Apple’s board of directors previewed its mixed-reality headset last week, according to Bloomberg, suggesting that its next major new product category could launch soon.
For Apple, the launch of a product category could open up new markets and potentially re-create the world-changing 2007 introduction of the iPhone. But if its headset is poorly received, it could renew concerns about the company’s product vision and execution.
Its last major new product category, Apple Watch, was previewed in the fall of 2014 and released the following year.
Bloomberg describes the device as a mixed-reality headset, explaining that it will use cameras on its exterior to stream images to high-resolution displays on the inside of the virtual reality headset, a technique called “pass-through” augmented reality.
An augmented reality feature shows the finished Apple Park at the Apple Park Visitor Center on November 17, 2017 in Cupertino, California.
Amy Osborne | AFP | Getty Images
Industry watchers believe the ultimate device for augmented reality would use transparent lenses and be closer in weight to a pair of eyeglasses, but that the underlying technology isn’t quite there yet.
There are still questions about how much the headset will cost and what it will do. Some reports have pegged its potential retail price around $3,000, which would be over twice as expensive as a new iPhone model and could limit sales. Apple plans to release augmented reality versions of its iPhone apps for the headset, according to the report.
Apple is not the only technology giant aiming to release a mixed-reality headset. Last week, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg previewed a virtual reality headset called “Project Cambria,” which will have pass-through augmented reality. Meta also currently sells a $300 virtual reality headset called Quest. Meanwhile, Google previewed a smart glasses prototype last week that translates foreign languages in real time.
Apple has never confirmed that it is developing a headset, but it has hired thousands of workers in a division called Technology Design Group, which works on virtual reality and augmented reality technology. So far, Apple has publicly released software for iPhones called ARkit, which allows apps to overlay digital images through the iPhone’s camera.
The company is holding its annual developer’s conference called WWDC virtually next month, with a keynote presentation that often includes new product announcements. Apple also holds launch events in the fall for new iPhones.
An Apple representative declined to comment.