Apple’s VR headset is nearing its supposed arrival at WWDC 2023 on June 5 – and the mixed reality wearable is set to launch alongside an exciting new operating system, possibly called xrOS.
What is xrOS? We may now be approaching iOS 17, iPadOS 16, and macOS 13 Ventura on a different Apple tech, but the Apple VR headset – rumored to be called Apple Reality One – is expected to debut with the first version of the new operating system, which will get regular updates as well. like its iPhone, iPad and Mac counterparts.
Recent leaks suggest that Apple has settled on the xrOS name for its AR/VR headset, but many questions remain. For example, what new things can xrOS developers (and us) enable in mixed reality compared to iOS? Will xrOS support ports of existing Apple apps like Freeform?
Here’s everything we know so far about xrOS and the types of things Apple’s mixed reality headset can enable in both augmented and virtual reality.
xOS release date
It looks like Apple will showcase its new xrOS operating system along with a new AR/VR headset at WWDC 2023 on June 5. ET/6pm BST (or 3am ACT on June 6).
This does not necessarily mean that the final version of xrOS will be released on that day. The likely scenario is that Apple will launch an xrOS development kit to allow software developers to build apps and experiences for the new headset.
Yooo Apple just registered the xrOS trademark in its SF Pro font! It’s happening guys! Via @ParkerOrtolani pic.twitter.com/wdx4Q3RbQEMay 16, 2023
While this isn’t Apple’s typical approach, it’s something it’s done before for Apple TV and other products. The full version of xrOS 1.0 could then arrive when the headset hits store shelves in late 2023.
The name of the software now looks at least etched in stone. As noted Parker Ortolani on Twitter on May 16, Apple trademarked the name “xrOS” in its traditional “SF Pro” typeface in New Zealand through a shell company.
We’ve seen reports from before Bloomberg that “xrOS” would be the name of Apple’s mixed reality operating system, but the timing of this discovery (and the font used) reinforces rumors that it will be revealed at WWDC 2023.
Report from the leaked Apple Brand Gurman On December 1, 2022, he suggested that Apple had “recently changed the name of the operating system to ‘xrOS’ from ‘realityOS’ and that the name stands for ‘augmented reality’.” The term covers both augmented reality (which overlays information on the real world) and virtual reality, the more closed-in experience we know from Meta Quest 2.
While xrOS is expected to resemble iOS – with apps, widgets, and a home screen – the fact that Apple’s AR/VR headset apparently supports both AR and VR, and also uses gestures, explains why the new operating system was created and there will likely be a developer preview at WWDC.
What is xrOS?
Apple’s xrOS platform can take advantage of the AR/VR headset’s unique hardware, which includes an array of chips, cameras, and sensors. It is different from ARKit, the software that allows you to run AR apps on your iPhone or iPad. Apple’s xrOS is also expected to rely heavily on the design language seen on the iPhone to help fans feel at home.
According to Gurman of Bloomberg, xrOS “will have many of the same features as the iPhone and iPad, but in a 3D environment.” This means we can expect an iOS-like interface, complete with rearrange apps, customizable widgets, and a home screen. Apple apparently also makes an App Store for the headset.
realityOS • Concept pic.twitter.com/DjVZIg2Rb4June 5, 2022
Standard apps on the AR/VR headset will apparently include Apple’s Safari, Photos, Mail, News, and Calendar apps, as well as Apple TV Plus, Apple Music, and Podcasts. Application developers will also be able to take advantage of the potential of health monitoring.
Gurman says the headset experience will be familiar to Apple fans – once you put it on, he claims “the main interface will be almost identical to the iPhone and iPad, with a home screen with a grid of icons that can be reorganized.”
But how will you type while wearing the Apple Reality Pro (as it’s supposedly called)? After all, there will probably be no controllers.
Instead, you’ll apparently be able to type using the keyboard on your iPhone, Mac, or iPad. There is also a slightly less attractive prospect of using the Siri voice assistant. Apple is said to be creating a system that allows you to type in the air, but Gurman says the feature is “unlikely to be ready for first launch.”
You may be able to connect your headset to your Mac, with the headset serving as your Mac’s display. We recently saw how this can work with the Spacetop (above), a laptop that pairs with some NReal AR glasses to give you a massive 100-inch virtual display.
What apps will run on xrOS?
We already mentioned that Apple’s AR/VR headset is likely to run optimized versions of existing stock apps, including Safari, Photos, Mail, Messages, Contacts, Reminders, Maps, and Calendar.
But given that these apps don’t claim to be reinvented in AR or VR, they’re likely to be side shows to some of the more exciting offerings from both Apple and third-party developers.
So what could they be? Here are some of the most interesting possibilities, based on the latest rumors and what we’ve seen about Meta Quest Pro.
1. Apple Fitness Plus
Assuming the Apple AR/VR headset is light and practical enough for exercise – which we can’t say about the Apple AirPods Max – then it certainly has some AR fitness potential.
According to a report by Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman on April 18, Apple plans to capitalize on this potential with “a headset version of Fitness+ that will allow users to exercise while watching an instructor in VR.”
Of course, VR fitness experiences are nothing new, and we certainly enjoyed some of the best Oculus Quest fitness games. The added AR component can make them even more powerful and motivating, with goals added to your real-world view.
2. Any Apple format
We called Apple’s Freeform, which provides a blank canvas for brainstorming with others, “one of the best software releases in years.” And this can be taken to the next level with the AR or VR version.
Indeed, the aforementioned Bloomberg report claims that “Apple is developing a version of its Freeform collaboration app for the headset”, which it apparently “sees as the main selling point of the product.”
Okay, the AR/VR experience might not sound exciting, and we certainly had concerns after working all week in VR with Meta Quest Pro. But mixed reality boards also sound potentially fun, especially if we play with them while working.
3. Apple TV Plus
Since Apple’s headset will have a VR mode opposite to AR mode, it has great potential to allow us to watch TV and video on giant virtual screens or in a whole new way. This means the Apple TV Plus will likely come pre-installed on xrOS as well.
Another claim from the April 18 Bloomberg report was that “one advantage of the headset will be that you can watch sports in an immersive way.” This makes sense considering Apple already has deals for Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer on Apple TV Plus.
And while these are just rumors, Apple has also considered bidding for Premier League football rights in the UK. Well, it would be cheaper than a Manchester United season ticket.
While we weren’t thrilled with our VR experience at Meta Quest’s Horizon Workrooms, Apple’s Mixed Reality headset will apparently deliver a next-gen version of FaceTime – and Reality Pro hardware can take the whole experience to a notch,
With an earlier report from information suggesting that Apple’s headset will have at least 12 cameras (probably 14) to track your eyes, face, hands, and body, it should do a decent job of creating a 3D version of you in virtual meeting rooms.
We still haven’t seen significant real-world benefits from VR video meetings, even if they can be done from a virtual beach. But we’re looking forward to trying it out by holding our virtual fingers to work more consistently than today’s FaceTime without VR.
5. Adobe Substance 3D modeling tool
Adobe has already released some attractive demos as well as beta software called 3D substance modeler (above), showing the potential of creative applications in VR goggles. Will this software’s list of compatible headsets soon include Apple Reality Pro? It certainly seems possible.
The software effectively allows you to design 3D objects using virtual clay in a VR playground. It’s unclear how this would work with Apple’s xrOS headset, given that it lacks any physical controllers.
These kinds of design tools seem to hit the spot for Apple’s headset, given that many of its users are already happy spending thousands on high-end Macs and MacBooks to use this kind of software in a 2D environment.
6. Final Cut Pro
We recently saw both Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro land on the iPad with new dedicated versions of both tablet apps. This news was quickly followed by speculation that apps could also be coming to Apple’s mixed reality headset.
Mark Gurman of Bloomberg contained on Twitter that the arrival of both Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro on the iPad means “there is a very real possibility” that they will appear on the VR headset, at least some time after its launch.
That’s because xrOS is expected to be home to a large number of iPadOS apps, which Apple is set to port over to give Reality Pro a wide selection of apps to launch.
It’s not yet clear what form these apps might take – and some Logic Pro users may shudder at the thought of mastering a track in AR or VR – but it’s definitely another intriguing non-gaming possibility for Apple’s headset.