At its annual software developer conference, Apple Inc introduced the Apple Vision Pro, an augmented-reality headset, marking the company’s first major foray into a new product category since the Apple Watch was unveiled nine years ago.
The Vision Pro will have a starting price of $3,499, which is more than three times the cost of Meta’s most expensive headset in the mixed and virtual reality lineup that currently dominates the AR/VR market.
One notable feature of the Vision Pro is its eye-tracking capability, allowing users to select content within the goggles using their eyes. Users can also tap their fingers together to click and gently flick to scroll. The headset is equipped with a three-dimensional camera and microphone system for capturing videos and photos that can later be viewed in 3D.
In a visually distinctive aspect compared to Meta’s headsets, the Vision Pro includes an external display that shows the user’s eyes to people in the surrounding environment. The external screen turns off when the user is fully immersed in a virtual world. When someone approaches a user in virtual mode, the headset displays both the user and the person in the outside world, representing an augmented reality advancement over Meta’s devices, which provide a more basic video feed of the surroundings.
Apple CEO Tim Cook described the Vision Pro as the first Apple product that users look through, rather than at.
With the launch of the headset, Apple will enter a market already crowded with devices that have yet to gain significant traction with consumers. It will also directly compete with Meta Platforms, owned by Facebook.
During the announcement, Apple emphasized the augmented reality features of the product, along with its partnerships in sports and entertainment, without mentioning the digital social worlds described by Meta’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.
The Vision Pro is powered by a new chip called R1, designed to process information from the headset’s sensors in less time than it takes to blink.
Apple stated that it has collaborated with Adobe and Microsoft to bring their apps to the new headset, as well as with Unity, a technology company that collaborates with game developers. Following the announcement, Unity’s shares experienced a 17% surge.
The Apple Vision Pro will support Disney’s streaming service, Disney+, along with the collection of movies and TV shows available on Apple TV+.
The company also demonstrated how the headset can be used with a trackpad and keyboard, functioning like a traditional computer with multiple displays.