Apple’s VR headset: The ultimate immersive device or a costly mistake?

Apple is widely expected to unveil its first VR headset at its WWDC 2023 event on June 5, marking its entry into the immersive technology market. The device, which has been rumored for years, is said to offer a mix of virtual and augmented reality features, with advanced display, camera and sensor technology. But what are the challenges and opportunities that Apple faces with its VR headset, and how will it compare to existing products like the Meta Quest 2 and the PSVR 2?

What we know so far

According to various reports, the Apple VR headset will be a premium device that will cost around $3,000¹². It will have a tethered battery pack that will sit in the user’s back pocket, to balance power and performance with weight and comfort². It will also have a screen on the front of the headset that will show the user’s expressions to the outside world, to make it more natural to interact with people wearing the device².

The headset will feature more than a dozen cameras to track hand movements and eye movements¹³, as well as two 8K displays that will create a lifelike effect³. It will also use a technique called “passthrough”, where a camera on the front of the screen will show the outside world to the wearer, with apps and features superimposed on top². This will allow the device to switch between VR and AR modes, depending on the context and preference of the user.

The headset will run on a custom operating system called xrOS, which will support a range of applications and games for VR and AR¹. Some of the rumored titles include No Man’s Sky, Minecraft and Fortnite¹. The headset will also integrate with other Apple products and services, such as Siri, FaceTime, Apple Music and Apple TV+¹.

The pitfalls

Despite its impressive specifications and features, the Apple VR headset is not without its challenges. One of the main hurdles is the price, which is significantly higher than most of the competitors in the market. For comparison, the Meta Quest 2 costs $299, while the PSVR 2 is expected to cost around $400¹. The high price tag may limit the appeal and adoption of the Apple VR headset, especially in a time of economic downturn.

Another challenge is the design and comfort of the device. According to some reports, Apple’s design team had reservations about the weight and bulkiness of the headset, but were overruled by senior executives who wanted to launch it as soon as possible². The device is said to weigh around 300 grams, which is lighter than some VR headsets but still heavier than most AR glasses⁴. The device may also cause discomfort or fatigue for some users who wear it for long periods of time.

A third challenge is the readiness of the ecosystem and applications for the device. While Apple has a loyal fan base and a strong developer community, it may take some time for users and developers to embrace a new platform and create compelling content for it. The device may also face competition from other established players in the VR and AR space, such as Meta (formerly Facebook), Sony, Microsoft and Google.

The potential

Despite these challenges, the Apple VR headset also has a lot of potential to revolutionize the immersive technology industry and create new experiences for users. One of the advantages that Apple has is its reputation for innovation and quality, as well as its ability to create seamless integration between its hardware and software. The device may also benefit from Apple’s brand recognition and marketing power, which could generate hype and demand for it.

Another advantage that Apple has is its vision for mixed reality, which combines VR and AR in one device. This could offer more versatility and functionality for users who want to switch between different modes of immersion. For example, users could use VR mode for gaming or entertainment purposes, while using AR mode for productivity or social purposes. The device could also leverage Apple’s existing services and features, such as Siri, FaceTime, Apple Music and Apple TV+, to enhance the user experience.

A third advantage that Apple has is its potential to create new use cases and applications for VR and AR that have not been explored before. For example, Apple could use its expertise in health and fitness to create immersive wellness programs or therapies. It could also use its creativity in education and entertainment to create immersive learning or storytelling experiences. It could also use its influence in culture and fashion to create immersive art or design experiences.

The metaverse

Another aspect that Apple may have to consider is its role in the metaverse, the name given to a future, more immersive vision of the internet with potential real-world ties. Meta, Microsoft, Epic Games and others have been working on creating open standards and protocols for the metaverse, which would allow users to move through different online worlds with their virtual goods and identities. However, Apple has not joined these efforts, and may have a different approach to the metaverse.

Apple’s metaverse may be more focused on bridging the gap between the virtual realm and the physical world through immersive technologies, innovative processing algorithms, and much more. To make this possible, the company has built a “Reality Kit” that allows users to create fully customized 3D objects in minutes. Apple may also use its “Think Different” ethos to create a unique and distinctive metaverse experience that reflects its values and vision.

However, Apple may also face some challenges in creating its own metaverse. One of them is the compatibility and interoperability with other platforms and devices. Users may prefer a more open and decentralized metaverse that allows them to access different worlds and services with their own choice of hardware and software. Another challenge is the privacy and security of the users’ data and identity. Users may be wary of sharing their personal information and preferences with a company that has a history of being secretive and controlling.

The verdict

The Apple VR headset is one of the most anticipated products of 2023, and it could be a game-changer for the immersive technology industry. However, it also faces some significant challenges, such as the high price, the design and comfort, and the ecosystem and application readiness. The device may not appeal to everyone, and it may not be the best option for every use case. However, for those who can afford it and are interested in exploring the possibilities of VR and AR, the device may offer a unique and unparalleled experience that could open up new horizons of reality.

Highlighted sources

¹: Apple VR/AR headset — everything we know so far | Tom’s Guide

²: Will Apple’s new VR headset be the one to finally catch on? | Technology | The Guardian

³: Apple VR headset: Everything we know so far (Updated) | Finder

⁴: Apple VR Headset | Reality Pro, Mixed/Virtual Reality

Other sources

Apple and the Metaverse: Everything We Know So Far – Decrypt

Apple Metaverse; How Apple Enters the New Digital Frontier

Will Apple Metaverse Become the New Meta in 2023? – The Metaverse Insider