Apple Is Now Calling Its AR/VR Headset Operating System ‘xrOS’


(Photo: Apple headset render via Antonio DeRosa)
Apple seems to be getting close to the launch of its much-hyped AR/VR headset, as it’s reportedly settled on a name for the operating system. Noted Apple soothsayer Mark Gurman is reporting it’s going to be xrOS. This is shorthand for “extended reality,†as opposed to strictly augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR). Previously it was believed to be called realityOS, but Apple has allegedly ditched that for a shorter name, the report said. (The Bloomberg article is paywalled and was summarized by MacRumors.)

The device will be Apple’s first new product since the Apple Watch, which debuted in 2015. The new naming confirms Apple’s plans to follow in the footsteps of the Meta Quest Pro by offering mixed, or extended, reality. That approach will allow the user to experience both VR, a fully digital world, and AR, virtual objects overlaid with reality. This is seen as a more flexible offering than just sticking with one technology. Current headsets like the Meta Quest 2 and Valve Index are strictly VR headsets.

Meta’s Mixed Reality headset allows for Virtual yoga with a digital instructor. (Image: Meta)

The headset is expected to officially launch in 2023 alongside a dedicated app store and ecosystem. The company has reportedly rebuilt its native apps, including Messages and Maps, specifically for the new headset. Sources say at launch it’ll offer virtual collaboration tools and a VR version of FaceTime. It’ll also be offering a software development kit to third parties to develop games and apps.

This could open up an entirely new frontier in the software development space if customers respond positively. It will also ignite a long-simmering war between Apple and Meta. Meta is arguing there should be open standards for metaverse-compatible devices, whereas Apple will likely wall off its ecosystem to third-party hardware. Apple’s product could pose a major threat to Meta’s market dominance, thanks to Cupertino’s deep pockets and excellent reputation for tying its hardware and software together.

Still, Apple has its work cut out for it. Despite existing for over a decade, the world of VR and AR remains a small niche in the computer world. Though excitement over metaverse opportunities seems high in the corporate world currently, the buying public isn’t so sure. Meta has struggled to capture gamers’ attention with its Horizon Worlds metaverse; so much so that it can’t even get its own employees to use it. It’s also dumped billions of dollars into its Reality Labs division for several years now.

Apple’s headset is also rumored to cost around $2,000, which would severely limit its adoption. If that comes to pass, it’ll be the most expensive consumer headset available. The Meta Quest Pro costs $1,500, and even that was seen as outrageous when it was announced. However, Apple is known only to enter a market when it can secure high margins. A pricey headset doesn’t seem that far-fetched.

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