Everything We Know About Apple's Upcoming AR Headset

Meta — the company behind Facebook — is usually the first billion-dollar corporation that comes to mind when discussing augmented reality (AR) headsets. One of the main reasons for this is that the Mark Zuckerberg-owned company already has a handful of AR products in its lineup. While the company remains extremely bullish about the future of the Metaverse and AR headsets, investor confidence in Zuckerberg's gamble has been on the wane, according to Insider. Despite this, the company has been pushing forth with its grand plans for the Metaverse, even making several recent announcements in the space. While there is no denying that Meta currently has the lead in the AR space, its dominance is under serious threat from a formidable opponent — Apple.

It's no secret that Apple has been eying the AR and MR (mixed reality) space for a long time. The first major AR-centric acquisition happened in 2015 when Apple acquired an AR startup called Metaio. In addition, the company even has a dedicated in-house research wing for AR and MR-related innovations. While tech enthusiasts have been hearing about the possibility of Apple coming up with its AR/MR headset for a long time now, a series of recent developments indicate that this much-awaited launch could happen sometime in mid-2023.

The last time we talked about Apple's mixed reality headset was in mid-November, when noted Bloomberg analyst Mark Gurman spoke about Apple's massive push towards developing its own version of the Metaverse. In his latest piece for Bloomberg, Gurman has shared additional details surrounding Apple's MR headset and the software that will power it.

Apple's mixed reality headset OS renamed 'xrOS'

Following earlier reports of Apple beginning to mass-produce its first mixed-reality headset starting in March 2023, Gurman has indicated that work on Apple's mixed-reality headset is happening at an increased pace. In addition to the headset's hardware, Apple is also working on developing an entirely new MR-centric operating system and app store ecosystem. Apple's under-development, MR-focused operating system has also received a name change after the company decided to call it "xrOS" (short for "extended reality operating system") as opposed to the older name, "reality OS." Gurman also claims that Apple made a conscious decision to call the operating system "xrOS" to drive home that its MR headsets will encompass aspects of AR (augmented reality) as well as VR (virtual reality).

Apple's mixed-reality OS could borrow most of its capabilities from the company's existing smartphone, computer, and tablet operating systems, allowing users to install native and third-party apps. Bloomberg has previously reported the likelihood of Apple developing an MR-focused Software Development Kit (SDK) as well. Gurman's report also mentions Apple's job listings that indicate the company's aim to create its iteration of the Metaverse.

While we are still months away from the purported launch window for Apple's first MR headset, images of what the device could look like leaked a year ago (via MacRumors) — thanks to noted concept maker Zelbo. However, it is too early to say if Apple would stick to this design language for its first MR headset, which is also likely to be targeted at commercial buyers — at least during the initial years of its life.