The metaverse, a term used to describe a future vision of the internet that’s immersive and potentially tied to the real world, has been the subject of significant speculation among tech giants. Apple, renowned for its unique hardware and software design, is reportedly gearing up to enter this new digital frontier. Recent reports suggest that Apple is planning to introduce a mixed-reality headset, a device that blurs the line between virtual spaces and digitally-enhanced real-world experiences. This could mark the company’s first major step into the metaverse, and it’s set to be unveiled soon.
The Apple Mixed-Reality Headset
Apple’s interest in augmented reality (AR) has been a hot topic for years, but the latest buzz suggests that Apple’s initial venture will be a high-end mixed reality headset. This device promises to deliver both virtual reality (VR) and AR capabilities, with future plans hinting at the release of additional AR-specific hardware.
The first headset, reportedly named either Reality One or Reality Pro, is anticipated to be announced on June 5 at Apple’s annual WWDC conference, with a public release scheduled for later in 2023. The expected price point for the headset ranges from $2,000 to $3,000, a significant premium over the price of Meta’s Quest Pro mixed reality headset.
Apple’s headset is rumored to be powered by a powerful M2 processor and equipped with an array of cameras and sensors, including retina scanners for enhanced security. There are also whispers of motorized lenses that adjust to the wearer’s eyes and snap-on prescription lenses for glasses wearers, though these features remain unconfirmed.
The Metaverse and Apple’s Approach
Mixed reality headsets are seen as a crucial stepping stone to the metaverse, offering immersive experiences that capture the nuances of wearer interactions while maintaining a connection to the real world. However, to truly capitalize on the metaverse, compelling software is essential.
Apple is believed to be developing a new operating system, possibly called RealityOS or xrOS, alongside immersive versions of existing apps like Maps and FaceTime. The company is also said to be adapting iPad apps into 3D versions and focusing on sports, gaming, and fitness apps.
While Apple’s approach to the metaverse is yet to be fully revealed, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has expressed skepticism about the term ‘metaverse’, but is enthusiastic about the potential of AR and mixed reality technology.
Web3, Interoperability, and Apple’s Position
Web3 advocates envision a metaverse built on open-source blockchain technology, using NFTs for digital asset ownership, and spanning interoperable platforms. Tech giants like Meta have expressed interest in building an “open, interoperable” metaverse, but it remains unclear whether Apple will follow suit.
Apple’s historical preference for closed ecosystems could pose challenges in the more open environment of the metaverse. The company has faced criticism for its “walled garden” approach and the sizable cut it takes from app and content sales on its platforms. Nevertheless, Apple has shown some interest in cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, with Cook revealing that he owns cryptocurrency and that Apple has posted job listings requiring crypto experience.
In December 2022, reports surfaced that Apple plans to allow iPhone and iPad users to install apps from external sources to comply with upcoming EU regulations. This could signal a shift in Apple’s approach to its products and potentially its metaverse aspirations.
Apple’s entry into the metaverse is shrouded in uncertainty. Will Apple embrace a Web3-centric, open metaverse or build its own version of the metaverse apart from the rest of the industry? Only time will tell.