Last week, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman wrote that Apple is indeed fielding a new immersive reality headset that will deliver both AR and VR functions. The device—possibly called Apple Reality One—is the fruit of a 1,000-person-strong team at Apple (Technology Development Group).
A Game Changer?
Gurman says Apple is entering a highly competitive market already led by Meta Platforms Inc but will take a “novel approach to virtual meetings and immersive video” as the Cupertino company aims to shake up the industry. (see: Xpresso No. 43, which is focused on XR/MR/AR/VR, including news on what Meta is doing in the space.) The Apple Technology Development Group has been working on the headset for seven years.
So how will the Apple Reality One be different?
Aside from offering a stunning Apple-designed operating system that feels a part of its Apple ecosystem—which offers benefits over rivals on multiple levels—the Reality One will have advanced eye and hand-tracking capabilities. Gurman also says it will feature FaceTime-based videoconferencing and [virtual] meeting rooms.
An External Monitor[s?]
Reality One will also be able to function as an external monitor for a Mac computer, plus replicate numerous functions on an iPhone and iPad. Like Meta’s newest headset, the Reality One will function as both a VR and AR device with pass-through video, enabling the user to wear it and see the real world around them. Varjo’s devices already deliver this feature and have for a while now. (see image below). From this perspective, Apple and Meta are only playing catchup to Varjo. Even the word “reality” seems a bit borrowed from Varjo’s Reality Cloud.
Interestingly, the Apple Reality One will feature a Digital Crown like the Apple Watch (likely much bigger, of course). Users will rotate the crown to switch from VR to AR video pass-through mode. Gurman says that the Digital Crown will be a highlight of the product. I suspect that’s because, in the switching (moving the digital crown), the VR display will “fade out and fade in” over the real-world video pass-through imagery.
Such a function would allow direct user interaction between the AR and VR imagery in a highly synchronized way and ultimately provide a type of x-ray vision potential for numerous uses and functions. It would benefit architects and designers who design and shape the real world, not to mention those who construct the world like general contractors.
Gurman says Apple’s plans are to release the Reality One this year, later in the year, and possibly announce it as early as this spring. The Reality One isn’t expected to ship in mass volume for quite some time as Cupertino takes on this market very slowly (think the Apple Watch or Apple TV+).
Gurman says that immersive video watching will be a core feature of the device, and the company is apparently discussing VR content production plans with the likes of companies like Walt Disney Co. and others. Apple will also update Apple TV+ content for the Reality One.
A version of the M2 processor will power the Reality One, plus a dedicated graphics and XR chip called the Reality Processor.
Impact for AEC
It is far too soon to understand the impact Reality One may have on the AEC/CO market and markets in general. What we know about Varjo is that their device was so amazing and capable that it ended up being a hit in high-end markets like aerospace and simulation and far less important than in AEC.
The AEC market will need a mass-market device, and Apple is already thinking of a second version that will be half the price of the estimated USD 3,000 Reality One.
To learn more details, visit Bloomberg’s report here.
Architosh Analysis and Commentary
The feature described by Gurman about the Apple Crown fading in and out the VR to AR views seems incredible in terms of its potential. We can immediately see the industrial functional use for such features. This would apply strongly to the AEC/O industries and numerous other industrial applications and fields.
The AEC/O Mac side of the VR market has been missing out on all the good action. Apple’s Reality One will finally give Mac users a really excellent pathway into immersive technologies. It is unclear if the Reality One will upstage the rest of the field (especially at the very high end where the Varjo devices sit). What we imagine is this will be an inflection point in the VR/AR/XR industry at the consumer awareness and usage level.