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Apple executives show VR/AR headset to board, signaling advanced progress

In brief: Reports of Apple’s work on virtual reality hardware go back several years. However, the latest information suggests that the company is close to having a tangible product to compete with offerings from Valve, HTC, Meta, and Sony.

On Thursday, anonymous sources told Bloomberg that Apple executives recently demonstrated a headset with VR and AR functionality to its board of directors. Reports over the last year have suggested that the Cupertino giant had to delay the device’s unveiling, but this presentation indicates an advanced development stage. Apple could unveil the headset late this year or early next year and launch it later in 2023.

Earlier reports already provided many details of Apple’s VR and mixed reality ambitions. The sector is supposed to be the next pillar of the company’s hardware offerings, next to the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and Macs. Like its other devices, Apple VR/AR headsets will have a custom operating system — realityOS — with a standalone app store. Work on the new OS has recently escalated.

The headset the executives demonstrated — codenamed N301 — is said to be a high-end device that doesn’t need to connect to a PC. It could sell for over $1,000 and contain chips in the same league as Apple’s M1 Mac processors. That price aligns with the Valve Index and HTC Vive Pro 2, which require PC connections. The HTC Vive Flow and Oculus Quest 2 are portable and far cheaper, but the N301 sounds significantly more powerful. Apple is reportedly planning an AR-only headset (N421) slated to launch sometime after the N301.

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