expect the main input device for all XR involving also seeing the real world to be hand tracking, as any type of controller will be just in the way when interacting with real objects. But there will also always be pure VR for the highest immersion level, completely isolating you from your actual environment, and there a controller that you can still use without seeing it with well defined buttons and precise interaction will continue to provide a lot of benefits.

          • ZeePee

            Dedicated controllers have a place in the vast majority of games, period.

            Hand tracking is cool for a small percentage of game types, mostly mobile games, but for everything else, you need controllers with buttons and tactile feedback.

            There’s no way I’m replacing holding a gun, with holding absolutely nothing in my hand but air, and “clicking” thin air to simulate pulling a trigger.

            Same with a sword, a shield, anything I pick up or throw, anything I grab onto, all of it, is significantly better with tactile feedback, along with capacitive touch finger tracking.

            VR controllers are here to stay simply because for gaming, hand tracking alone is a shit idea without them.

            We’ll have controllers until its surpassed by true haptic gloves, which is many years away, and even then, we’ll probably still have controllers too.

          • Christian Schildwaechter

            There is very little point in making universal statements about developing technology. There may be periods in technological history, but never a “abc is xyz, period.”

            The games we have do not work best with controllers because that would be a universal truth. It’s the other way around, we got these types of games because they work best with the limited controls we have. First person shooters are a huge genre because you can precisely aim with a mouse and fast action hides the fact that WASD is an absolutely miserable way for controlling motion. They are popular because they fit the available primitive inputs, not because these inputs are the best that would be possible. Shooting only requires one button, and you don’t need to be close to the object you “interact” with. Any non-abstract cooking game would require a million times more complex interactions, and we just can’t do that yet, hence the large number of shooting games since Space Invaders.

            All of todays gaming is extremely poor in interaction, basically you have a main hit/shoot/engage button, some secondary select/interact/drop/special function buttons, and buttons/pads/sticks for movement and camera control. VR may add 6DoF tracking, but so far mostly stuck to the primitive pistol grip with trigger gamepad input scheme, partly because it supports the type of games and interactions people are now used to. Which compared to what humans can do with their hands is like comparing a simple light bulb to a FullHD 24bit RGB display. Both can go bright and dark, but the display can do a lot more.

            Just because our current input types are primitive doesn’t mean that others will be tomorrow, or that game genres that became popular because they are a good fit for the current input types will still be popular tomorrow. 2D side scrolling platformers were the dominant game genre for a very long time due to both graphical limits and joysticks being limited to four discrete directions and a single button. They still exist, but richer interactions enabled a lot of other genres. At one time Pong with two analog paddles was the height of sophistication, and today that may be gaming mice and gaming keyboards, or Xbox Elite controllers, or Quest Pro self-tracking 6DoF hand controllers. But these and the types of games they enable are always only the best for a snapshot of history within a certain period, and they will all be replaced by something more capable. 30% of our brain is directly involved in procession vision, and up to 85% is estimated to be involved in hand-eye coordination, making it by far our most powerful way to interact with the world. Better inputs will have to make use of that.

      • ZeePee

        Hand tracking is mostly an absolutely terrible idea for gaming unless it’s low end mobile VR games like this.

        For actual gaming, you need controllers with buttons and tactile feedback. Period.

        Controllers for VR are here to stay, even when we are able to combine hand tracking with controllers.

        Now, true haptic gloves simulating resistance could be the successor, but that’s a long way off still.

        • Christian Schildwaechter

          Well, the vast majority of all played games are mobile games, and these pretty much all work with finger gestures and do not even support dedicated controllers. You can of course declare these games as non-games, but saying that only VR/PC/Console games using controllers are “actual” games would make your statement that “actual” gaming needs controller pretty much circular, esp. considering that the “not-actual” games are now responsible for more than 50% of all gaming revenue, quickly increasing.

          I’d agree that for VR gaming as we know it controllers are by far the superior solution, but then we don’t have VR games yet where you move chess pieces by hand, have to actually assemble small objects from smaller parts, create things by sketching them with your fingers or rhythm games that require you to play with multiple fingers on a piano or an air guitar with proper finger tracking, because there exists no proper finger tracking yet. So while current (shoot it, grab it, hit it) games make a lot more sense with controllers, good hand tracking will enable new types of games simply not possible so far, and these may shift the balance.

          A long time ago mobile games mostly meant portable Nintendo devices, some of which had rudimentary touch screens, but otherwise they completely relied on integrated controllers with buttons and sticks. And while Nintendo is still going strong, mobile gaming inputs have completely shifted due to technology changes. The same can happen to XR. Controllers will stay the dominant input form for VR as long as they are included with the headsets. The moment Meta decides that there is enough traction for social VR and releases a controller-less headset relying on (much better than their current) hand tracking, game developers will shift towards new input types to reach more users. Not all developers, but many.

          And for the Apple HMD this will be the default, as they are going for AR, not VR, and won’t include controllers, so any game developers that want a piece of that cake will have to come up with new types of games and interactions that work (better) without controllers. They already managed that with gestures on touchscreens with iOS, and were well rewarded, as Apple made more money from gaming than Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft and Activision combined in 2019, and with mobile being the fastest growing games market, that list probably includes EA as well by now. VR controllers will stay, and maybe VR haptic gloves with force feedback with become a feasible alternative, but the largest part of the XR market by far will be AR, and AR is about interacting with the real world, where controllers and even thin gloves are just in the way.

  • Tommy

    I’m sure they’ll have plenty. I was just wondering If they announced anything yet.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      But before announcing games they first need to announce the device itself. I’m pretty sure any dev doing a game for the headset has an NDA at least until the device is publicly announced.

      • Tommy

        Lol. I thought it had already been announced. I guess I don’t usually pay much attention to Apple stuff. Their headset has my curiosity even though I’m sure it will be out of my price range.

  • ViRGiN

    Still better than Arpara/Pimax/Lynx R1 kickstarters.
    Those still haven’t really shipped lol

  • Till Eulenspiegel

    Mark Zuckerberg can’t wait for Apple headset to launch.

    Apple will help to put a spotlight on VR and he will also start his marketing blitz to advertise Quest Pro being cheaper than Apple’s headset.

    • JanO

      Problem remains that the pro’s bang for the buck just doesn’t exist…. Still gets its ass kicked by the two years old Q2!

      I hope Q3 really has auto room scanning…

  • Andrey

    Can’t wait for Apple’s (be it AR, VR or mixed) headset to release to see what will actually happen. Knowing all those Apple fanatics, it (this particular device and AR/VR in general) can instatly become popular just because there is a bitten apple on the device… But at the same time I highly doubt that even 10% of all those people who buy iPhones and other stuff from them will actually buy a 3000$ headset just because of that fact. Actually, let’s make it less than 5%, something like 3%. At the same time all other Apple fanatics that never cared about AR/VR will suddenly “realize” that it is a “cool thing” and will be forced to either look for a cheaper alternatives (doubt it – there is no Apple logo on it, so it probably won’t work for them) or just cry that they can’t afford it while waiting for the price drop/next generation (so previous generation device will get cheaper) or a potential cheaper version of it.
    So I, personally, highly doubt that AR/VR will suddenly go mainstream or in general will benefit much from Apple’s headset release. Moreover, I anticipate it to be the first Apple’s (and Tim Cook’s) big flop, just like Microsoft failed with Kinect at the time – even is the idea is generally great, the final realization is not. Especially because there will be only hand-tracking, so porting most games from other platforms won’t be possible (which means gaming is not their priority at all, while most of the people nowadays buy VR headsets to play games, so they won’t be interested in it at all – and that means there won’t be general adoption of the device/technology even among Apples fans). Buisiness clients – yes. People who will be able to afford it and use it for their work so that will make them more effective (earn more money to recoup what was spent) – sure. But average consumers, even VR enthusiasts – surely not.
    And looking one more time at the specs… Well, I mean there is nothing really revolutionary there, especially at the price point that high. Like, for example, even “dozens of cameras” on the headset won’t resolve the problems with hands and body tracking, because there still will be many dead zones, so the tracking won’t be seamless and still will look awkward in some positions (especially fingers). On the contrary, one of the next Valve’s headsets that will be created in coalition with OpenBCI or any of Meta’s prototypes that let you control something with just neural signals looks 100x much more promising, interesting and innovating (though that probably won’t come to market in the near future).
    But, again, only time will tell. I totally won’t be surprised if in a year streets will be filled with people in Apple’s headsets who will spend their last money on it and will say to anyone who doesn’t have/wear it at the time, that they are “loosers who are out of the future” or something while changing to another battery for their headset to work additional 2 hours. Our world is a very strange place after all.

  • Arno van Wingerde

    But getting games on their device doesn’t happen overnight, it takes a lot of dedication and time from both sides. Quest2 is a good example: decent HW, especially at 1/10 of the rumoured Apple price … but where are the games? Rec Room anybody? Apple being Apple, they will have some killer applications ready, but I wonder what… Otherwise you are getting a €3000 paperweight.

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      I doubt that there will be a killer application that would drive mass consumer adaption, as this is clearly an Apple niche product just laying the ground for future devices. So I wouldn’t expect any large scale game development simply because the sales numbers they are talking about would be small even compared to PCVR, and at USD 3000 most of these will go to the professional market, reducing the potential for game sales even further.

      Having said that, they are expected to heavily integrate the HMD into their existing iMessage/FaceTime eco system with 1.2bn monthly users, while at the time of the HMD launch also releasing new versions of the iPhone Messages app, introducing lots of new AR and chat room capabilities.

      So the killer app for end users willing to fork over thousands for a device with little prospect of getting a lot of consumer oriented apps anytime soon may be sort of the luxury version of Apple’s existing messaging and video conferencing solution. Which is still a more feasible plan than Meta trying to sell the Quest Pro as a business VR conferencing solution at first half, now one third the price of the Apple HMD, but not being able to rely on an existing user base for said service that might be interested in upgrading.

  • alxslr

    It will ship the same day as Deckard

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      – Deckard will ship once AMD releases a successor to the 2022-02 Steam Deck Van Gogh APU that is at least twice at fast while staying within the same power envelope or below it. With yearly performance improvements of about 30%, this would mean 2025 at the earliest.

      – The Apple HMD will ship when Tim Cook is convinced that the time has come to get future AR developers on board for what he expects to be the next major leap for Apple consumer devices after the Mac and the iPhone, even if the actual tech for these is still years off and they have to work around technical limits by releasing a VR HMD with passthrough instead. With Cook overriding the Apple design team pushing for a smaller, more consumer friendly version due to the delay that waiting for the proper tech would cause, this seems to be 2023.

  • FrankB

    1 million units in year one at 3 grand a pop? Doubtful.

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      That is 0.44% the number of iPhones they sold in 2022, so Apple itself isn’t seeing this as consumer device. This is a first generation AR headset aimed mostly at developers and first movers, launched at a time when the technology for a true consumer AR device won’t be ready for years, to allow creating apps and experimenting with new forms of interactions for these future devices, a process that will take years by itself.

      At USD 3000 they aren’t targeting any existing non-professional VR users, if at all they would compete with Varjo or HTC’s professional offerings. But they most likely won’t even target these, as this will only accidentally be an VR HMD, as the technology for true AR glasses isn’t even advanced enough for sufficiently powerful developer devices, as seen in the Hololens or Magic Leap.

      So the question isn’t if there are enough Apple iPhone or Meta Quest fans with deep pockets to buy a USD 3000 Apple HMD. The question is if there are enough companies interested to start working and learning on projects now for what many assume will be the next big evolutionary jump in computing platforms. Because if there are, the USD 3000 will be completely negligible compared to what the same companies will have to pay as salary to the developers creating apps for said platform that will not reach the mass market for many, many years.

      • Bob

        Apple have the advantage of “absolute brand power” which means there are obviously a considerable legion of consumers who wouldn’t hesistate to purchase the out-of-the-ordinary Apple product.

        That’s the benefit of being a multi-trillion dollar corporation with the ubiquity of their products being seeped into the everyday lives of people; they can put something out there and still meet sales expectations.

        So no. It’s not a question of whether or not there are enough Apple fans willing to part with their cash because there simply are, but rather a test of patience of Apple’s leadership and investors on the whole XR venture and the overall longevity of it.

        • Christian Schildwaechter

          As mentioned Apple expects the device to reach less than half a percent of the iPhone users, and they pointed at a second, cheaper device replacing it as early as 2025, so whatever they release this year will never have a chance to gain a lot of traction, no matter how patient Apple is.

          And it isn’t designed to. Apple actually has a history of releasing limited first gen devices, starting with the Apple I lacking case, keyboard, power supply or storage medium interface. The first Mac was very limited by only having 128KB RAM, the first iPhone only supported 2G and lacked 3rd party apps, the first iPad lacked a front camera for Facetime.

          All these devices had a reduced feature set, but the included features were implemented very well, so the comparably few users that bought the expensive first generation devices because they needed these limited features actually loved them. Only later, with improved technology, added features and reduced costs did the following generations gain traction in the mass market and sold in the numbers we expect from Apple today.

      • XRC

        AR Kit and AR Core priming respective developer communities for shift to immersive computing

  • David Wilhelm

    Spoken like a true zealot who obviously does not have a PC. Have fun with that!

  • Logik

    Feels like there’s so much Apple has to get right upon launch. Messaging, app ecosystem, launch titles, not to mention the device aesthetics and functionality. Not sure Apple has been known as a player in the gaming realm enough to pull this off, let alone successfully. I’m curious to see how this unfolds.

  • ZeePee

    There will definitely be games, but it’s not going to be a proper gaming device like all other headsets.

    Without controllers, you’re extremely limited in the types of games you can do.

    Most popular games would be terrible with just hand tracking alone.

  • Jistuce

    Antivirus shouldn’t be affecting your monitor.
    Among other things, but…