OPINION: It’s expected that Apple will soon unleash its AR/VR headset, with WWDC coming on June 5th. Rumours point to a largely mobile/iOS-flavoured experience, but it could have an exciting impact on Macs down the line.
It isn’t every day (or, even, year) that Apple enters a new category. When it does it’s worth taking notice, whether you’re a fearful competition brand or a budding customer. It’s played out before with Apple exploding onto the tablet, Bluetooth trackers and true wireless earbud markets, with the iPad, AirTag and AirPods respectively.
Well, Apple looks to be at it again with its expected entry into the augmented and virtual reality game. According to Mark Gurman of Bloomberg, the headset is set to sport “xrOS“, Apple’s new mixed reality operating system. The OS will support a range of features for the AR/VR headset, with the goal of enhancing the user experience across media consumption and fitness.
Gurman also reports that Apple’s heads of engineering for apps like Pages, Notes, Apple News and more are all involved, so it seems likely we’ll be getting AR/VR versions of these apps too. FaceTime is another feature that seems sure to appear, via The Information.
Bringing Apple’s apps to AR/VR sounds interesting and all, but I’m interested in the bigger picture. And, in particular, the bigger laptop picture. With the headset rumoured to include numerous apps already compatible with iOS, iPadOS and MacOS, it doesn’t feel too farfetched to expect that someday in the future a fully-fledged Mac experience could come to an Apple AR/VR headset – even if it’s not this first iteration.
My mind was sent racing over the possibilities and this was driven further by the recent reveal of the Spacetop – dubbed by the manufacturer, Sightful, as the world’s first AR laptop. It’s essentially the keyboard and trackpad half of a laptop with a smaller top half that dons a camera as well as a set of AR glasses. The device offers a 100-inch screen in augmented reality that, of course, only you can see and lasts around 5 hours. The Spacetop is led by two former Magic Leap employees and has been demoed in the US so far. I’d absolutely love to give this a go, so hit us up, Sightful!
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But, as with every burgeoning future-gazing piece of technology, there is always the possibility one of the giants of tech has something similar up its sleeve, and I’ve already been thinking about it.
Current rumours point towards your interactions with the Apple AR/VR headset largely being driven by Siri commands as well as some help from your other Apple devices. Whether it’s this first version or a more powerful model down the line that could power a decent typical macOS experience, I’m envisioning the ability to connect your Mac accessories to this headset over Bluetooth to then be paired up with a large AR screen providing by the headset, in the vein of the Spacetop, and away you go.
Now, there seems very little likelihood that such an experience will be available on Apple’s freshman headset, as it’d require plenty of power to give a solid macOS experience. The closest thing I can imagine coming with the first AR/VR headset is the inclusion of Apple’s existing feature to cast your macOS display to different devices, like the iPad or Apple TV – but that’s different from having a full portable AR/VR-powered macOS experience wherever you go.
A full macOS experience on a headset is absolutely something to get excited about, even if performance on par with a MacBook Pro seems like some way off, but a MacBook Air or iPad Pro experience on your face feels plenty feasible.
Let’s put to one side the concept of embarrassment for a second, as it’ll be reduced if Apple manages to make AR/VR headset mainstream down the line. Imagine having a headset with you wherever you go and ready to whip out when it’s time to get to work (or watch a movie, your choice), and all you need is a trusty keyboard and mouse combination. Get ready to see me in a local coffee shop in 2030 with my AR/VR headset on, typing away and engulfed in my augmented reality world of tens of browser tabs, all with a space of their own.
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