Some internal skeptics have questioned if the new device is a solution in search of a problem. Unlike the iPod, which put digital songs in people’s pockets, and the iPhone, which combined the abilities of a music player and a phone, the headset hasn’t been driven by the same clarity, these people said.
The product is being birthed during a period of limbo. This year, Mr. Ive’s successor overseeing industrial design, Evans Hankey, departed. With design’s leadership in flux, Mike Rockwell, an engineer, has been leading development of the device.
The headset looks like ski goggles. It features a carbon fiber frame, a hip pack with battery support, outward cameras to capture the real world and two 4K displays that can render everything from applications to movies, two of the people said. Users can turn a “reality dial” on the device to increase or decrease real-time video from the world around them.
The New York Times has previously reported on some features, as have Bloomberg and The Information.
The headset is expected to cost about $3,000, three of the people said. And it is considered a bridge to a future product, such as augmented reality glasses, that would have broader appeal but require technical breakthroughs.
Because the headset won’t fit over glasses, the company has plans to sell prescription lenses for the displays to people who don’t wear contacts, a person familiar with the plan said.
During the device’s development, Apple has focused on making it excel for videoconferencing and spending time with others as avatars in a virtual world. The company has called the device’s signature application “copresence,” a word designed to capture the experience of sharing a real or virtual space with someone in another place. It is akin to what Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, calls the “metaverse.”
The device will double as a tool for artists, designers and engineers, tracking them as they draw freely in space in image-editing applications and tracking hand gestures for the editing of virtual reality films. Lastly, it will function as a high-resolution TV with custom-made video content from Hollywood filmmakers such as Jon Favreau, the director of “Iron Man.”