Apple has officially announced the launch of its first augmented reality headset, the Apple Vision Pro. Shaped like a pair of ski goggles, this headset is designed to seamlessly blend the real and digital worlds. As Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, put it, “It’s the first Apple product you look through, and not at”. The device comes with a separate battery pack and can be controlled with the eyes, hands, and voice. It is initially set to launch in the US at a starting price of $3,499, with other countries to follow later.
The Apple Vision Pro, primarily an augmented reality device, can also switch between augmented and full virtual reality using a dial. It employs a controller-free approach, where browsing is done through a new operating system called visionOS by simply looking at app icons. Tapping to select, flicking to scroll, and giving voice commands are the modes of interaction. Compatible with hundreds of thousands of familiar iPhone and iPad apps, the device is also designed to work with Bluetooth accessories and allow Mac connection. The headset has downward-facing cameras to capture your hands even at low positions.
In the broader market, Apple faces the significant challenge of convincing consumers of the necessity of the Vision Pro, a task that has proven difficult for Meta, Apple’s main competitor in this space. However, Apple’s vision for the device extends beyond gaming, the primary reason for XR headset purchases, to business-focused uses such as video conferencing and entertainment, including gaming and video streaming.
One of Apple’s major advantages is its access to the vast library of apps through its M2 silicon, enabling the Vision Pro to natively support most iPhone/iPad apps. This feature allows users to transition seamlessly between their apps and games, effectively extending the capabilities of their iPads to a new form factor.
To power the Vision Pro, Apple created visionOS, the first OS specifically developed for spatial computing. This system is designed to make it easy for developers to port their existing iOS/iPadOS apps to the Vision Pro and also to create new apps for the headset. The OS includes Optic ID for security, a feature similar to Face ID but using your eyes to verify your identity.
The pricing of the Vision Pro is considerably higher than its competitors. For instance, Meta’s consumer-focused headset, the Quest 3, starts at $499, about 7 times less than Apple’s AR headset. This could make it a challenging sell for regular buyers, possibly aligning it more with Microsoft’s HoloLens line.
Rumor has it that Apple might be selling the Vision Pro with no profit margin or even at a loss, a strategy uncharacteristic of Apple. This could be indicative of Apple’s intent to showcase its capabilities in the XR space, giving developers and a limited subset of consumers a chance to experience it first-hand, while refining the product and reducing its cost over time.
While the Apple Vision Pro appears to be a huge leap of faith into an unproven market, Apple’s track record of industry-defining innovations could bode well for its success. However, the device will not be available until 2024, and even then, in a very limited quantity.
For more in-depth insights into Vision Pro and its potential impact on the XR market, we’ll need to keep an eye on future updates and developments, especially regarding the evolution of its app ecosystem, user adoption, and market trajectory.