Apple is developing a mixed reality AR/VR headset that should be launched in less than a year, if rumors are to be believed. With new hardware comes new software, and Apple is working on a headset operating system that should be called xrOS.
This guide brings together everything we know about the xrOS operating system that will run on the upcoming AR/VR headset. We’ll update this guide as we learn more about xrOS.
Apple will call the software that runs on its AR/VR headset “xrOS,” which stands for “extended reality.” Extended reality represents both the augmented and virtual reality functions that the headset will support.
The name was confirmed by Apple internal sources and Apple trademarked the xrOS through a hidden shell company.
Apple internally called the headset software “Reality OS” or “rOS” when it was in development, but closer to launch decided to update the public name to the less generic name “xrOS”.
Objectives of the software
Apple sees the headset as a device for gaming, viewing streaming video content, video conferencing, and interfacing with other people, and that will be what Apple will focus on in terms of software. Gurman described the headset as a “full 3D environment” designed for gaming, media consumption and communication.
FaceTime will be an important communication application for xrOS, incorporating existing features such as SharePlay and Memojis/Animojis. With SharePlay, headset wearers can watch TV shows and movies together, and use Memoji and Animoji as virtual avatars. With all the cameras the headset should have, it will likely detect facial expressions and work like Animoji and Memoji on iPhone and iPad.
Core apps such as Messages will be available on the AR/VR headset in addition to FaceTime, although how the Messages app will work is unknown at this time. A rumor has suggested that Apple is creating an all-new version of Messages with chat rooms, video clip support, home view, and more.
The Maps app will be available on the headset, but we have no further information on what the Maps app might be capable of. It might incorporate some of Apple’s Look Around and Landmark features, allowing users to explore cities around the world.
Games are a key feature on iPhone, iPad and Apple TV, and the AR/VR headset should also support a range of games. Apple Arcade, for example, could expand to include AR/VR games available on the headset.
The Mac, iPhone, Apple TV, and Apple Watch all have their own dedicated App Stores for downloading apps, and the AR/VR headset should also have its own App Store.
Streaming video content
Apple’s hiring suggests Apple is developing a video service for the headset, which will include 3D content that can be played in virtual reality. Apple may also partner with third-party services to create content that can be viewed in virtual reality.
xrOS launch date
With the AR/VR headset on track to debut sometime in 2023, likely in the first half of the year, that’s also when we expect to see the first release. from xrOS. Apple may be able to show off xrOS and the headset at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June, but it’s also possible it will be released before then.
Learn more about Apple’s AR/VR headset
The mixed reality headset Apple has in the works will have high-resolution displays, more than a dozen cameras, a powerful Mac-level chip, and more, with full details are available in our roundup of AR/VR headsets.
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