Apple reveals pricey Vision Pro AR headset

At its World Wide Developer Conference Apple announced its new Vision Pro augmented reality (AR) headset. The new AR headset will retail for a whopping $3,499 (PhP 196,726 as of press time) when it launches early next year.

Apple is positioning the Vision Pro primarily as an AR device, with Apple CEO Tim Cook calling it “the first Apple product you look through, and not at.” However, it can switch between augmented reality and full virtual reality (VR) using a dial.

The Vision Pro is controller-free. To operate it, users can instead browse apps in the devices’ operating system, called visionOS, simply by looking at them. Meanwhile, downward-facing cameras allow users to use gestures, such as “flicking” to scroll and “tapping” to select apps. In addition, users can also give voice commands to apps.

Apple stated that “hundreds of thousands of familiar iPhone and iPad apps” will automatically work that way with the Vision Pro. In addition, the device will also support accessories via Bluetooth. These include Apple’s own Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad. This is on top of being able to connect a Mac to use inside the headset.

The Vision Pro headset itself, which Appls calls the “Light Seal,” has a glass front inside an aluminum frame, containing five sensors, 12 cameras, a 4K display for each eye, and a computer that’s powered by the company’s M2 chip. Meanwhile, he strap or “Head Band” as Apple calls it is cloth lined and modular, able to flex and fit a variety of face shapes and head sizes.

For people who wear glasses, optics company Zeiss created custom optical inserts that attach magnetically to the lenses.

As for battery life, Apple claims that the Vision Pro’s external battery can last for up to two hours. The battery itself connects via a “supple woven cable” allowing users to slip it into their pocket. In addition, the headset can also be connected to an external power source.

One innovative feature Apple is bundling with the Vision Pro is something it calls “EyeSight.” This system will display a digital representation of the user’s eyes on the front of the headset in AR mode, or a glowing screen in full VR mode. As part of this, the device can scan a user’s face to create a hyperrealistic avatar.

Meanwhile, when talking with other people wearing the device, it can use spatial audio to arrange them around users. This is on top of being able to capture and replay 180-degree video using a 3D camera built into the headset.

All these features come at a cost, however, as Apple stated that the device will retail for $3,499 (PhP 196,726 as of press time) when it launches in 2024.

This raises questions if the features are enough to allow Apple not only to break into the AR and VR space but to capture the professional market that competitors, such as Meta with their Quest line of headsets, have so far failed to do so. While the latter has seen success with its Quest 2 gaming-focused headset, its more professionally-oriented Quest Pro has received a mixed reception. (Read: Experimental Facebook wrist controller may be the future of AR)

At the same time, most other headset manufacturers seem more focused on gaming as well.

Will Apple’s Vision Pro be what brings professional AR and VR into the mainstream, or will its high cost of entry limit its potential? Only time will tell.

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