Apple is to reveal details of the software updates coming to its phones, tablets and computers, in the company’s annual worldwide developers’ conference (WWDC).
But while new computers, an expanded Messages app, and an overhaul of the iPad’s software to make it more like a laptop are all on the cards, the biggest question mark on Monday is whether Apple will show any evidence of its forthcoming augmented reality – or AR – glasses.
The company has trademarked RealityOS as the operating system for the headset, which has been rumoured for years but is expected to be revealed at some point in 2022. Little is known and much is speculated about the device: rumours suggest a ski-mask appearance, with screens on the front as well as interior of the headset in an attempt to limit the sense of isolation such headsets can provide.
Augmented reality features have been a regular presence at WWDC for the last few years: top-tier iPhones and iPads now have Lidar sensors, which use a technology akin to radar in order to map out 3D space, and those are combined with a set of software options that allow developers to build easy AR-based apps.
A new wave of AR features, even if they are not explicitly tied to a new headset, would ensure that developers were ready to create apps that could be easily converted over to the new RealityOS without a significant amount of extra work, helping avoid the catch-22 that plagues new platforms: no one buys an expensive device until it has useful applications, which means that no one develops useful application because there are no customers for them.
Similarly, WWDC is expected to show some of the fruits of Apple’s own work on RealityOS coming to other platforms. A new version of Apple Maps, for instance, might borrow features from the headset and allow users to explore a virtual version of the world through their iPhone.
But not every announcement is expected to tie in to augmented reality. The company is likely to show a refreshed version of its MacBook Air laptops, albeit with supply chain issues making it hard to buy them any time soon, and will debut an updated version of iPadOS that makes it easier to use the tablets as a full-blown laptop replacement.
Updates to iOS 16 will include a new version of the Messages app, new features coming to the Health app, and an overhaul of the iPhone’s notifications system.
The WWDC keynote will stream live from 6pm UK time.