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Apple breaks ground, unveils mixed reality headset

Apple has recently unveiled its latest product, the Vision Pro mixed-reality headset. The launch is Apple’s first substantial new product since the 2014 release of the Apple Watch. The Vision Pro headset is equipped with an external battery pack, similar to how other augmented reality headsets have been designed.

The Vision Pro price is expected to start at $3,499 and will be available “early next year,” according to Apple.

The Vision Pro (Introducing Apple Vision Pro – YouTube) is equipped with an external battery pack, similar to how other augmented reality headsets, such as NReal’s glasses and Magic Leap’s headsets, have been designed. The mixed-reality headset is espected to leap Apple into Meta’s metaverse realm.

The headset has been in the works for years, with Apple taking its familiar wait-and-see approach while other giant tech companies have dived headfirst into the AR/VR market. The new platform and headset have massive implications for the rest of the market; once Apple wades into a product category, it often both validates the category and obviates competitors. Recently, a report from Bloomberg suggested that top Apple executives have been at odds over the positioning and release of the headset.

Tim Cook showed off the device in a pretaped demo video. “It’s the first product you look through, and not at,” Cook said. “You can see, hear, and act with digital content just like it’s in your physical space. You’re no longer limited by a display.”

“You can relive your most important memories in an entirely new way,” Cook added. “Apple Vision Pro will introduce spatial computing” similar to the way the iPhone introduced mobile computing, he said.

Take a look at some of the mixed reality developments currently available from Apple. Augmented Reality – Apple (NG)

Apple’s new headset offers a unique mixed reality experience that combines the real world with virtual elements. Unlike virtual reality (VR) headsets that completely cover the face, Vision Pro allows wearers to see their surroundings while wearing the headset. The device features 4K displays, infrared cameras, and LED illuminators. The field of view is not limited, suggesting that it does not use the waveguide lens technology found in other augmented reality (AR) headsets.

The headset is powered by Apple’s M2 chip and a new R1 chip specifically designed for mixed reality. One notable feature is a small dial that allows wearers to switch between mixed-reality mode, which provides a wider view of the real world, and virtual-reality mode, which offers a more immersive experience. The headset relies on voice input, including Siri, for app control and media playback.

Spatial audio speakers are integrated into the soft headband for an immersive audio experience.

The Vision Pro’s external battery pack, similar to other AR headsets makes it lighter but may result in a slightly bulkier overall experience. Apple has also introduced a new technology called Eyesight, which allows nearby individuals to appear in the wearer’s view, even in immersive modes. The headset supports various apps, including native Apple apps like FaceTime, and allows users to capture spatial photos and videos using the built-in 3D camera.

Apple is actively working with developers to create apps for the Vision Pro headset. Microsoft apps like Teams and Unity-based games will be compatible with the device. During the official launch event, Apple CEO Tim Cook highlighted the headset’s potential to revolutionize communication and collaboration.

Disney CEO Bog Iger joined Cook on stage and demonstrated the Disney+ app in virtual reality, confirming its availability on the Vision Pro at launch.

Apple’s entry into the mixed reality market comes at a time when VR and AR technologies have yet to achieve mass adoption. VR headset shipments declined in 2022, attributed to limited vendors, challenging economic conditions, and low consumer adoption. Venture capital investments in VR startups have also decreased in recent years. Meta (formerly Facebook) has had the most success in the VR market with its Meta Quest and Quest 2 headsets, comprising nearly 80% of the market. However, even Meta has struggled to sell its higher-priced model, the Meta Quest Pro, and has incurred significant losses.

Despite the challenges faced by the VR industry, there is optimism that mixed reality, fueled by Apple’s entry, could gain mainstream popularity. Research firm IDC predicts a 14% growth in VR-AR shipments in 2023, with further growth anticipated in the following years. Industry experts believe that Apple’s expertise in hardware and user experience could be a game-changer for mixed reality. Magic Leap CEO Peggy Johnson welcomed Apple’s entry, seeing it as a validation for the entire ecosystem.