At the annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook got to do one of those famous "One more thing..." product drops, this time with Apple's biggest new piece of hardware since the Apple Watch.
It's called the Vision Pro, and it's a hybrid AR/VR headset that you can see through — as Cook said from the Steve Jobs Theater stage, "It's the first Apple product you look through, and not at." The headset will allow users to sit in their living rooms or offices and lay out various virtual screens in the air in front of them — in order to play games, manage multiple work tasks at once, look at photos, watch movies, or more.
There are plenty of bells and whistles, a la Apple, like eye-scan ID to unlock the thing, and some software that will create a deep-fake avatar of you so you can participate in VR conference calls without looking like you have big ski goggles on. There's also solutions for people with vision issues — a selection of corrective lenses that work with a range of prescription needs, so you don't have to wear additional glasses or contacts underneath.
The Vision Pro won't be available to consumers until early 2024.
There's a lot of Twitter chatter about the price tag, naturally — which, starting at $3,499, is over 11 times the prices of the Meta Quest 2 (currently marked down to $299), and over three times the price of the Meta Quest Pro headset. But Apple has always introduced new products at very high price points, rich Apple nerds and devotees very often bite and pay those prices, and then subsequent models come down in price over a period of years, but not necessarily by much.
The display on this thing comes with a new operating system, dubbed VisionOS, and apparently 23 million pixels for VR hi-def glory. And the Vision Pro comes with a dial so the user can toggle between mixed-reality, AR mode, and a more immersive VR mode where it's less possible to walk around the house.
And, like the iPhone in its early days, the real draw here may be for apps developed for the device that don't yet exist.
"Apple Vision Pro will change the way we communicate and collaborate,” Cook said Monday — but, will it, though?
Whether or not Apple helps the still-fledgling VR headset market explode remains to be seen. As Wired writes today, "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."
Wired also notes that excitement around VR hit a high-water mark around 2019 and has basically declined ever since — with sales of headsets down 20% last year. You also haven't heard much of a peep about Meta's metaverse ambitions anytime recently, and those teams were likely pretty decimated in recent rounds of layoffs.
So, we'll see! And it's a shame, for those earger Apple nerds in your life, that this thing won't even be ready in time for the holidays.