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In the early hours of this morning, Apple officially released a preview of WWDC 2023, almost explicitly showing the upcoming Apple headset.
The official website has been updated with a changing Apple logo. When you open the event page on Apple’s official website with an iPhone or iPad, there will be a “View the AR experience” button to see the event preview under the AR effect.
Some netizens even “cracked” the “hidden egg” in the trailer: “VR headset unveiled at WWDC”, which means “VR headset will be revealed at WWDC”.
Earlier, Apple also released a poster for WWDC 2023. Looking at this arc, does it look like the lens of a head-mounted display?
As a long-rumored product, Apple’s MR headset has almost no secrets in months of revelations. Tim Cook himself doesn’t care about secrecy. When talking about the VR/AR field, he once said generously: “Please continue to pay attention, and you will see the products we bring.”
Rumors are flying all over the sky, Apple’s MR headset has no “secret”
According to RoadtoVR news, Apple has sent invitations to them and other XR industry media for WWDC 2023, which almost clearly indicates that Apple will release MR devices in June. Combined with the news from all parties, we have summarized this Reality Pro (applied trademark) hardware information:
- Appearance: similar to ski glasses, the outside is a screen showing the user’s expression;
- Performance: Equipped with two chips, which can run independently;
- Screens: Two 4K, 1.4-inch Micro OLED screens from Sony;
- Sensors: multiple external lenses and internal sensors that support eye and hand tracking;
- Interaction mode: voice, gesture, eye movement, smart ring;
- Battery life: separate battery pack design, about 2 hours of battery life;
- Price: about $3000;
- Release date: WWDC 2023.
According to The Information, Apple has designed two separate chips for Reality Pro, including a main SoC chip code-named Staten (including CPU, GPU and memory), and a dedicated image signal processor (ISP) code-named Bora. ) chip, which is used to process the images captured by the external camera and restore the surrounding environment.
In terms of software, Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman revealed that Apple sees the headset as a device for gaming, watching streaming video, video conferencing, health and fitness, and communicating with others. Therefore, the system will focus on creating the best environment for this content.
The name of the Apple headset system is likely to be xrOS.
Yesterday developer Troughton-Smith tried to submit an app designed for the headset, which was quickly rejected by App Store Connect, but recognized it as an xrOS binary in the error message, again increasing the possibility of this naming.
xrOS is believed to have an iOS-like interface that will be familiar to iPhone and iPad users, but the interaction will be presented in a new way.
Mark Gurman broke the news that xrOS applications include Safari, photos, messages, maps, Apple TV+, Apple Music, podcasts, reminders and calendars, as well as a FaceTime application customized for the headset, which can imitate the user’s facial expressions and body movements , presenting an extremely realistic effect.
Reality Pro is expected to open up the App Store of iPadOS, and you can directly download and use the iPad app, just like using the iOS app on a Mac equipped with an M-series processor. Even if there are not many third-party app support at the first time, the playability of Reality Pro can still be guaranteed.
Bloomberg also sorted out the Reality Pro experience worth looking forward to:
- Apps such as Safari browser, mail, maps, notes, etc. will provide “optimized versions”;
- New camera app, available to multiple lenses on Reality Pro;
- Use Apple book to read books and enter meditation;
- Infinity Note app realizes collaboration with others in mixed display;
- iWork suite optimized;
- A “richer experience” when watching sports;
- Gaming “will be the core attraction of the device”.
In addition to the iPad app, the main screen and control center of Reality Pro will be similar to the iPad, but the operation method is different from the iPad.
According to Information, with external cameras and in-device sensors, Reality Pro can track hands and eyeballs, and pinch fingers to activate apps or other screen components. This means that Reality Pro does not need to use handles like other VR devices.
This method of operation can be confirmed by a patent recently exposed by Apple. The Apple patent published by the US Patent and Trademark Office USPTO points out an electronic device equipped with sensors such as ultrasonic transducers/acousto-optic lenses and ToF modules. Non-contact control can be realized by recognizing external objects such as hands and stylus.
In the patent, Apple refers to this control method as “Air Input” and the name is fruity.
As a device that can run independently, Reality Pro can still be linked with other Apple devices, such as becoming a Mac monitor. You can use Reality Pro to connect to Mac mini and enjoy large-screen office work at any time.
▲ A 2014 crowdfunding project on Kickstarter, turning the iPad into a VR helmet Picture from: AirVR
Finally, the seamless switching between VR and AR is also a big selling point of Reality Pro. According to Bloomberg News, Reality Pro will support the use of body buttons to switch between VR and AR. After pressing, the screen of Reality Pro will gradually light up, so that users can see the real environment around them.
Standalone operation, dual 4K screens, high-precision sensors, M2 processor, plus the software ecology of the iPad, any parameter of Reality Pro is the top of the industry. Palmer Luckey, the founder of the VR headset company Oculus, said after the experience: Apple’s headset is great.
But not everyone is optimistic about Reality Pro. In an interview with Bloomberg, former Apple sales executive Michael Guttenberg expressed doubts about this device: This may be “the most serious technical failure in Apple’s history.”
Recently, research firm TrendForce reported that the Reality Pro is primarily geared towards developers and that shipments this year may be below 100,000 units, but even if every retail store in the world sells 1 Reality Pro per day, that would be 180,000 units a year above. In comparison, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo’s annual sales forecast of less than 500,000 units may be more accurate, which was 1.5 million a year ago.
From a market point of view, the ecology and applications in the VR/AR field are not yet ready. The price of Reality Pro is US$3,000 (about 21,087 yuan), which is higher than the high-end product Quest Pro (US$1,499) released by Mate last year. Not a lot.
Of course, this does not affect its meeting with us on WWDC.
16 souls who helped Apple enter the world of mixed reality
“I’m not interested in putting other people’s stuff together.” In an interview with GQ, Tim Cook answered why Reality Pro took so long to release. Apple didn’t want to make a new screen, it wanted to make a whole new tool.
At Apple, thousands of employees participated in the research and development of Reality Pro. In order to make this product that may be the riskiest product Apple has seen in decades, sixteen engineers played a vital role, including Apple designer Jony Ive.
Perhaps after WWDC 2023, you will see the following names in more places, they are the secret team that brought Apple into the world of mixed reality:
Mike Rockwell : Rockwell is the team leader and has been leading product development as early as 2016. A project participant said that if anyone can succeed (in the field of virtual reality), it must be Mike Rockwell.
Jeff Williams : Williams is Apple’s chief operating officer and is often seen as a candidate for the next Apple CEO. He is responsible for the design and human-computer interaction teams for Reality Pro.
Dan Riccio : As the director of Apple’s hardware engineering, Riccio is Rockwell’s direct superior. It is reported that he will retire after the release of Reality Pro. The importance of this product is self-evident. After all, the TV and car projects he was in charge of before The product launch is still far away.
Paul Meade : Meade was one of the top hardware managers on the iPhone team, and his task was to turn Reality Pro from a conceptual design into an actual product. There are two engineers reporting directly to Meade: Fletcher Rothkopf and Ray Chang.
Fletcher Rotchkopf went from an iPod product line intern to a senior designer for Apple Watch, and was selected by Rockwell to become the chief designer of Reality Pro. Ray Chang is responsible for the design of the underlying circuit of the device.
Jony Ive : Although Jony Ive stepped down from his position as Apple’s chief designer in the early days of the project, until July 2022, he still promoted the project’s research and development work as an information partner. On Reality Pro, we may see three design solutions that Jony Ive strongly promotes: the form of an all-in-one machine, a screen that can display human eye movements, facial expressions, and a digital crown similar to Apple Watch, used for AR and VR. Smooth over.
Greg Joswiak : As a key role in the executive team’s push to push the project, Joswiak, the company’s marketing director, is responsible for selling Reality Pro to consumers for $3,000.
Phil Schiller : Schiller is not directly involved in the R&D work, but he will be responsible for the presentation of the product release. Now it seems that this is a very high-risk launch event, and the presentation is particularly important. Schiller is said to be an avid VR racing enthusiast who personally pushed Reality Pro’s progress in gaming.
Frank Casanova : In 2019, Casanoba was responsible for the iPhone-based ARKit-related business. He joined Apple as early as 1988. In addition to ARKit, he was also responsible for the marketing of iPhone, QuickTime and other products.
Kim Vorrath : Vorrath is the Principal Program Manager (EPM) for Reality Pro, so it’s her fault (no) that the product has been in development for so long. Back in 2000, she played a key role in the software development of the original iPhone, and later became the lead program manager for both iOS and macOS.
Jeff Norris : Norris used to work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and his projects included using VR devices to remotely control spacecraft. Although the new product release is imminent, the application scenarios of Reality Pro are still vague, which is the main task of Norris. In his vision, video conferencing, meditation and remote collaboration will be the main selling points of this device.
Johny Srouji : If you pay attention to the release of M-series chips in recent years, you must have seen Srouji explaining the chip. As a top chip supervisor, he has led the chip research and development work from A4 to the present, but he thinks that Reality Pro is more like a “Science projects,” remain skeptical.
Shannon Gans : Gans used to be a producer of HBO and has very rich working experience in the field of animation production. She is mainly responsible for the content in Reality Pro and is responsible for promoting cooperation projects with companies such as Hollywood.
Geoff Stahl : Whether Reality Pro is easy to use depends entirely on Stahl. He is responsible for the development of the entire operating system (or named xrOS) and most of the software, and participates in the development of the device application game engine. Before that, he was Apple’s advanced graphics game software manager.
Finally, and most importantly, is Apple’s current CEO, Tim Cook . After Tim Cook took over, Apple’s market value has grown astonishingly, but whether it’s the iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch, it’s all What Steve Jobs thought in the past, Tim Cook didn’t break new ground. For Cook, the original product was a gamble that had to be done well.
Long-planned, the VR dream that started more than ten years ago
If Apple appointed Mike Rockwell as the leader of the VR/AR team, Reality Pro has been developed for more than seven years, but Apple has been exploring this field for longer than seven years.
As early as 2010, Apple acquired Polar Rose, a facial recognition technology company from Sweden. Then, more than 10 technology companies including Polar Rose, an indoor positioning technology company, PrimeSense, a 3D sensing and motion capture technology company, and LuxVue Technology, a miniLED company, were acquired. Apple buys.
If these peripheral technologies are used in other ways, then in 2017, it acquired mixed reality headset company Vrvana, in 2018 it acquired AR lens company Akonia, and in 2020 it acquired companies such as VR live broadcast service company NextVR and virtual avatar company Spaces, covering almost everything from Every aspect of hardware, software and even content services.
It seems that Apple is taking every step in the VR/AR field, but unlike the iPhone, which is directly led by Steve Jobs and Jony Ive, the Rockwell team encountered many decision-making adjustments in the development of Reality Pro.
The original Reality Pro was split into two parts, the host and the glasses, connected wirelessly, with higher resolution and faster processing performance. At the same time, there is a low-power independent mode, which allows the glasses part to run independently under a lower load.
However, the design team led by Jony Ive did not agree. On the general direction of the project from the beginning, the two teams stalemate for several months.
In the end, Tim Cook stood on the design side and re-planned the new direction of Reality Pro, an all-in-one VR device.
When the time came to 2018, Jony Ive began to promote the development of the AR glasses project. Correspondingly, the goal of Apple’s head-mounted device was finally positioned as a combination of VR and AR, using eye and hand tracking to operate.
As for the all-in-one VR device that has been developed for many years, it has been integrated into the Mac. The chip that was once developed for the VR host is the M chip used by the entire Mac today.
At the moment when it was adjusted twice and had to be released, there are still differences within Apple’s team.
The industrial design team advocates being patient, and wait until the VR/AR technology is mature and the related ecology is perfect before “holding back a big one”, and the delayed release will be a blockbuster. But Tim Cook finally decided to release it directly, and we were able to see Reality Pro at WWDC.
Going back to Tim Cook’s original vision, Reality Pro should be a pair of glasses that can meet the needs of all-weather wear. It can send and receive emails, browse the web, and make video calls, replacing some of the daily operations on the iPhone and Mac, and even compatible with other Apple devices.
▲ Sounds a bit like Google Glass
But today’s Reality Pro has become a “head-mounted display” that is close to the size of ski goggles.
Considering that Apple has not released a new category for many years, Reality Pro may be the last big move in Tim Cook’s Apple CEO career. He is eager to create a product that can determine Apple’s new computing platform for the next decade, hoping that it will be like the iPhone. Proof of Apple’s creativity in new industries.
In the dialog of AI is the opportunity of AR/VR
As the leader of VR head-mounted display devices, Oculus’ market share will reach an astonishing 80% in 2021, and by the first quarter of 2022, it will occupy 90% of the market share. However, from 2019 to 2022, the cumulative loss of Meta’s metaverse business has exceeded 35 billion US dollars, and the loss has gradually expanded and continues.
VR/AR, which has been developed for many years, is still an emerging field. From iPod to iPad, Apple basically created a better version of every product we are familiar with, but in the field of VR/AR, it has to explain to consumers why such a product is needed. products.
Fortunately, software ecology has always been Apple’s strength. At the 2022 Q1 financial report meeting, Tim Cook said that there are more than 14,000 AR software in the Apple Store, providing AR services to millions of people. Coupled with the targeted development of the system app, the initial performance of Reality Pro does not seem to be too worrying.
However, after years of development in the market, there has not been an “iPhone moment” that can change the industry. Whether it is tens of thousands of AR software or system app development for devices, Apple’s current layout is more like a service that can be provided. It’s all for users, and if they want to get the experience that “only Reality Pro can do”, it may take an inevitable period of embarrassment.
From the Mac that replaces code with a graphical interface and lowers the threshold for human interaction, to the iPhone that replaces the keyboard with multi-touch, Apple continues to make the interaction intuitive. Today, the growth of smartphones is sluggish, as several times to push the technology industry forward. As a company, Apple’s challenge today is not easy, but it still needs to use its own exploration to give the industry some new inspiration.
A powerful and rich software ecosystem is what makes Apple products so attractive.
Under the impact of AIGC, the complex search and creation interface has been simplified into a dialog box, we no longer need complex buttons to complete the work, and the once complex creation can be completed in one sentence. From a screen to a dialog box, how much will AI reshape the Internet experience we are used to? Will the reshaped Internet, like Reality Pro devices, be a better choice?
In September last year, when Tim Cook gave a speech at an Italian university, he talked about AR again, and believed that it would touch everything in our lives, and the impact on the world would be as far-reaching as the Internet: “In the future, we may not be able to imagine life without What AR will look like.”
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