While Apple will reportedly provide users with a wide-range of familiar apps for their first XR Headset, there could be a few Impressive Firsts

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Patently Apple first began to follow the trend of a possible future headset way back in late 2009, a granted patent dating back to 2007. That was 16 years ago. , well ahead of any rumor and guru forecast. Another granted patent filed in 2008 was published in 2014. Our archive category of Head Mounted Displays (HMD) now holds over 350 patents that we've covered.

Apple's HMD project gained greater attention back in 2017 when Apple hired Jeff Norris, a former Missions Operations innovation lead at NASA joined Apple's headset device team led by Mike Rockwell, a former engineer from Dolby who advised Meta in creating their AR headset.

After all these years of patiently following this patent trend, Apple's first generation XR Headset is finally set to be released at WWDC23. Our fans who have followed this 16 year trend will finally see this project come to life.

This week Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reported that Apple's XR Headset would feature a version of their Digital Crown that we covered in a patent report back in August 2022. Gurman's report also touched on Apple possibly jamming the headset with xrOS versions of Apple software like Apple Music, the Safari web browser, photos, Apple TV, Books and FaceTime conferencing as just a few.

Apple patents have presented a number of interesting ideas/features/apps that could prevail over time like expanding a MacBook or iMac Display in Virtual Reality, use Continuity, take photos with a self-adjusting XR headset camera, edit 3D documents (Apple's Pages or MS Word) and much more.  

Gurman reminds us that it took Apple a few years after the Apple Watch arrived to finally focus the device on Health features that made it the leader that it is today. Gurman hints that Apple's XR Headset is likely to take some time before it finds a leading trend or killer app.

Until then, Gurman believes that Apple will jam the headset with a mix of familiar apps along with new apps and services including the following:

  • The ability to run most of Apple’s existing iPad apps in mixed reality, which blends AR and VR. That includes Books, Camera, Contacts, FaceTime, Files, Freeform, Home, Mail, Maps, Messages, Music, Notes, Photos, Reminders, Safari, Stocks, TV and Weather.
  • A new Wellness app with a focus on meditation, featuring immersive graphics, calming sounds and voice-overs.
  • Being able to run the hundreds of thousands of existing third-party iPad apps from the App Store with either no extra work or minimal modifications.
  • A new portal for watching sports in virtual reality as part of Apple’s push into streaming live games and news.
  • A large gaming focus, including top-tier titles from existing third-party developers for Apple’s other devices.
  • A feature to use the headset as an external monitor for a connected Mac.
  • Advanced videoconferencing and virtual meeting rooms with realistic avatars, ideally making users feel like they’re interacting in the same place.
  • New collaboration tools via the Freeform app that let users work on virtual whiteboards and go over material together.
  • A new VR-focused Fitness+ experience for working out while wearing the headset (though this feature likely won’t arrive until later).
  • A way to watch video while immersed in a virtual environment, such as a desert scene or in the sky.
  • Users will also be able to operate the headset in several different ways, including by hand and eye control and Siri. It also will work with a connected keyboard or controls from another Apple device.

While Gurman doesn't think that Apple has found a killer app, it's very possible that watching sports in virtual reality using NextVR technology could very well be a first-to-market killer app. Apple's headset could definitely excite millions right out of the gate if this sports app / service is ready right out of the gate.

Apple acquired NextVR in May 2020. One of NextVR's patents covering their next-gen camera was published as an Apple granted patent back in April 2021.

A video from Bob Cooney was posted in 2021 that touched on NextVR and Qualcomm's a proof of concept with 6 DOF (Degrees of Freedom) live 360 streaming of video. With Apple pushing big into Baseball and Soccer, 3D viewing of content could be a big deal for sports fans.  

Another first-to-market feature that could excite Mac users is one wherein the headset could provide macOS users with a larger viewable display to work with in contrast with their physical MacBook or iMac. This concept was first revealed in an August 2022 patent report.

Exciting times are just around the corner at WWDC23.

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