Apple’s long-rumored mixed reality headset might let users switch between viewing the real world and virtual reality with a physical dial, according to an extensive new report about the headset from The Information. The headset is expected to offer color passthrough that could give you a better look at your surroundings while wearing the device, and it seems like this dial, which is apparently on the right side, could be one way Apple will let you see what’s around you. Apple Watches and the AirPods Max already have physical knobs — in Apple terms, the “digital crown” — though the one on the headset apparently won’t have haptic feedback.
The headset may also have special technology to make them work well with Apple’s AirPods wireless headphones. The headset will include the same H2 chip included with the second-generation AirPods Pro, and when the two devices are connected, the chip enables “an ultra-low-latency mode,” The Information reports. If you don’t have AirPods Pro, The Information says that Apple has made a headband with built-in speakers. Other Bluetooth headphones apparently have lag between what you see and what you hear while wearing the headset, and The Information says it won’t have a headphone jack for wired headphones. So if you want private listening while using the headset, compatible AirPods models might end up being a must.
As of “early last year,” Apple’s headset has been hooked up to an external battery pack that you’ll wear on your waist, according to The Information. By doing that, Apple would make the headset lighter and let users switch in new batteries as needed. The power cable apparently connects magnetically to the headset, which seems like a useful application of Apple’s MagSafe technology; if I accidentally swiped the cable with my arm, I would prefer for the cable to disconnect safely instead of tugging my head down. However, Apple has apparently also been testing in-headband batteries, perhaps like the Meta Quest Pro.
Also like the Quest Pro, Apple’s headset could be more focused on work than other scenarios, like gaming. “Apple sees videoconferencing as a potential killer app for the headset,” The Information reports, and the company currently isn’t expected to launch a gaming controller for the device. (This, to me, isn’t that surprising; I think the Apple TV could be a way bigger deal as a living room gaming device if Apple supported it with things like a dedicated controller.) However, while AR apps will have to be built using RealityKit, “there is a plan” to let developers use Unity to build VR apps, according to The Information.
Apple didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment. The device is expected to be revealed this year, and the company’s board reportedly tried it in May. Trademark filings indicate Apple may use “Reality” branding for the upcoming headset, which could be very expensive; Apple has discussed a cost of “around $3,000 or more depending on its configuration,” The Information says.