Apple has revealed the long-awaited Apple Vision Pro, an augmented reality headset, marking its first significant hardware launch in nearly a decade.
Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, described the new headset as seamlessly merging the real and virtual worlds.
Additionally, the tech company announced its latest iPhone operating system and updates to the MacBook Air.
The headset boasts a two-hour battery life and will be available in the US early next year for $3,499 (£2,849), a significantly higher price compared to existing virtual reality headsets. Meta’s Quest 3, for example, was recently unveiled at $499.
Apple provided limited information about generative artificial intelligence, a trending technology in Silicon Valley.
During the announcement at Apple Park, the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, the company’s stock price experienced a slight decline.
The BBC, present at the event, allowed technology editor Zoe Kleinman to be among the first individuals in the world to test the headset.
Zoe Kleinman noted, “Since Tim Cook assumed leadership in 2011, Apple has struggled to create the kind of groundbreaking product it was known for, except perhaps for the Apple Watch.”
The Apple Vision Pro distinguishes itself from other headsets available in the market by its unique appearance, resembling ski goggles rather than a typical virtual reality headset.
Apple specifically uses the term “augmented reality” to describe the functionality of the new device.
Augmented reality, also referred to as mixed reality, overlays virtual objects onto the real world, allowing users to blend reality with virtual elements by looking through a screen.
According to Ms. Kleinman, the device is comparable to having your phone right in front of you, offering a large, vibrant display regardless of your location.
She emphasizes that the Apple Vision Pro is designed to seamlessly integrate into your daily life, enabling activities like watching videos of family moments or immersing yourself in life-size panoramic photos. Unlike many other headsets primarily focused on immersive gaming, this device aims to be an integral part of your everyday experiences.
Currently, users have the ability to engage in activities such as accessing apps, watching movies, and creating documents within a virtual environment. However, there is limited evidence indicating a significant market demand for this type of wearable technology.
Ms. Kleinman commented, “At the end of the day, it is still a VR headset. When it is released early next year, Apple will need to provide a substantial amount of content to support it.”
Furthermore, the price point of $3,499 raises concerns. According to Ms. Kleinman, this is a substantial amount of money.
Hartley Charlton, senior editor of MacRumors, expressed uncertainty about the headset’s appeal to the general public. He mentioned that initially, it may not attract mainstream consumers due to its high price and initial limitations as a first-generation device, such as the separate wired battery pack.
Challenges in the Current Mixed Reality Sector
However, he acknowledged Apple’s track record of overcoming skepticism regarding new devices. Apple has historically been successful in enticing individuals to invest in new gadgets and expand their technological repertoire.
During his sales presentation, Mr. Cook highlighted that the headset enables users to perceive, engage with, and interact with digital content as if it were physically present in their surroundings.
Control of the device involves a combination of hand gestures, eye movements, and voice commands. For instance, users can select items by tapping their fingers together and scroll by flicking their fingers.
This announcement follows the recent introductions by Meta and Lenovo of new versions of their existing virtual reality headsets, which do not overlay virtual objects onto the real world.
Meta has also made significant investments in mixed reality. However, currently, the sector is encountering challenges.
According to the International Data Corporation, global sales of headsets experienced a 54% decline last year.
Apple’s most recent significant hardware launch prior to this was the Apple Watch in 2015.
Thomas Husson from Forrester Research mentioned to BBC News that it might take some time for Apple’s new headset to gain widespread adoption.
He commented, “The AR/VR space as a whole has been somewhat overhyped in recent years, particularly with the concept of the metaverse and similar experiences. That’s why I believe it will require additional time to develop.
“Nevertheless, if I had told you 10 to 15 years ago that people would be willing to pay nearly $2,000 for a mobile phone, I doubt many would have believed it.”
In addition to introducing the Vision Pro, Apple revealed iOS17, the newest iteration of its operating system for iPhones.
The updates encompass several features, such as “contact posters,” which display a picture or image of the caller on the recipient’s phone when they receive a call.
Another notable feature is “live voicemail,” which offers real-time transcriptions of voicemail messages as they are being recorded.
This transcription functionality extends to audio messages left through Apple Messages as well.
Furthermore, Apple has unveiled a system called Check-In, designed to automatically notify a friend or family member when you arrive at your home.
In the event of significant delays during your journey, this system has the capability to inform others that you have not yet safely reached your destination.
The new operating system is set to be released this autumn.