Apple WWDC 2023: Apple has finally forayed into the domain of VR headsets, which has so far been ruled by Meta, Sony Group and to an extent ByteDance-owned Pico. Despite being the newest entrant in the virtual reality market, the Cupertino-based company has decided to price its Vision Pro much higher than the closet rival Meta’s VR headsets. Vision Pro will sell for $3,500 once it is released in stores early next year. On the other hand, Quest Pro of Meta is available at $999. However, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently unveiled Quest 3 and it has been priced at only $499.
While announcing the device on Monday, during the WWDC 2023 event, Apple CEO Tim Cook hailed the arrival of the sleek goggles, that Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs helped design.
“This marks the beginning of a journey that will bring a new dimension to powerful personal technology,” Cook told the crowd.
Although Apple has unveiled the long-rumoured headset, consumers will have to wait till next before they can get their hands on the device.
The headset could become another milestone in Apple’s lore of releasing game-changing technology, even though the company hasn’t always been the first to try its hand at making a particular device.
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Apple’s lineage of breakthroughs dates back to a bow-tied Jobs peddling the first Mac in 1984 a tradition that continued with the iPod in 2001, the iPhone in 2007, the iPad in 2010, the Apple Watch in 2014 and its AirPods in 2016. The company emphasised that it drew upon its past decades of product design during the years it spent working on the Vision Pro, which Apple said involved more than 5,000 different patents.
The goggles will be equipped with 12 cameras, six microphones and a variety of sensors that will allow users to control it and various apps with just their eyes and hands. Apple also developed a technology to create a three-dimensional digital version of each user to display during video conferencing.
If the new device turns out to be a niche product, it would leave Apple in the same bind as other major tech companies and startups that have tried selling headsets or glasses equipped with technology that either thrusts people into artificial worlds or projects digital images with scenery and things that are actually in front of them – a format known as augmented reality.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been describing these alternate three-dimensional realities as the ‘metaverse.’ It’s a geeky concept that he tried to push into the mainstream by changing the name of his social networking company to Meta Platforms in 2021 and then pouring billions of dollars into improving the virtual technology.
But the metaverse largely remains a digital ghost town, although Meta’s virtual reality headset, the Quest, remains the top-selling device in a category that so far has mostly appealed to video game players looking for even more immersive experiences. Cook and other Apple executives avoided referring to the metaverse in their presentations, describing the Vision Pro as the company’s first leap into ‘spatial computing’ instead.
The response to virtual, augmented and mixed reality has been decidedly ho-hum so far. Some of the gadgets deploying the technology have even been derisively mocked, with the most notable example being Google’s internet-connected glasses released more than a decade ago.
After Google co-founder Sergey Brin initially drummed up excitement about the device by demonstrating an early model’s potential ‘ow factor’ with a skydiving stunt staged during a San Francisco tech conference, consumers quickly became turned off to a product that allowed its users to surreptitiously take pictures and video. The backlash became so intense that people who wore the gear became known as ‘Glassholes,’ leading Google to withdraw the product a few years after its debut.
Microsoft also has had limited success with HoloLens, a mixed-reality headset released in 2016, although the software maker earlier this year insisted it remains committed to the technology.
Magic Leap, a startup that stirred excitement with previews of a mixed-reality technology that could conjure the spectacle of a whale breaching through a gymnasium floor, had so much trouble marketing its first headset to consumers in 2018 that it has since shifted its focus to industrial, health care and emergency uses.
With AP inputs