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What to expect from Apple and Meta’s upcoming headsets

Coming up in 2022

What to expect from Apple and Meta’s upcoming headsets
Ivan Mehta
Story by

Ivan Mehta

Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh." Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh."

If you’re tired of hearing the word ‘metaverse,’ I don’t blame you — I’m there with you. For now, it looks like all talk and no substance. At best, we’ve seen legless avatars floating around in a virtual meeting room, and that doesn’t sound appealing.

While many of us are struggling to imagine what the metaverse might look like, it’s a certainty that virtual reality/mixed reality headsets will play an immense role in it.

There are two big companies that might release a new headset next year, and finally launch us into the rich experiences that have been promised to us for years: Apple and Meta (Facebook).

While Meta has been loudly announcing its ambitions, Apple has been rather quiet.

We know a few things about what we can expect from these companies next year. Let’s dive into them:

Apple

There’s huge anticipation about what Apple’s first attempt at VR/MR hardware will look like. Both Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and renowned analyst Ming-Chi Kuo have noted that the company could release the headset next year.

Multiple reports suggested that this headset could be priced at $3,000 or above. So, it might be targeted towards developers and gaming enthusiasts.

Leo Gebbie, a principal analyst at CCS Insights, suggested that it’s unlikely of Apple to move early in the market and release a device that only a few people can access.

He noted that while Apple doesn’t have any direct involvement with VR, its ARKit API is proof of the company’s expertise in spatial computing. So we should expect rich experiences through a tightly-curated App Store.

Representative drawing of Apple's MR headset
Credit: The Information
Representative drawing of Apple’s MR headset

In terms of hardware, we shouldn’t expect anything but top-end specs from Apple’s device.

Snehal Dhruve, CEO & founder of Cameraah, an AR/VR experience creation company, believes Apple will have a hardware advantage in the space with its powerful line of processors.

In his newsletter, Gurman has noted that the headset will have an advanced display, cooling tech, and avatar-based features.

Gebbie thinks that just like Meta, the Cupertino-based company would also like to include social experiences — but that might be restricted to your friends with Apple devices.

Dhruve opined that because Apple doesn’t have any prior framework for VR, we could see the company give us a glimpse of the platform at its developer conference WWDC next year.

Meta

Unlike Apple, Meta is not starting afresh with its VR ambitions. The company is already a leader in the space with various Oculus headsets — especially the Oculus Quest 2.

According to a report from Counterpoint, the company dominated in Q4 2020 and Q1 2021 in the headset market, with an almost 75% share of global shipments.

So Meta already has a headstart in terms of platform reach. However, it has bigger ambitions with a more powerful headset coming next year.

During its recent keynote about the company name change, it unveiled Project Cambria, a new headset with improved face tracking and mixed reality features.

There are many speculations that this new headset is the Oculus Pro, which was leaked last month.

In his recent presentation, Zuckerberg admitted that this new device will be high-end hardware with a matching price tag— but it might not be as pricey as the rumored $3,000 range of Apple’s headset.

Dhruve noted while Quest 2 has already introduced Passthrough APIs this year to enable SOME level of MR experience, the company’s new headset will aim to bring more immersive and seamless stuff on board.

Gabbie said Meta might target developers and gaming enthusiasts with the upcoming headset to test out engaging social experiences.

An emerging rivalry

Both companies are expected to introduce their new headsets next year. However, chip shortage can be a spoilsport and stop them from rolling out to the masses. Hopefully, they have enough juice for enthusiasts to wait for shipments.

Both Dhruve and Gabbie agreed that while these headsets might be pricy, both companies both companies will want to reach regular with distribution at a lower price point.

“Apple will want to eventually want to introduce AR glasses that merge seamlessly in your life. That’s how the company’s device strategy has been for years,” Gabbie said.

For Meta, it’ll be all about making people forget about Facebook and step into its new avatar effortlessly. For Apple, it’ll be about setting up high standards in another tech vertical. It’s a hell of a battle to watch out for.

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