Why WWDC 2017 Is the Perfect Time for Apple to Reveal Its Mixed Reality Plans

Apple could make a splash at its annual conference by jumping into the virtual and augmented reality arms race

With several of its chief competitors investing in “mixed reality” — the combination of virtual and augmented reality technologies — the opportunity is ripe for Apple to reveal its own MR plans with its Worldwide Developers Conference kicking off on Monday.

Since the inaugural event in 1990, WWDC has been the site of some major announcements — most recently, the Apple Music reveal in 2015. And conspicuously, Apple has been watching from the sidelines as other tech heavyweights have placed their bets on the nascent AR-VR industry.

Microsoft recently revealed its nifty mixed reality controller, due out later this year. Facebook has continued to double-down on its Oculus investment, with its “Spaces” app allowing users to interact with their friends in VR. Snap is perhaps the most well-known AR company in the world. And the industry is waiting on pins and needles to see the first product from Magic Leap, the $4.5 billion MR company with investments from Google, Andreessen Horowitz, and Warner Bros.

Meanwhile, Apple has quietly flown under the radar. Beyond Bloomberg reporting a star-studded AR braintrust is leading a few hundred workers in developing “digital spectacles” that would sync with iPhone, details have been hard to come by.

CEO Tim Cook has made it clear this is a priority for Apple. Last fall, he said AR experiences will soon be “like eating three meals a day.”

While VR and AR shipments are approaching record levels, sales are more difficult to gauge. As much as Cook wants to jump into the battle, the industry could use the boost of the world’s biggest company even more.

Josh Diamond, Technical Creative Director of SuperSphere VR, a company that specializes in AR-VR production, suggested in an interview with TheWrap that Apple has the clout to bring mixed reality to the masses.

“The thing that’s going to push any of these AR or VR [devices] forward is going to be ubiquity in the marketplace. There’s currently no ubiquitous device,” Diamond said. “It’s where I think Apple strives to fit, [where] they create the thing that everybody goes ‘Oh, right, that’s what I needed!'”

With a team that’s been cooking up ideas for two years (not to mention $250 billion in cash to invest in new platforms), Apple’s opportunity to tilt the AR-VR market is there for the taking. Let’s see if it comes at WWDC.