Apple is selling the Vision Pro AR headset at three times the top price of Meta

Apple on Monday unveiled a pricey augmented reality headset called the Vision Pro — its riskiest bet since the iPhone launched more than a decade ago — storming into a meta-dominated market. At its annual developer conference, Apple also unveiled a slew of new products and features, including a 15-inch MacBook Air, a powerful chip called the M2 Ultra, improvements to its iOS software, and a long-awaited tweak to prevent the Autocorrect annoying changes a common swear word for “crouch”.

The Vision Pro will start at $3,499, more than three times the price of the most expensive headset in Meta’s line of mixed and virtual reality devices. The headset will test a market full of devices that haven’t yet caught on with consumers, putting it in direct competition with Facebook owner Meta after years of disputes between the companies over issues like user privacy and control over developer platforms has come.

Apple emphasized the novelty of the headset’s augmented reality capabilities, as well as the sports and entertainment partnerships that come with it. The device will use a new chip called the R1, which will process information from its sensors in less than the blink of an eye, Apple said. But the announcements didn’t excite Wall Street, which had pushed Apple shares to a record high ahead of the launch. The stock was largely flat in after-hours trading.

“Wealthy, tech-savvy early adopters will be buying the Vision Pro in droves, but it will be years before they find their way to the mammoth Apple,” said David Rolfe, chief investment officer of Wedgewood Partners, which has owned Apple stock since 2005. Rolfe said there was not yet a mass market for the headset, but praised the product’s technological prowess. “Apple’s Vision Pro reminds me of the early days of the PC revolution. It took many years for the PC to become a mainstream product. The same goes for VisionPro.”

Vision Pro users can select content in the glasses with their eyes, tap fingers to click and gently swipe to scroll, while also using a three-dimensional camera and microphone system to capture videos and images that can then be viewed later in 3D. The most visually striking difference from Meta’s headsets is that the device also has an external display that shows the user’s eyes to people in the outside world.

The outer screen goes dark when a user is fully immersed in a virtual world. When a person approaches a user who is in full virtual mode, the headset will display both the user and the outside person to each other, an augmented reality advancement over Meta’s devices, which provide a simpler video feed of the outside world show. “It’s the first Apple product that you see through, don’t look at,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Apple’s headset will be available in the US early next year, with more countries to follow later in 2024. HEAD TO HEAD

Investors will want to learn about the overlap between Apple’s view of the virtual reality market and that of Meta, which currently controls nearly 80% of the AR/VR device market, according to market research firm IDC. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has laid out his vision of using headsets to in and out of a “metaverse” where people can virtually meet to work, play and spend money. Apple executives refrained from using the term.

“The key difference for me is that Zuckerberg is trying to create a virtual world that he wants us to be in, and it seems to me that Apple still wants to anchor us in our world and just expand it,” said Carolina Milanesi Analyst at Creative Strategies. In addition to Meta, Sony Group Corp and Pico, a subsidiary of ByteDance, also produce virtual reality devices.

According to IDC, all of these companies sold a total of 8.8 million headsets last year. Apple said it has been working with Adobe and Microsoft to bring their apps to the new headset, as well as Unity, a tech company that works with game developers. Unity shares surged 17% following the announcement.

Walt Disney’s Disney+ streaming service will be available on the Vision Pro, as will Apple TV+’s collection of movies and TV shows. Apple also showed how the headset can be used with a trackpad and keyboard to function like a traditional multi-display computer.

The Vision Pro can run for two hours on an external battery, which Apple says would reduce the weight on the user’s head. However, the device must be connected to the wall or the battery and stand-alone operation is not possible. Meta’s premium mixed reality device Quest Pro, which blends virtual reality with the real-world video feed, offers around two hours of battery life directly on the headset, without an external battery. Meta also offers Microsoft apps on its Quest devices.

Apple hasn’t made any major announcements about generative AI products like ChatGPT or Google’s Bard search engine, but has quietly added AI to several smaller features, such as live transcriptions of voicemails. It introduced a new version of the Mac Pro, its most powerful desktop, with an M2 Ultra chip developed by the company.

As of Monday, the Mac Pro was the last computer in Apple’s lineup to still use an Intel chip. Intel fell 4.6% after Apple scrapped its chips from its top-performing desktop PC.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)