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Apple’s VR headset may launch soon, intriguing leak suggests

Apple’s upcoming mixed-reality headset is basically the worst-kept secret in the tech world at this point. Now, a new detail has emerged: the operating system powering the device has been internally renamed to “xrOS” at Apple, forsaking the earlier mooted name of “realityOS.” The name change could suggest Apple is gearing up to reveal the headset to the world.

According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, the “xr” in the name stands for “extended reality,” which is a nod to the headset’s mixed-reality capabilities. It is expected the headset will offer both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) experiences, with the former offering entirely digital games and video, and the latter overlaying virtual elements on top of the real world.

Apple VR Headset Concept by Antonio De Rosa
Antonio De Rosa

Previously, the general understanding among Apple followers was that the operating system powering the headset would be called “realityOS,” or perhaps “rOS” for short. It now appears Apple has appended the latter with an X in a signal towards the headset’s combined VR and AR offering.

Beyond that, Apple might be hoping to turn “xr” into a recognizable brand of sorts, especially if the headset performs well against potential rivals such as the Meta Quest Pro. Apple already used the initialism in the iPhone XR, although in that case, the letters did not actually stand for anything.

A mysterious shell company

A rendering of the potential Apple headset made by The Information.
A rendering of the potential Apple headset made by The Information. Image used with permission by copyright holder

Gurman added that the “xrOS” name was trademarked by “a secretive shell corporation named Deep Dive LLC” in several countries around the same time as the name change occurred internally at Apple. That company is now seeking to secure the trademark in the US.

While it is not known whether Apple is behind Deep Dive LLC, if it is, it could be a sign that Apple is planning to use the “xrOS” name publicly and not just as an internal code name. Apple often uses shell corporations to register its trademarks, such as with the names of macOS releases, so such a move would not be unprecedented.

However, there are a few clues linking Apple to the trademark claims. According to Gurman, the claims come under the classifications of “head-mounted displays” and devices that provide “virtual reality and augmented reality experiences.” Intriguingly, those are the same categories that were used when the name “realityOS” was trademarked in 2021, and Gurman states he has been able to confirm that name was indeed trademarked by Apple.

Rumors suggest Apple’s mixed-reality headset could be announced as soon as January 2023, with a product launch following in the second quarter of the year. Apple is expected to go all-out with this device, equipping it with a large array of advanced cameras, 8K displays for each eye, hand-tracking capabilities, and a high price tag compared to rivals.

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