Apple’s board of directors previewed its mixed-reality headset last week, according to Bloomberg, suggesting that Apple’s next major new product category could launch soon.
For Apple, the launch of a exciting new product category could open up new markets and potentially re-create the world-changing 2007 introduction of the iPhone. But if its headset is poorly received, it could renew concerns about Apple’s product vision and execution.
Apple’s last major new product category was the Apple Watch, which was previewed in the fall of 2014 and released in 2015.
Bloomberg describes the device as a mixed reality headset, explaining that it will use cameras on the exterior of the device to stream images of the outside world to high-resolution displays on the inside of the virtual reality headset, a technique called “pass-through” augmented reality.
Industry watchers believe the ultimate device for augmented reality would use transparent lenses and be closer in weight to a pair of normal eyeglasses, but that the underlying technology isn’t yet ready.
There are still questions about how much the headset will cost and what it will do. Some reports have pegged its potential retail price around $3,000, which would be over twice as expensive as a new iPhone model and could limit its sales. Apple will release augmented reality versions of its iPhone apps for the headset, according to Bloomberg.
Apple is not the only technology giant vying to release a mixed reality headset. Last week, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg previewed a virtual reality headset he calls “Project Cambria,” which will have pass-through augmented reality. Meta also currently sells a $300 virtual reality headset called Quest. Google previewed a smart glasses prototype last week that translates foreign languages in real-time.
Apple has never confirmed that it is developing a headset, but it has hired thousands of workers in a division called Technology Design Group which works on virtual reality and augmented reality technology. So far, Apple has publicly released software for iPhones called ARkit which allows apps to overlay digital images in the real world through the iPhone’s camera.
Apple is holding its annual developer’s conference called WWDC virtually next month, with a keynote presentation that often includes new product announcements. Apple also holds launch events in the fall for new iPhones.
An Apple representative declined to comment.