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WIRE Buzz: Apple eyes its own AR headset; Netflix teases Yennefer’s Witcher look; more

By Benjamin Bullard
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Apple may be getting ready to take a much bigger bite out of the blossoming world of augmented and virtual reality. New 3D-enabled iPad hardware next year could pave the way for what Bloomberg reports will be the Cupertino tech giant’s big new push into the AR/VR headset market.

Citing sources familiar with the company’s strategy, Bloomberg revealed recently that Apple “aims to release a combined VR and AR headset with a focus on gaming, watching video and virtual meetings” by 2021 or 2022, with a set of “lightweight” AR glasses to follow, potentially as soon as 2023.

If that timeline holds, the arrival of an Apple-branded, iOS-enabled wearable would come right on the heels of a newly updated batch of 3D-sensing iPads and iPhones, which the report anticipates Apple will begin releasing sometime next year. According to Bloomberg, an upgraded iPad Pro line debuting in early 2020 will feature “a new module with two camera sensors, up from one on the current model, and a small hole for the 3-D system, letting people create three-dimensional reconstructions of rooms, objects and people.” The same technology would reportedly carry over to upgraded iPhone models “later in 2020.”

Apple recently set down what it hopes will be deep and permanent roots in the gaming world, with the debut of the Apple Arcade games subscription service back in September. While Arcade’s current gaming lineup consists mostly of original and previously published titles that appeal to console fans and casual mobile gamers, the storefront gives the company a built-in ecosystem that could accommodate future VR-specific entries, as well as AR-enriched experiences.

The pivot to wearable tech, and especially to virtual and enhanced reality, is reportedly a key piece of Apple’s hardware strategy in the years to come. The 3D sensor tech reportedly “will be the centerpiece” of the company’s shift toward Apple-branded gear that goes beyond mobile devices, laptops, and desktop computers, and reportedly has been in development for “several years” as a more sophisticated version of the iPhone’s facial-recognition tech.

Thanks to a stellar first trailer, Witcher fans already have stolen some fleeting glimpses of Anya Chalotra’s portrayal of Yennefer in Netflix’s upcoming series, based on CD Projekt RED’s hugely successful video game RPG. But now the streaming giant is freeze-framing things so the truly curious can have a much closer look at Geralt’s magic-wielding love interest — though the new batch of images still doesn’t quite settle all the speculation over whether she’ll show up, at any point, with those piercing violet eyes that creator Andrzej Sapkowski made such a part of her identity in the original stories.

Violet eyes or not, Yennefer and the rest of the Witcher cast (with Henry Cavill as Geralt) have already sent fantasy fans buzzing over the show’s debut season, which early looks have hinted could be Game of Thrones levels of epic when it comes to spare-no-expense production values. Fortunately, the wait’s nearly over: Witcher makes its streaming debut at Netflix beginning Dec. 20.

Mayday, a fantastical new female-led action thriller that's reportedly already in production, promises to sweep us away to a dreamlike hellscape where women wage endless war on a faraway shore.

Juliette Lewis (Ma, Wayward Pines) has already signed on for the upcoming indie film, according to Deadline, along with Grace Van Patten (Under the Silver Lake, Boardwalk Empire) and Mia Goth (Suspiria, A Cure for Wellness) in leading roles. 

Mayday reportedly will follow the story of a woman named Ana (Van Patten) after she’s swept to a “dreamlike and dangerous land where she joins up with a band of female soldiers engaged in a never-ending war along a rugged coast.” But even as her newfound fighting comrades start cultivating the killer inside her, she realizes there’s got to be more to her new life than simply cutting down the enemy, and begins to “use her newfound power to try to fight her way back to life.”

Details on Lewis’ and Goth’s characters haven’t yet been revealed, but the movie also will feature Soko (Her) and up-and-coming model Havana Rose Liu in supporting roles. Written, directed, and co-produced by first-time director Karen Cinorre, Mayday reportedly is already in production but hasn’t yet been given a release date.