Apple CEO Tim Cook introduced the company's much anticipated and first foray into the virtual world of augmented-reality headsets…but the device will cost you.
Apple’s new Vision Pro AR headset is considered the tech giant’s riskiest and biggest bet since the introduction of the iPhone more than a decade ago.
"It's the first Apple product you look through, not at," Cook said as he introduced the virtual goggles at Apple's WWDC 2023 live event at their Apple Park headquarters in Silicon Valley, California.
The crowd at Apple's annual developer's conference seemed reserved during Cook's reveal, possibly in response to the $3,499 starting price tag for the VR headset – more than three times the cost of one of Meta's most expensive reality devices, the Quest Pro.
Apple said that the new headset will become available in early 2024, first exclusive to the US and then eventually to more countries later in the year.
The headset, which uses a new chip called R1, is designed to process information from its sensors in less time than the blink of an eye, according to Apple specs.
Users can select content inside the headset goggles with their eyes, tap their fingers together to click a selection, and gently flick to scroll.
The device also boasts a three-dimensional camera and microphone system to capture videos and pictures that can be viewed in 3D later.
Meta's line of three devices – currently dominating roughly 80% of the augmented and virtual reality market – only shows the user a blend of VR with a view similar to a basic video feed of the outside world.
By contrast, Apple’s Vision Pro has an exterior display that will show both the user and the outside person to one another.
For the Vision Pro device, its exterior screen goes dark when a user is fully immersed in a virtual world but still shows the user's eyes to people in the outside world.
One selling point of the Vision Pro headset is that it can be used with a trackpad and keyboard to work like a traditional computer with multiple displays.
Apple said that sports and entertainment partnerships would be incorporated with the devices, including Apple TV+ and Disney+ streaming services.
The San Francisco-based video game development tech company Unity was mentioned as a potential partner. Adobe and Microsoft are also in talks to put apps on the platform.
"The core difference to me is Zuckerberg is trying to create a virtual world that he wants us to be in, and it seems to me that Apple wants to keep us still anchored in our world and just augment it," said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies.
Another difference between the Apple and Meta devices is in the battery.
The Vision Pro has two hours of use with an external battery that must be plugged into a wall or battery pack with no stand alone use.
Apple said this would reduce the weight on the user's head.
Meta's Quest Pro mixed reality device offers about two hours of battery life directly on the headset, without an external battery pack.
In addition to Meta, Sony Group Corp and ByteDance-owned Pico both produce their own virtual reality devices, selling a total of 8.8 million headsets last year.
Meanwhile, Apple did not announce anything about its own generative AI products, but did announce several smaller features with AI, like live transcriptions of voice mails.
The company also introduced several other new products and features, including a 15-inch MacBook Air, a powerful chip called M2 Ultra, and improvements for iOS 17 software.
Apple fans may also appreciate the long-awaited tweak to an annoying autocorrect feature that often changes the popular F-expletive to "ducking."
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