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Apple headset could have ‘interchangeable lenses’ for VR and AR experiences

Rumors have been afoot for several months now that Apple is developing a mixed reality headset. Now it seems that the official announcement could come sometime in 2022, even if it will be much longer before we actually get the product in our hands.

The details come from the newsletter Power On by Bloombergs Mark Gurman. Gurman has spent a lot of his career covering Apple products, and in the newsletter, he speculates that the launch of an Apple headset will be akin to the releases of other products like the Apple Watch, original iPhone, and the iPad.

Apple VR Headset Concept by Antonio De Rosa
Antonio De Rosa

“Apple’s first headset will have a complex, expensive-to-build design, complete with interchangeable lenses,” says Gurman in the newsletter. “The company will likely need to work with governments globally on possible prescription lenses and partner with a bevy of manufacturers on complex technologies that neither side has shipped before.”

Gurman has also noted before that the Apple headset will have both AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) capabilities, which is where these interchangeable lenses could come into play. That means it could be used for immersive VR applications, as well as mixed reality experiences where the digital elements interact with the real world in some way.

Gurman expects the introduction of this headset to be a major announcement that could rival that of the original Apple Watch. Apple usually announces new products and immediately ships them, but in this case, Gurman expects a longer lead time.

“Apple will want to have such a breakthrough new category in public view before exposing it to leak risks when it gets into the hands of more Apple employees and partners who will need to contribute to it before release,” Gurman said.

For context, the Apple Watch was announced over 200 days before its official release. That means we could see a 2022 announcement followed by a 2023 product launch for the mixed reality headset.

Power On: Apple’s next major product categories — an AR/VR headset, AR glasses, and a self-driving car — will shake up the company’s typical product rollout strategy + Review of Belkin’s new 3-in-1 device charger and more

— Mark Gurman (@markgurman) November 28, 2021

Apple CEO Tim Cook has talked openly about augmented reality and mixed reality, claiming that they are critically important to the future of the company. It could even end up being the final new product released under his watch as CEO before retiring.

The timing of a launch in 2023 was suggested earlier this year by Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. His report also included an eye-watering price of $3,000, which dovetails with Gurman’s statements about its “expensive-to-build” design. According to Kuo, it would run a Mac-level processor and would not need an iPhone to operate, not unlike the Oculus Quest 2.

It should be noted that the Apple headset is likely a distinct product from the Apple Glasses, which are rumored to be a separate AR product that could also launch in the next year or two.

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