Apple Inc (AAPL.O) is expected to unveil a mixed-reality headset at its annual software developer conference on Monday, its first big move into a new product category since the introduction of the Apple Watch nine years ago. The launch will see the iPhone maker test a market crowded with devices that have yet to gain traction with consumers and put it in direct competition with Facebook-owner Meta Platforms (META.O), which has poured billions into improving its virtual reality (VR) technology and its developing augmented reality (AR) applications.
The headset is expected to be sleekly designed and able to toggle between entirely virtual options and experiences that blur the line between the real world and what’s displayed on its display, a mix known as augmented reality or AR. This could give the headset a broader appeal than devices such as Samsung’s (SSNLF.O) VR headset, which requires a separate controller.
The device is also rumored to have advanced hand tracking and sensors that can read the user’s eyes to make switching between AR and VR easy. It will also likely use a new version of the company’s M2 processor, first introduced in the 2020 iPad Pro and iPhone models. This could help it stand out from the headsets requiring external controllers. In addition, a report by Ming-Chi Kuo in December 2021 suggested the headset would have 15 cameras, including eight to detect the environment and six to capture facial features for identification.
Another rumor suggests the headset will have a display that can show a digital representation of the user in one-on-one FaceTime calls, which could add to its social appeal. A display that can see your eyes and read your expressions is also essential for making the headset feel more natural.
But there are reasons that many analysts believe a headset from Apple will need help to attract a broad audience. For starters, the device is expected to cost around $3,000. While Apple may be able to sell plenty of the units at this price, it’s unlikely that it will reach mass appeal.
The delay in announcing the headset also gives Apple time to work out any bugs in its technology. For example, many headsets introduced so far have had problems with either image quality or frame rate, making them uncomfortable to wear for long periods. This could cause the headset to look pixelated or jumpy, which can take the fun out of using them.
In addition to the headset, Apple will likely announce a new MacBook Air featuring its M2 chip, making it lighter and more powerful than the current laptop version. The notebook is also expected to be slimmer than its predecessor and will have a new fabric exterior that would make it more comfortable to wear. Lastly, the company may launch an upgraded iOS mobile operating system and iPad OS version.