Apple’s upcoming mixed reality headset has been demoed to board members

Apple’s mixed reality headset is nearing launch with news that the company’s board members recently saw a demo of the upcoming AR/VR device.

A head-worn mixed reality Apple headset device is imagined in this concept
Image credit: Andrea Copellino / Behance
  • Apple’s board members have been reportedly treated to a private demo of the company’s mixed-reality headset, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman.
  • On top of that, the company has been working on augmented reality versions of its core iPhone apps for the headset, “as well as new apps that will handle tasks such as streaming immersive content and holding virtual meetings.”

Apple mixed reality headset is inching closer to launch

“A version of the device was demonstrated to the directors during the latest gathering,” Gurman writes. Prior reports claimed that this project has seen several delays so far. Therefore, if Apple’s executives think the headset is good enough for a board demo, then that’s definitely an encouraging sign. The device’s underlying software also appears to be taking shape, with Gurman saying that the Cupertino giant has accelerated the development of rOS in recent weeks. rOS is short for Reality operating system, which powers the rumored accessory.

Mark Gurman, Bloomberg:

Apple has aimed to unveil the headset as early as the end of this year or sometime next year, with a consumer release planned for 2023. It targeted an introduction at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June, but challenges related to content and overheating have led to potential delays, Bloomberg has reported. The company declined to comment on plans for the headset.

Big shot projects are first hatched in Apple’s design labs before functioning prototypes are demonstrated to the company’s board of directors. Giving product demos to Apple’s board is the required step in building support at the highest levels for bigger investments. Your job title and importance within Apple don’t matter: Even Jony Ive had to convince the board to back his Apple Watch project.

The iPhone maker’s board has typically been the first group outside of Apple’s regular employees to see future products. Executives demonstrated the Siri voice assistant to the Apple board several weeks before its public introduction in 2011, around the time that Steve Jobs resigned as CEO.

Currently, Apple’s board includes eight external directors and CEO Tim Cook.

Apple’s board saw the headset back in 2016

Gurman’s reporting contradicts a recent story by The Information claiming the Apple headset team gave the Apple board the first demo back in 2016.

Wayne Ma, The Information:

Former Vice President Al Gore, then–Disney CEO Bob Iger and other Apple board members walked from room to room, trying out prototype augmented and virtual reality devices and software. One of the gadgets made a tiny digital rhinoceros appear on a table in the room. The creature then grew into a life-size version of itself, according to two people familiar with the meeting. In the same demo, the drab surroundings of the room transformed into a lush forest, showing how users could seamlessly transition from augmented reality, in which they can still view the physical world around them, to the more immersive experience of virtual reality—a combination known as mixed reality.

Apple is also said to be working on a pair of affordable augmented reality glasses but those are thought to be at least a few years away.

From an iPhone accessory to a standalone device

Apple’s headset is apparently a mixed-reality (MR) device, meaning it combines the best of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). When the headset does finally arrive, it will mark the first major new product launch for Tim Cook’s Apple since the Apple Watch’s introduction in 2014. The project was initially conceived as an accessory requiring an iPhone or even a separate box for processing power.

But Apple’s former design tzar Jony Ive is understood to have balked at the idea, so the project pivoted to a more expensive, more technologically advanced device. It’s apparently completely self-sufficient, with no additional hardware required.

Ive also spurned a plan for the headset to have both a stand-alone mode and an option that would make the device more powerful when wirelessly paired to a processing hub in the wearer’s home. That plan was nixed, and current versions of the device are stand-alone only. They include a more powerful variation of the M1 chip that appears in the company’s latest laptops.

The product should be very lightweight, using 8K dual micro-OLED displays and a bunch of internal and external cameras. Costing between $2,500 and $3,000, it should arrive at the end of 2022 or sometime in 2023. The mixed-reality headset will be primarily aimed at developers and early adopters, rumor has it.