Why Apple's AR/VR Headset Needs to Change How People Use VR to Be Successful

It's rumored to be a pricey gadget

  • Apple is reportedly about to launch a new mixed reality headset.
  • Experts say Apple must distinguish the product from competitors to justify its high price tag. 
  • A lighter design and great apps will be necessary to convince users to buy the headset. 
Apple VR headset render
Apple VR headset render.

Ian Zelbo

Apple may be about to shake up the gadget world if its rumored mixed reality (MR) headset turns out to be real, but the product will have giant hurdles to overcome to be successful. 

The latest reports say Apple's headset will run iPad apps when it launches at WWDC 2023 in June and cost around $3,000. However, experts say convincing users to pay more than a high-end MacBook for an unproven product could be difficult. 

"The device's industrial design has to make a tremendous aesthetic leap forward," Jason Yim, the CEO of the mixed reality development firm Trigger XR told Lifewire in an email interview. "Like all Apple products, this must be something you're proud to wear or have on your shelf. Proper 'passthrough' for AR to differentiate it from other VR devices. And not only hardware requirements like high-quality color cameras and powerful software that can mesh and understand the user's environment and cleanly occlude people in view."

Mixed Reality: Apple’s New Toy?

Apple is famous for its secrecy surrounding product launches, but there has been speculation that the company will soon launch a mixed-reality headset. The device will reportedly have a dial similar to the one on the Apple Watch that will let users switch between a fully digital representation and mixed reality—a merging of the real world and virtual worlds to produce new environments. 

The Cupertino-based company will have to buck industry trends if it wants its product to succeed. The dream of virtual reality (VR) has been promised for decades, and even though Meta has spent billions of dollars on VR, it has seen mixed success with its Quest 2 and Quest Pro headsets. Apple's headset is rumored to be far more advanced than those sold by Meta.

Yim said that Apple would have to produce more high-quality content than Meta has for its headset. The Meta headsets have been criticized for not having enough optimized apps. 

"The Apple head-mounted display must also improve how one consumes the rest of the Apple ecosystem, including social connectivity tools and photo and video libraries on top of their other media services," Yim added. "Above all, inspirational and aspirational marketing will be a huge driver of success with this launch."

The Apple headsets will need to have "stellar" spatial tracking, a system that detects the precise pose of head-mounted displays, and controllers, Max Kraynov, the group CEO of FunCorp, an entertainment tech developer, said in an email. In addition, Apple will need a smaller headset and a powerful battery to make it more user-friendly. 

The Apple head-mounted display must also improve how one consumes the rest of the Apple ecosystem, including social connectivity tools and photo and video libraries...

The headset must also have a "more appealing design for outdoor, on-the-go use [to] mark a new era for VR/AR headsets, unlocking their greater potential," he added. "As of now, most of these headsets are used at home."

Observers agree that Apple's vaunted designers will likely try to make a nicer-looking headset than the blocky designs currently on the market, such as the Quest 2. 

"Making a lighter, more aesthetically pleasing headset with a friendlier user interface could help Apple compete with Meta," Kraynov said. "In addition, if Apple were to find a way to make people less dizzy during and after using the VR headset, it would make for a great competitive advantage."

The Future of Mixed Reality

Whatever happens with Apple's headset, a  mixed reality future is inevitable, Yim predicted. He said the world would continue to move towards more 3D content, first consumed through phones and tablets and then later through head-mounted displays. 

Apple TV 5 speculation begins
Credit: Artur Debat Guy experiencing the new technology of virtual reality headsets the future of social communication and entertainment. Getty

"But there is no doubt that the mixed reality ball will gain momentum with leaps in capabilities," he added.

Mixed reality will be helpful for tasks like trying on virtual clothing or visualizing furniture and other home improvement and remodeling options, Kryanov said. MR also holds great promise with educational tools that include 'how to' tutorials, which can be mastered in under 15 mins—the sweet spot after which dizziness sets in. 

"In terms of entertainment, MR is set to be a real game changer for gaming, enabling a much more immersive experience that blends in the user's real-world environment with virtual elements, creating a more engaging experience for all players," Kraynov said. 

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