Apple gives up on ‘Reality,’ but still wants to extend it

While we must wait and see what the tangible enterprise benefits of Apple’s next big product introduction will be, the company has given up on Reality when it comes to the name of the operating system that drives its mixed/augmented reality glasses, according to a new report. 

No longer RealityOS, now it’s xrOS

We had originally anticipated Apple would christen the OS for the system RealityOS — in part because earlier reports suggested this, plus it has acquired or partnered with numerous companies involved in building such experiences, including Camerai. But Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman now reports that Apple is dropping Reality from the OS name and will instead use the slightly more cumbersome “xrOS” acronym.

That choice articulates that its vision for these devices is as an eXtended Reality system, morphing valuable digital information and experiences within the mundane. This reflects Apple’s core mission, which is always to design a platform that delivers fundamentally transformative value to users, though it is also developing tools to enable its own virtual environments, we believe.

Gurman notes numerous patent applications for the purported brand filed in key markets worldwide. These describe the device as head-mounted displays providing virtual and augmented reality experiences. He predicts three different models of the device, with the first mixed reality device to ship forming direct competition for the Meta Quest pro headset.

Coming in 2023, maybe

Now expected for introduction in 2023, Apple’s AR glasses have been in quiet development for many years. The work has required significant investments, including the development of powerful image intelligence systems, tools for augmented reality experience optimization, user interface improvements, and processors to drive it all.

That’s even before you stop to glance at the glass or build experiences designed to feed into these products. Look Around is nice in Maps, but should be even better in mixed reality glasses. Immediate translation of text in Live Text should offer profound improvement for people attempting to navigate a foreign city, while tools like Door Detection could ultimately be life changing when it comes to boosting accessibility.

Interactions such as important notifications, indoor mapping, or live activities should also form part of the experience, though this may be further down the line in the event the Apple device is less about AR and more focused on VR in the first iteration.

What will the business case be?

So, that’s all well and good, but what’s the business case to be?

Well, my take is that if you are an enterprise interested in making use of mixed reality for operational tasks (emergency services, field technicians, medical) or training (customer or employee focused), you shouldn’t need to jump too fast to iterate your first solutions for the not-yet-born Apple platform.

Costs are currently anticipated at around $3,000 per headset, which means the first purchasers will probably be enterprises interested in experimenting with the tech, Apple brand loyalists, and people who may really benefit from such experiences. Given Apple’s impressive track record with accessibility, I’m willing to bet these things may quite swiftly become essential to the up to one in seven people on the planet living with some form of disability.

Despite which, the first-generation devices won’t be business critical — at least, not at first. That’s not to say they won’t become critical. We have seen this story before (Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad), and quite a lot will depend on the APIs Apple introduces, perhaps at WWDC 2023 (or ’24 if the launch date slips), to support these new experiences. If some of these will enable content from existing apps to exist in a useful way, I think most businesses will flick the On toggle to activate them. But development of more profound experiences will take longer than that.

All the same, in the first wave of enterprise xrOS development, it’s probable that collaborative environments, training/education, and experiences such as virtual visitor attraction tours and product exploration will dominate. Brands such as Airbnb, IKEA, and entertainment and vehicle firms will likely be among the first big names to explore Apple’s post-reality space, and a lot will depend on how much success those solutions create.

So if you run a business, I think this will be a time to explore how Apple’s 21st century toys can deliver improved experiences and engagement for both customers and employees and augment current working practices as Apple leaves Reality behind.

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Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

About the Author: Tech Nician

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