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Apple to produce niche, expensive VR headset before moving on to AR

Apple’s first crack at a headset is designed to be a pricey, niche precursor to a more ambitious augmented reality product that will take longer to develop, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The initial device has confronted several development hurdles and the company has conservative sales expectations, illustrating how challenging it will be to bring this nascent consumer technology to the masses.

Existing VR headsets, like Facebook’s Oculus Quest, are still niche products.

Existing VR headsets, like Facebook’s Oculus Quest, are still niche products.Credit:Bloomberg

As a mostly virtual reality device, it will display an all-encompassing 3D digital environment for gaming, watching video and communicating. AR functionality — the ability to overlay images and information over a view of the real world — will be more limited. Apple has planned to launch the product as soon as 2022, going up against Facebook’s Oculus, Sony’s PlayStation VR and headsets from HTC, the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing private plans.

Apple’s typical playbook involves taking emerging consumer technology, such as music players, smartphones, tablets and smartwatches, and making it reliable and easy to use for everyone. This time, though, Apple isn’t looking to create an iPhone-like hit for its first headset. Instead, the company is building a high-end, niche product that will prepare outside developers and consumers for its eventual, more mainstream AR glasses.

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