Apple announces the new Vision Pro VR headset, which will be launched next year

“It’s the first Apple product you look at, not on,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said during the presentation of Apple Vision Pro, the company’s new virtual reality headset that will allow users to superimpose an augmented experience on the real world.

Apple announced the VR headset at its annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) in Cupertino, Calif., on Monday afternoon, where it also revealed developments for many of its existing products and software.

The Apple Vision Pro is a wearable headset that creates an augmented reality experience with everything from business meetings and meditation to games and movies. Apple says it will be available in early 2024, with prices starting at US$3,499, which equates to around C$4,700.

While wearing the headset, users can navigate by looking or using hand gestures, which Alan Dye, vice president of human interface design at Apple, describes as “as subtle and natural as possible. “.

Attendees watch presenters on stage during a new product demonstration at the Apple campus Monday, June 5, 2023, in Cupertino, Calif., where the company announced the Apple Vision Pro, Apple’s new virtual reality headset. the company which is expected to launch in 2024. (Jeff Chiu/Associated Press)

“Apple hit a home run”

The Vision Pro marks the first major product launch for Apple since the Apple Watch in 2015. But it’s unclear how big the demand for the headset is. A Bloomberg analysis estimates that the product will generate sales for the company of US$1.5 billion (C$2 billion), or 0.5% of the company’s revenue base.

Anticipation that Apple’s glasses will sell for several thousand dollars already seems to have dampened expectations for the product.

Dan Ives, managing director and analyst at US-based Wedbush Securities, expects the company to sell just 150,000 units in the device’s first year on the market – a mere blot on the company’s portfolio .

By comparison, Apple sells over 200 million of its flagship iPhones a year. But the iPhone wasn’t an immediate sensation, selling less than 12 million units in its first full year on the market.

Still, Ives sees the Vision Pro as a “breakthrough product” that will inspire developers to create unique new apps for dedicated use with the headset. Ives predicts that sales will increase to one million units in the product’s second year.

“I think Apple hit a home run,” Ives said. “I think we’re waiting three, four years from now and [see this as] an inflection point for Apple.”

Apple for the eyes

Apple’s announcement comes days after Meta announced its new virtual and mixed reality headset, Meta Quest 3, which is expected to launch later this year. The Vision Pro presents Apple as a new competitor in the virtual reality market.

“We’re just about to see this technology go mainstream,” said Tom Frencel, CEO and co-founder of Toronto indie game development studio Little Guy Games.

Frencel admits that past iterations of virtual reality technology haven’t lived up to the hype, but he says recent developments address many of the challenges that have held him back. For example, he points out that when VR headsets were first released, they were all heavy and tethered to computers – now models like the Meta Quest are much lighter, as well as having more powerful hardware.

“It will inevitably happen,” Frencel said, noting that he expects many technologies to “converge to virtual reality,” including blockchain and the metaverse. “It’s just the next evolution of computing.”

Two women look at a virtual reality headset through a window.
People walk past an Oculus virtual reality headset on display at the Toronto office of Meta, Facebook’s parent company. Experts say Apple’s announcement of its VR headset will likely create more competition and innovation, possibly opening the door for other big companies to enter the market. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

2 major players in competition in the field of VR

“Now we have at least two major players, Apple and Meta, competing in the same space,” said Paolo Granata, a professor at the University of Toronto and director of the Media Ethics Lab.

Granata, which has experimented with virtual reality technologies to foster experiential learning in its courses, says competition will likely create more innovation, perhaps paving the way for other big companies such as Samsung or Sony to enter the market in the future.

At its current price, Granata says the headset is unaffordable for many everyday consumers, but he says it will likely become more affordable as it becomes more mainstream.

“It takes time to democratize technology,” Granata said. “In the meantime, it’s up to us to ensure that this technology can truly be built in an accessible and open way – and to consider the possibilities…for a more connected society where no one is left behind.”

He says it’s also important to consider the technology’s unintended consequences – in this case, the impacts on user privacy and on industries such as games and film.

“Streaming platforms or movie theaters may be worried… about a VR headset with such a [a] promising immersive cinematic experience,” he said. “The movie industry is going to start reacting – not just against this new technology, but probably reacting creatively.”

New MacBook Air, iOS 17

Other new products on display at WWDC include a 15-inch MacBook Air, the latest in Apple’s popular laptop lineup, featuring a larger screen, a new six-speaker sound system speakers and an announced autonomy of 18 hours while maintaining a low weight at 1.49 kg. It will be available for $1,749 starting next Tuesday, June 13, 2023.

Apple also shared its new M2 Ultra processing chip, a 24-core processor that Apple says has increased both speed and memory over its predecessor, the M1 Ultra.

Company executives also shared key software updates. Notably, they shared key features in the upcoming iOS 17, which Apple says will improve its autocorrect and introduce a new sleep mode capable of displaying key information while charging the iPhone.

Apple hasn’t made any major announcements about generative AI products similar to ChatGPT or Google’s Bard search engine, but it has quietly infused several smaller features with AI, like live voicemail transcriptions.

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