Apple Unveils $3,500 Headset As It Delves into the World of Virtual Reality: NPR

The Apple Vision Pro headset is shown in a showroom on Apple’s campus in Cupertino, California, at the company’s annual developer conference, Monday, June 5, 2023.

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Jeff Chew/AP

The Apple Vision Pro headset is shown in a showroom on Apple’s campus in Cupertino, California, at the company’s annual developer conference, Monday, June 5, 2023.

Jeff Chew/AP

CUPERTINO, CALIFORNIA — Apple on Monday unveiled a long-rumored headset that will put its users between the virtual and real worlds, while also testing the ability of tech pioneers to pitch new devices hyped after others failed to capture the public eye.

After years of speculation, Apple CEO Tim Cook hailed the arrival of the sleek protective glasses — dubbed the “Vision Pro” — at the company’s annual developer conference held on the park-like campus of the late Apple founder in Cupertino, Calif. Steve Jobs. Help design. The device will be able to switch between virtual reality, or virtual reality, and augmented reality, or augmented reality, which displays digital images while users can still see things in the real world.

“This marks the beginning of a journey that will bring a new dimension to powerful personal technology,” Cook told the audience.

Although Apple executives gave a comprehensive preview of the headset’s capabilities during the last half hour of Monday’s event, consumers will have to wait before they can get their hands on the device and be prepared to pay a hefty price to boot. The Vision Pro will retail for $3,500 once it hits stores early next year.

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“It’s a great piece of technology, but it was more of a tease,” said Tong Nguyen, an analyst at Gartner. “It felt like the beginning of a very long journey.”

Instead of just putting on goggles as another way to explore virtual worlds or watch more immersive entertainment, Apple has framed the Vision Pro as the equivalent of having an HDTV, surround sound system, high-end camera and state-of-the-art camera bundled into a single piece of hardware.

“We think it’s overkill, even for Apple, to assume that consumers will pay a similar amount for an AR/VR headset as they do for a suite of these products,” Davison DA Tom Forte wrote in a research note Monday.

Despite these doubts, the headset could become another milestone in Apple’s tradition of launching game-changing technology, although the company wasn’t always the first to try to make a specific device.

Apple’s accomplishments date back to Jobs’ connected debut of the first Mac in 1984—a tradition that continued with the iPod in 2001, the iPhone in 2007, the iPad in 2010, the Apple Watch in 2014, and the AirPods in 2016.

The company confirmed that it had benefited from the past decades in designing products during the years it spent working on the Vision Pro, which Apple said included more than 5,000 different patents.

The headset will be equipped with 12 cameras, six microphones, and a variety of sensors that will allow users to control it and various applications with their eyes and hand gestures only. Apple said the experiment would not cause the frequent nausea and headaches that similar devices have experienced in the past. The company has also developed technology to create a 3D digital copy of each user for display during video conferencing.

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While the Vision Pro won’t require physical controllers that can be high-performance, the goggles will have to be plugged into either a power outlet or a portable battery attached to the headset—a factor that might make them less attractive to some users.

“They’ve worked hard to make this headset as integrated into the real world as current technology allows, but it’s still a headset,” said Insider Intelligence analyst Yuri Wurmser, however calling the unveiling a “fairly amazing show”.

However, analysts don’t expect the Vision Pro to be an immediate hit. This is largely because of the steep price tag, but also because most people still can’t see a compelling reason to wear something wrapped around their face for an extended period of time.

If the Vision Pro turns out to be a niche product, it would leave Apple on the same hook as other big tech companies and startups that have tried to sell headphones or glasses with technology that propels people into artificial worlds or project digital images onto a scene. and the objects that are physically in front of them – a format known as “augmented reality”.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been calling these alternate 3D realities “metaverse”. It’s a whimsical concept that he tried to push into the mainstream by renaming his social networking company to Meta Platforms in 2021 and then pouring billions of dollars into improving virtual technology.

But the metaverse is still very much a digital ghost town, though the Meta virtual reality headset, the Quest, remains the best-selling device in a category that has so far mostly attracted video game players looking for more immersive experiences. Cook and other Apple executives avoided referring to the metaverse in their presentations, describing the Vision Pro as the company’s first leap into “spatial computing” instead.

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Response to VR, AR, and Mixed Reality has been decidedly modest so far. Even some of the tools that popularize the technology have been derided sarcastically, the most notable example being Google’s internet-connected glasses released over a decade ago.

Microsoft also had limited success with HoloLens, a mixed-reality headset released in 2016, though the software maker earlier this year insisted it remained committed to the technology.

Magic Leap, a startup that sparked excitement with previews of mixed-reality technology that can conjure up the sight of a whale breaching a gymnasium floor, had so much trouble marketing its first headset to consumers in 2018 that it has since shifted its focus to industrial and care uses. Health and emergency.

Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, estimated that Apple would sell just 150,000 headphones during its first year on the market before escalating to 1 million headphones sold during its second year — a size that would leave goggles as just a blip in the company’s portfolio.

By comparison, Apple sells more than 200 million of its premium iPhones annually. But the iPhone wasn’t an instant sensation, selling fewer than 12 million units in its first full year on the market.

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