Looks like Apple just accidentally confirmed “realityOS” for its rumored headset

An upcoming Apple headset will be powered by a new operating system. And now, we’re seeing the “realityOS” name referenced in Apple’s source code for the first time ever.

Apple headset rendering
  • Apple may release a mixed reality headset in 2023. It could preview the product at WWDC this summer and provide developers new tools to write downloadable apps.
  • Curiously, references to “RealityOS” have now been unearthed from App Store upload logs and the company’s open-source code. An Apple headset should be a self-contained product that will have its own App Store so this discovery is pretty significant because it suggests ongoing work on the accessory.
  • “rOS” and “RealityOS” were first mentioned in 2017 as possible internal names for custom operating system software that’s expected to power Apple’s headset.

Apple headset will be powered by “RealityOS”

Matthew Davis, an iOS developer with Lyft, spotted references to “rOS” in App Store logs and Apple’s source code available on Github. “Looks like Apple just accidentally confirmed Reality OS,” Matthew wrote on his Twitter. This is the first time that references to the rumored Apple headset operating system were found in any Apple code. Read: How to use walking directions on Apple Maps in augmented reality on your iPhone

Irish developer Steve Troughton-Smith followed up by opining that the discovery at least confirms that Apple’s headset will indeed have its own operating system and binaries. He was also able to discover a “realityOS Simulator,” which could be similar to a feature in Xcode that lets developers rapidly prototype and test builds of their app.

“iOS Simulator,” as it’s known, is a standard Mac app that simulates an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch or Apple TV environment. realityOS Simulator could let developers test apps for an upcoming Apple headset on a Mac without actually owning the accessory.

Reality OS is apparently codenamed “Oak.” In its first commercial version, the new operating system is expected to focus on communication tools and media consumption. The company could choose a more commercially appealing name for “rOS” before launch.

Credit where credit is due: Mark Gurman first mentioned “rOS”

Mark Gurman of Bloomberg was the first journalist to mention “rOS” and “RealityOS” as far back as 2017. Here’s a relevant excerpt from Mark’s write-up:

The new operating system, internally dubbed “rOS” for “reality operating system,” is based on iOS, the iPhone’s operating system. Just as tvOS powers the Apple TV, macOS runs on Macs and watchOS runs on Apple Watches, “rOS” will power Apple’s AR headset. Geoff Stahl, formerly a software manager for games and graphics at Apple, is one of the directors of the “rOS” software group.

Apple’s headset should be a standalone product requiring no connection to a computer or another device for processing purposes. Because Apple is designing the headset as a self-contained product, it’s expected to use custom chips providing Mac-level performance. Powerful hardware could, however, easily make Apple’s mixed reality accessory much more expensive than headsets from Meta, HTC and others.

It’s unclear whether the first version of the product will be a pricey development device aimed at programmers who would like to write software for it. If so, then the product could eventually be followed by a more affordable version engineered for the masses.