Apple's AR & VR headset will launch into a poorly defined market

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware
Rumors surrounding Apple's virtual reality efforts and a 2023 launch continue to swirl as other companies showed off new and uninspiring devices at the Consumer Electronics Show.

A render of a potential Apple headset
A render of a potential Apple headset


The VR space at CES 2023 was not particularly abuzz this year, although it still had plenty of movement and wild ideas. However, nothing was volatile enough to create waves throughout the broader tech space.

The closest thing to a ground swell came from HTC with its new Vive XR Elite mixed reality headset. It's a device capable of both augmented and virtual reality.

Beyond that, the offerings from the electronics show were either distant dreams or a bit lackluster.

Still, since Apple's headset appears only to be a few months away from public view, a look at the wider VR landscape can provide an overall inventory of where the so-called metaverse stands.

Closer look at HTC Vive XR Elite

As a quick overview, the Vive XR Elite is a stand-alone unit, not requiring any tethering via wires, and will cost $1,099. It uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 chip and has 12GB of ram.

Vive XR Elite
Vive XR Elite


On the visuals front, it will have an internal display providing 2K pixels per eye, a 90Hz refresh rate, and a 110-degree field of view. Additional accessories can give it the ability to track eyes or full face tracking.

With its 2-hour battery attached to the back for VR mode, the Vive XR Elite weighs 625 grams. Plugged into a power source for a more stationary AR mode, the unit weighs 240 grams.

While this product is more advanced than the HTC Vive Flow, it looks like it borrowed a lot of ideas from that sister device.

We've gone hands-on with the Vive Flow in the past, and while it showed an evolution in VR hardware, it was still significantly compromised and didn't seem ready for a mainstream audience. We're getting some of those vibes from the Vive XR Elite too.

The Vive Flow hardware when we tried it in 2022 wasn't overly comfortable and was less immersive than the Meta Quest 2. The software side was also lacking in comparison.

Vive Flow
Vive Flow


Still, we like the idea of a hot-swappable battery residing on the back to provide a counterweight. This aspect of the Vive XR Elite seems most plausible for Apple's unit if either has any overlapping features.

Apple's VR headset has long been rumored to stay under 400 grams. Reports have suggested it could even weigh in the range of 200 grams which would be well under the Vive XR Elite's full weight. For comparison, the first-generation AirPods Max weigh 134.5 grams.

Other recent Apple headset rumors still indicate that Apple intends to use high-end hardware such as a Sony-produced micro OLED screen with 4K resolution per eye and a 120-degree field of view.

Render of potential Apple headset
Render of potential Apple headset


The trade-off between HTC's latest announced VR offering and Apple's increasingly imminent product will be price. Apple's device is expected to be very expensive.

Apple could always pull a surprise (like the iPad debuting at $499), but at minimum, its VR unit will likely be several hundred dollars more than the Vive XR Elite, at least.

The metaverse

It's possible Meta has already overused and spoiled the word "metaverse," but plenty of companies still want to describe their virtual experiences as such.

People going hands-on with products at CES generally seemed impressed with the immersive display Brelyon Fusion as a different way to join the metaverse.

Brelyon Fusion
Brelyon Fusion


Instead of strapping on a VR headset to your face, Brelyon's solution is more akin to a desktop computer monitor that wraps around your field of view.

TCL showed off its NXTWear V headset, despite it not having a shipping date or even a concrete availability time frame. The company also showed its RayNeo X2 AR glasses, which should be available to developers in the coming months before hopefully reaching consumers.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that Apple was evaluating the metaverse and will invest in it accordingly. Though more recently Apple VP Greg Joswiak called out the word "metaverse" as a word he'll never use, so it's unlikely that Apple itself will ever use the term publicly.

VR Accessories

Missing from the sights and sounds of current VR headsets are the smells of a new world. Aromajoin demoed its device capable of providing scents to match visuals.

More realistically, Panasonic's Shiftall showed off Haritora X Wireless which can track full body movements for its SteamVR headset. This is from the same company that designed an isolated VR microphone that looked like a muzzle.

Razor adjustable head strap system
Razor adjustable head strap system


Razer was more subdued with its VR accessory contributions. It showed off an adjustable head strap and a new facial interface, both made to be attached to the Meta Quest 2.

It's highly unlikely Apple will debut its headset with odors or even leg tracking. But there is a good chance that companies will work to build some of these accessories and surrounding products for it once they know what Apple is going to ship.

Apple headset outlook

Looking back at several years of Apple headset rumors, there is one constant: it will be a costly, premium product.

Apple's hardware is always at the high end of a market category, but we would argue that it's usually still a good value. An M2 MacBook Air is a great example of a product with a high price, but a great value thanks to its fantastic performance and long battery life.

Potential Apple headset render
Potential Apple headset render


We're waiting to see if the Apple headset will be closer in value to a MacBook Air or to AirPods Max, which, although great, are vastly more expensive than the competition with little extra benefit.

Now that CES 2023 has come and gone, it is fascinating that more companies didn't try to debut new ultra-premium headsets that cost more than $2,000.

In the past, whenever Apple is rumored to be releasing a new product, typically, lots of companies will try to jump ahead and at least announce products at CES. We're surprised we didn't see much of that this year.

That indicates to us that the VR market is still burgeoning, and Apple hasn't missed any potential boom. But it could also mean that there's still little demand for VR products, and Apple has a lot of work ahead of it to light the market on fire.

Read on AppleInsider
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 26
    I’m not interested in these products at all. 
    lkruppjeffharrisdesignr
  • Reply 2 of 26
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,341member
    Rhythmage said:
    I’m not interested in these products at all. 
    Me either. I know I’m an old fuddy-duddy but I just don’t see these devices catching on with the mass market. Yes, there will be limited market of gamers and such but wearing these in public will create all manner of negative social reactions, just like Google Glasses did. But we’ll see I guess.
    edited January 11 muthuk_vanalingamjeffharriswatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 26
    JP234JP234 Posts: 789member
    The monetization of future of VR/AR/MR headsets won't come from the consumer market. They're too expensive and cumbersome (imagine wearing this HTC abomination for hours on end: with the battery pack, it weighs 1.5 pounds. Your neck will punish you. hard).

    The real money will come from military adoption. Big contracts, little to no oversight, charge what you want. Healthcare, in particular surgery and training, is another possibility for large scale implementation. In the future, all those business meetings, seminars and company-wide conventions will take place in virtual space. A $3,000 headset would cost a company far less than flying everyone to Jackson Hole, putting them up in the Jackson Lake Lodge, feeding them, renting a convention space, setting up audio and video for presentations. And the headset can be used over and over.

    The tech isn't any more ready for prime time than autonomous driving, but then, tech moves fast. AI tech moves even faster, and will accelerate development of these devices for uses we can't even predict.

    Still won't put one on my head, though.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 26
    d-reyd-rey Posts: 10member
    Someone please notify Panasonic that Shiftall is too close to Sh*tfall.  I had to read it a couple times before I got what it was actually called. 
    jeffharrisjas99scout6900watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 26
    Talk about awkward. I can see wearing one of these things…

    Tripping. Falling. Knocking a cup of coffee over. Dropping stuff. Breaking things around my apartment.

    Until they come up with some sort of see-thru HUD, Terminator kind of display, forget it.
    scout6900designrJP234watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 26
    “…it could also mean that there's still little demand for VR products…”
    I don't see a compelling VR application on the market, but a headset of sufficient power to supplant a laptop would have my full investment interest.
    designrwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 26

    Now that CES 2023 has come and gone, it is fascinating that more companies didn't try to debut new ultra-premium headsets that cost more than $2,000.
    It might be fascinating, but it's not all that surprising that the Consumer Electronics Show isn't showcasing ultra-premium headsets to consumers.  There's absolutely a market for premium headsets, as multiple companies creating such for various industries have demonstrated.  Even if they haven't seen huge volume, they've been profitable.  For normal consumers though, the vast majority of whom are interested in gaming and gaming like activities, Meta has set the expectation of a few hundred dollars for a headset and controllers.  HTC and Valve can maybe command more than that because of the perceived value of their products (my Valve Index is absolutely worth the premium I paid for it even over the Quest 2, which I also have, sitting in the closet for guests), but most people aren't going there.

    I'm sure Apple has plans that will make it scads and scads of money off of AR/VR/MR, but unless it includes compatibility with SteamVR, I personally will likely not be interested unless the price is less than $1,000 and it works with my phone.
    scout6900watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 26
    jas99jas99 Posts: 122member
    For me, the killer app is replacing my monitor.

    I want to put these glasses on and see a 100”, high-resolution screen hovering in the air in front of me.

    I’ve often thought that perhaps this headset is why Apple seemed to get out of the monitor business a while ago. Was there a delay in the development of this project that caused Apple to develop new, outstanding monitors, because they realized there was a void in their lineup not being filled by the glasses?

    In any event, if these Apple glasses can replace my monitor, I will be one of the first to adopt them.

    CurtisHightblastdoorwatto_cobrabeowulfschmidt
  • Reply 9 of 26
    For any product to make sense for Apple it must move the revenue needle.  Not an easy lift for a product in a company whose revenue is upwards of $200b/year.  Aside from the occasional 'flop' (think HomePod, Airport, Apple TV), all of Apple's products sell in the tens of millions and sell for less than $1000.  Macs are a special category for Apple because, although they no longer move the company's revenue needle much, they're the tool its developers use to CREATE Apple content for those other, more successful devices.  Apple does sell them at a much higher price point, but it also sells only relatively few.

    So a VR product, if the $2k price point proves accurate, would be an outlier like the Mac.  But, unlike the Mac, a VR set is simply a consumption device like an iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch.  But what is the potential market size for VR headsets?  I did a quick google and in all of 2022, there were less than 10m units sold.  If Apple were to magically take over the entire market in 2023 and sell 10m units, it would be a colossal failure.  Certainly Apple Watch was considered a failure when it 'only' sold 10m units the first year.  Of course AW eventually turned into a big money maker for Apple - but that's because its potential market was pretty much every human on earth willing to put down $350.  How many humans will plunk down $2000 for a device that lets them play some games but, more or less, requires them to stay in their home unless they want to get ridiculed?

    So how could a VR headset make sense for Apple?  I only see two ways: (1) the price point of $2k that everyone rumors about is way off and Apple sells it in the <$1k range as all its other products and even then, the headset has to look a lot more like glasses than the goggles for it to take hold on any scale; (2) the VR headset is mainly a tool Apple make available to developers for creating AR/VR content for a few VR gamers/business AND for the upcoming real money maker: the AR glasses.  Maybe it'll be a combination of (1) and (2).

    The AR glasses that come next will - by Tim Cook's own admission a couple years ago - be Apple's probable next big money maker.  Huge potential there for Apple to sell a pair of AR glasses to every iPhone owner out there (I assume as I always have that most of the cpu/networking/storage will continue to take place on iPhone so the glasses can be light enough and last all day).


    scout6900designrwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 26
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 2,582member
    Will these be the next Internet or the next 3DTV?
    It boils down to content. 
    I hear a lot of hand waving, and wild ideas about gaming, and pro apps, but precious little in reality. Of course it’s the chicken/egg problem. We won’t see content until the headsets are out there. But still with the intro price tag I think there will be a lot of hesitancy to jump in. The experience must not be better, it has to be better enough to warrant forking over a bucket of money for these. In the corporate environment it’s competition won’t be against a monitor, but monitors on the desks of all the engineers. Against a giant screen in the conference room vs one of these for each person who would have gone to the meeting. In gaming all of your squad would need one of these and the experience would have to be significantly better than a similarly priced ultra-wide curved screen and headset. 
    And for home use remember that no old content, movies, games, tv shows, or anything will be compatible. Only new content would have the true 3D experience. 
    So I’m taking a wait and see attitude. These might be great, but they might be the next wild idea that big tech flushes billions down the drain on and ends up with nothing.
    Just like 3DTV.
    edited January 11 sflagelwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 26
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,647member
    I can easily envision several use cases in military, aerospace, air traffic control, plant management, interactive gaming, remote presence, etc., domains that could immediately benefit from the deep immersion that these devices provide. If nothing else, these headsets offer a way to observe things within a 3D volume, something that conventional radar and sonar systems do not typically provide when rendered on a 2D display.

    However I’m at somewhat a loss to figure out how I could benefit from these for anything beyond escapism, entertainment, meditation, and potentially physical and mental health therapeutic uses.

    I suppose Apple could provide a much more immersive one-on-one version of FaceTime (FaceTime AR) that has both users in headsets in a shared virtual space with the ability to share images and documents in the same space. This would be far better than the virtual office visits done with your doctor or one-on-one discussions done over regular FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype. I’ve used Cisco’s presence systems on several occasions and while they were “less flat” than Zoom’y things, they still aren’t truly immersive. You still feel like you are on one side of a screen and everyone else is on another side of a screen. Maybe VR/AR can move us closer to “all being in the same space?”

    The point here is that if we think about AR/VR/XR (extended reality) beyond the demos and the gaming and the legless cartoon rendering of people-like forms (especially ones that look like Zuckerberg) and bring in photorealistic, and even live images and other sensor data, the possibilities start to open up into more practical applications. An “augmented” FaceTime, for both one-on-one and group based sessions, may just be enough to make what inherently seems more like augmented fantasy closer to feeling like augmented reality.
    edited January 11 JP234watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 26
    I still feel (as an old non gamer guy) the only thing with this VR that would interest me is live sports. If Apple had gotten Sunday Ticket and let me view the game from multiple angles I'd pay a few grand with no problem. I'd enjoy sitting in a virtual section with remote friends while cheering on my team. 

    They didn't get that, so I'm really not sure what else they can do to get me interested. 
    dewmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 26
    XedXed Posts: 1,595member
    For those not interested in these products, why read an article about these products and then come to the forum to say you're not interested in these products? if you're not interested in these products then move the fuck along.

    Personally, I'd love to see what Apple comes up with. They don't come out with a new OS tied to a new product very often and when they do it typically reinvents and dominates the market, no matter how long it's been established. VR and augmented reality is different as it still has a fairly poor experience and limited use, so (assuming this is being announced this year ) what is Apple doing that will change things up from what we expect from VR and augmented reality today?
    edited January 11 y2anwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 26
    Why? Why would Apple go into this space, the VR/Meta bs is not ready for prime time. Apple does not do markets that are not already going somewhere. If they do this it will bomb. They need to wait let the market mature then come in and do it better than anyone else out there. 

    My kids have no interest and their younger family members got the most popular sets played them for a few days and they have not been used since.

    The commercial aspect is only area where these will make sense and that is really niche.

    My two cents
    hailthehamsterwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 26
    XedXed Posts: 1,595member
    Why? Why would Apple go into this space, the VR/Meta bs is not ready for prime time. Apple does not do markets that are not already going somewhere. If they do this it will bomb. They need to wait let the market mature then come in and do it better than anyone else out there. 

    My kids have no interest and their younger family members got the most popular sets played them for a few days and they have not been used since.

    The commercial aspect is only area where these will make sense and that is really niche.

    My two cents
    And Windows tablets existed for 2 decades before the iPad was announced. Do you remember CES right before the iPad announcement when the rumors were flying about Apple introducing a tablet? They were all overpriced versions of what had been the status quo of a failed product design and every single vendor pushing tablets had to go back to the drawing board with much lower prices and concepts to compete... and they never could.

    So why assume that Apple's concept will be the same as Meta? It sounds like you're not considering ideas outside your narrow imagination when we've seen from the Samsung lawsuit that Apple goes through a shit tonne of HW concepts when designing a new product.

    My two cents.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 26
    Why? Why would Apple go into this space, the VR/Meta bs is not ready for prime time. Apple does not do markets that are not already going somewhere. If they do this it will bomb. They need to wait let the market mature then come in and do it better than anyone else out there. 

    My kids have no interest and their younger family members got the most popular sets played them for a few days and they have not been used since.

    The commercial aspect is only area where these will make sense and that is really niche.

    My two cents
    Agreed. I commented on another article the other day that I just can’t see this one being true. Looking at the comments in this generally pro Apple thread and there seems to be considerable inconsistency and uncertainty. Let’s be honest, people don’t want headsets or glasses or gloves or rings or anything else that we might have seen trademarked from Apple’s R&D through the years. Sure they might pour money into exploring it, as they should. Doesn’t mean that anything’s coming out to us lot. 

    Reminds me of the Apple Car rumours. AI went quiet on that one. Wasn’t it supposed to be announced in 2020? Must have been killed by Covid. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 26
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,774member
    I'm skeptical such a headset could be a widely successful consumer product. As others suggest, other industrial applications seem possible, but if that is Apple's target, it would be a first. Sure, many Apple products are specifically for specific professionals: artists, photographers, movie makers. It seems a big departure to move to what would be target to a specific industry like medical, aerospace, manufacturing. 

    Apple did express an intent to expand CarPlay. Maybe this is a HUD to be made available to car manufacturers? Like iPhone, maybe they have already inked partner car manufacturers to make CarPlay+ vehicles. And that's the actual Apple Car?
    dewmewatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 26
    sflagelsflagel Posts: 690member
    Augmented reality, adding digital information to the real world, seems much more promising than VR. I can see TONS of applications (translations, interior design, directions, face recognition and so much more. But this headset can only be a baby step in that direction (no one will wear this in public). AR will be a massive thing and everywhere in 20 years. 
    I can’t see many use cases for VR in the personal area, maybe there is opportunity in the professional world. 
    But I am just an unemployed retiree sitting at my desk, so what do I know. 

    edited January 12 watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 26
    y2any2an Posts: 145member
    I’m always amazed at how AI fails to draw connections between data points. A couple of days ago, reports had Apple looking to bring display design in-house, but here in this story they are suggesting the VR headset displays would be outsourced to Sony. Apple works to own critical IP and for a VR headset wouldn’t that include the displays?

    For pricing, this will be like the AirPods Max - beyond the interest of most, which will limit demand while Apple continues to evolve the product, and then the price will moderate to get the product into the mainstream. Standard Apple modus operandi. 

    In terms of utility - a lot in the professional space, such as walking through 3D renderings of product assemblies. Boeing used a similar approach when the 777 was first designed to look for assembly interferences before anything was machined. However, Apple traditionally positions themselves as a consumer company first, so a VR headset is a crossroads for them - they are not beloved by game developers which is going to be a large part of the VR segment, so they have to crack that nut with their offering, or plan to be very professional-segment centric. It will be interesting to see which way they pivot, or whether they address both segments together. 
    edited January 12 watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 26
    XedXed Posts: 1,595member
    Why? Why would Apple go into this space, the VR/Meta bs is not ready for prime time. Apple does not do markets that are not already going somewhere. If they do this it will bomb. They need to wait let the market mature then come in and do it better than anyone else out there. 

    My kids have no interest and their younger family members got the most popular sets played them for a few days and they have not been used since.

    The commercial aspect is only area where these will make sense and that is really niche.

    My two cents
    Agreed. I commented on another article the other day that I just can’t see this one being true. Looking at the comments in this generally pro Apple thread and there seems to be considerable inconsistency and uncertainty. Let’s be honest, people don’t want headsets or glasses or gloves or rings or anything else that we might have seen trademarked from Apple’s R&D through the years. Sure they might pour money into exploring it, as they should. Doesn’t mean that anything’s coming out to us lot. 

    Reminds me of the Apple Car rumours. AI went quiet on that one. Wasn’t it supposed to be announced in 2020? Must have been killed by Covid. 
    Try paying attention. AI hasn't been quiet about the Apple Car. When there is news they post it. The last time they posted about it was last month and this is easily looked up if you actually attempted to do so.

    They even have an entire section with comprehension info and a timeline of the Apple Car. It's not their fault the rumors aren't as constant as in years past.

    https://appleinsider.com/inside/apple-car
    watto_cobra
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