As the saying goes: When there’s smoke, there’s fire. And judging by the amount of smoke coming out of the rumor mills and reports about Apple’s next big product, a hybrid virtual reality/augmented reality headset, we’re almost guaranteed to see it during the WWDC 2023 opening keynote on June 5.
The headset will purportedly carry the name Reality Pro and share the same basic design elements of a pair of skiing goggles. There’ll be a battery pack that you have to connect to the headset using a cable, with the pack presumably attached to your hip or in a pocket.
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Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has done a ton of reporting about the headset, detailing what he’s heard from those on the inside about the various hardware and software aspects of what’s shaping up to be one of Apple’s most anticipated hardware launches since the Apple Watch in 2014.
The current rumored cost of Reality Pro? $3,000. If you need a moment to catch your breath, please take it. I’ll wait.
That price tag begs the question “What would it take for Apple to convince you to pay $3,000 for the headset?” And the truth is, there’s nothing I can think of right now that Apple could show Reality Pro doing that will convince me to part ways with that much money.
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You see, for the last year or so, I’ve had access to the $400 Meta Quest 2 headset. Meta sent it to me when the company was pushing Horizon Worlds for business meetings. I never did end up using it for a meeting — it’s awkward and weird. Instead, I’ve spent some time with my kids playing games like Beat Saber and watching them play Gorilla Tag.
Playing either of those games, depending on your intensity level, can feel a lot like a workout. There are times when you end up out of breath and covered in sweat. The headband that surrounds the inside of the headset, going between it and your face, often ends up drenched. And it’s stinky. And gross. Just thinking about it makes me say ew!
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In April, Gurman reported about some of the use cases Apple is currently working on for Reality Pro. It’ll reportedly have features like the ability to run 3D versions of iPad apps, use 3D avatars for FaceTime calls, have a major gaming push, and integrate with Apple’s Fitness+ service for workouts, among other features.
None of that sounds compelling enough to me to justify the $3,000 price tag, but least of all is the idea of participating in a Fitness+ class with Reality Pro strapped to my face.
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Can you imagine trying to do a burpee with a VR/AR headset attached to your head? I can’t. It sounds incredibly uncomfortable and isn’t appealing in the slightest.
Not to mention the headset reportedly doesn’t even have an embedded battery, meaning that there’s going to be a loose cable going from somewhere on the headset to the battery that’s somewhere else on your body. To me, that’s just asking for the cable to get caught up in my arm as I do a kickboxing class, in turn ripping the headset off my face, throwing the battery against the wall or both. Maybe a meditation class will be better?
Then there’s the sanitary aspect of sweating in the headset and the cushions that are sure to be in place. It’s going to smell and get gross over time. And if you share it with a roommate or family member — which if you’re spending $3,000 on it and you’re not a developer or business user, you’re likely sharing it with someone, right? — the cleanliness of the headset is sure to be an issue.
When will the Reality Pro headset be available?
Like the Apple Watch, Reality Pro will have a lengthy delay between announcement and wider availability. The current line of thinking is that the headset will be announced at the developer conference, and hit store shelves before the end of 2023. The first Apple Watch was announced in September and launched in April of the next year.
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The time between the announcement and release gives Apple more time to polish the software and hardware experience and it gives third-party developers time to work with the new software, porting and optimizing existing apps or creating entirely new experiences for the headset.
I don’t truly know what Apple plans for Reality Pro and how the average consumer will use the headset. But based on the number of features and apps that’ll reportedly be available on day one, it sure sounds a lot like Apple doesn’t truly know either.