Apple is developing a mixed reality AR/VR headset that, if the rumors are to be believed, will hit the market in less than a year. With new hardware comes new software, and Apple is working on an operating system for headsets that will be called xrOS.
This guide compiles everything we know about the xrOS operating system that will run on the upcoming AR/VR headset. We will update this guide over time as we learn more about xrOS.
Apple will call the software which runs on its AR/VR headset “xrOS”, which is meant to stand for “extended reality”. Extended reality represents both the augmented and virtual reality features that the headset supports.
The name has been confirmed by internal Apple sources and also Apple has trademarked the xrOS through a hidden shell company.
Apple internally called the headset software “Reality OS” or “rOS” when it was in development, but as it approaches launch, it decided to update the public name to the less generic “xrOS” moniker.
Apple sees the headset as a device for gaming, watching streaming video content, video conferencing, and interacting with other people, which is what Apple is focusing on in terms of software. Gurman has described the headset as an “all-encompassing 3D environment” designed for gaming, media consumption and communication.
FaceTime will be a major communication app for xrOS, with existing features such as SharePlay and Memojis/Animojis. SharePlay allowed headset wearers to watch TV shows and movies together and use Memoji and Animoji as their virtual avatars. With all the cameras the headset is expected to have, it will likely detect facial expressions and work like Animoji and Memoji on the iPhone and iPad.
Core apps like Messages will be available on the AR/VR headset alongside FaceTime, but how the Messages app will work is unknown at this time. One rumor suggested that Apple is creating a whole new version of Messages with chat rooms, support for video clips, a home view and more.
The Maps app will be available on the headset, but we have no additional information on what the Maps app might be capable of. It could perhaps include some of Apple’s Look Around and landmark functionality, allowing users to explore cities around the world.
Games are an important feature on the iPhone, iPad and AppleTVand the AR/VR headset is also expected to support a range of games. apple arcadefor example, could be expanded with 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 is expected to get its own as well App Store.
Streaming video content
Apple’s hiring suggests that 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 VR.
xrOS launch date
With the AR/VR headset on track to debut sometime in 2023, likely in the first half of the year, we’re also expecting the first version of xrOS. Apple might be able to introduce xrOS and the headset at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June, but there’s also a chance it might be out before then.
More about Apple’s AR/VR headset
The mixed reality headset Apple has in the works will have high-resolution screens, more than a dozen cameras, a powerful Mac chip and more, with full details available in our roundup of AR/VR headsets.