Apple’s secret VR headset has just been revealed in a major leak

Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman has revealed how Apple’s upcoming mixed-reality headset will work in precise detail. This is the clearest look yet at Apple’s top-secret project — potentially dubbed Reality Pro — as so far we’ve had to rely on disparate rumors from various unrelated sources.

The headset will have hand and eye tracking capabilities, which Gurman believes will be a “major selling point” for the device. The movements of each user’s hands would be tracked by external cameras, while internal sensors would follow eye movements. As a result, users will be able to select on-screen items such as apps and buttons just by looking at them.

A render of Apple's VR headset.
Apple AR / VR headset render Ian Zelbo

Once an item is selected, users will activate it by linking their thumb and forefinger together. There will be no need for bulky or uncomfortable controllers, leaving users’ hands free. That’s something even the best VR headsets out there are struggling to offer.

On the inside, Apple’s headset will feature two ultra-high-resolution displays for showing virtual reality (VR) content, while external cameras will manage the device’s augmented reality (AR) mode. If you wear glasses, Apple will offer custom prescription lenses that fit into the headset’s enclosure.

But while the visuals will be incredible, the audio will reportedly be less so. It’ll come with integrated speakers, but if you want a full spatial audio experience, Gurman says you’ll need to wear the AirPods with a headset.

Mirroring the Apple Watch, the Reality Pro will have its own Digital Crown. This will let you switch between VR and AR modes by twisting the dial, which Apple hopes will be an attractive selling point. Physically, the headset will be made from aluminum, glass and cushions, and will be “reminiscent of Apple’s $550 AirPods Max headphones.”

familiar-feeling software

A woman wearing a VR headset is reaching out.
Mark Naz / shutterstock

Gurman described the headset as representing an “ambitious attempt to create a 3D version of the iPhone’s operating system”. This will include versions of familiar apps like Safari, Photos, Mail, Messages and Calendar that will exist in a three-dimensional environment. There will also be the App Store and Apple’s entertainment services including Apple Music and Apple TV+.

The interface with these apps will be similar to the iOS and iPadOS home screens, with a grid of icons and widgets that can be rearranged. If users want to input text, they will be able to use Siri voice control or type using an iPhone, iPad, or Mac keyboard. Gurman claims that Apple is working on letting users type in mid-air on a virtual keyboard, but the feature is unlikely to be ready for launch.

One major integration will be with Apple’s own FaceTime video-calling app. Gurman says the headset will “virtually render the user’s face and full body in virtual reality” during calls. Unlike the Meta Quest Pro headset, this one won’t take a cartoonish approach to user avatars. However, this would only happen in face-to-face calls due to the “huge processing power” required. In all other calls, participants will be displayed as an icon or Memoji.

The report suggests that the Realme Pro will be able to act as an external monitor for Mac. The idea is that you can sit at your desk wearing the headset, using your Mac’s mouse and keyboard to view its display in the headset.

All of these experiences will be powered by variants of the M2 chip as well as a dedicated graphics chip called the Reality Processor. That power makes the device hotter, so Apple has offloaded the battery (which lasts about two hours on each charge) into a separate unit that attaches to the headset and sits in your pocket. There will also be a fan to keep things cool.

a costly loss leader

Apple VR Headset Concept by Antonio De Rosa
Antonio de Rosa

According to Gurman, Apple plans to unveil Reality Pro this spring (likely at a special event), although those plans may change. Apple will talk more deeply about it at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June, before revealing the device in the spring, then releasing the product later in 2023.

The device will cost $3,000 and may initially be available only in the US. Interestingly, despite the high price, Apple apparently won’t turn a profit on Reality Pro, at least initially. Apple is apparently working on a cheaper version that will be offered for closer to $1,500 and will launch in 2024 or 2025.

Mark Gurman has a very strong track record when it comes to Apple leaks, and the highly detailed nature of his reports suggests that he trusts his sources. Still, it’s best to take the claims with a pinch of salt, as we’re still a few months away from seeing the device, and a lot can change in that time.

Regardless, if even a fraction of Gurman’s report is accurate, the Reality Pro could be one of the most intriguing Apple devices of recent years. No doubt a lot of people — Apple’s competitors included — will be watching very closely.

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