Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled an augmented reality headset called Apple Vision Pro at WWDC on Monday that company officials depicted as a revolutionary immersive device for business and consumer customers alike.
With its premium price of $3,499, Apple is betting its unique features will be worth the difference from other AR or VR headsets like the Meta Quest 3, going on sale later in 2023 for $499. Apple’s device goes on sale early next year.
“Apple Vision Pro is a revolutionary new product [that] introduces an entirely new spatial computing platform for users and developers,” Cook said on a live stream.
The full unveiling came at the conclusion of a two hour presentation that included a new 15-inch MacBook pro and updates to multiple Apple operating systems.
Apple took pains to describe how the headset display allows users to see the real world with an expansive overlay of productivity apps, games and movies. Disney CEO Bob Iger said Disney's 3D movies and other content will be available on day one. Apple also said it will offer a separate Vision Pro app store with hundreds of available apps.
Sensors will enable the use of hand gestures and eye movements to allow users to move apps and open them. Spatial video and sound will help users know which users in a group FaceTime meeting are speaking.
While many critics of AR/VR headsets dislike them for separating a user from nearby family or co-workers, Apple said its Vision Pro will allow a user through a feature called EyeSight to see someone approaching nearby, while also allowing that person to see the user’s eyes. A twist of a small Digital Crown controller on the headset will let a user control how present or immersed they can be in a environment created from a movie or an app.
Apple will be set apart from other headset vendors partly because of its sizeable installed base of iPhones and Apple Watches and an array of services, according to Jitesh Ubrani, research manager at IDC.
However, Apple faces a decline in overall AR/VR headset popularity. First quarter shipments across six vendors decline by 54%, IDC said last week. Earlier, IDC had said shipments for all of 2022 reached 8.8 million units, down nearly 21% when compared to 2021.
While the hand and eye movement controls sound revolutionary, Ubrani told Fierce Electronics that the lack of controllers and sole reliance on voice, eyes and hands as input methods will force many AR/VR developers to have to rethink how they design games and apps.
In a more general sense, Ubrani said Apple not shown how its remote colaboration and video conferencing approach is vastly different from other products already available. And, he said, "businesses are already cautious about spending given the current macroeconomic climate. Apple's narrative has not indicated to businesses how the headset can save money or increase productivity."