Apple has unveiled its latest innovation, the Apple Vision Pro, an augmented reality headset designed to seamlessly merge the real and digital worlds. CEO Tim Cook described it as the first Apple product that you look through, rather than at. Resembling a pair of ski goggles, the device features a separate battery pack and can be controlled using eye movements, hand gestures, and voice commands. Priced at $3,499, it is set to launch early next year, initially in the US market before expanding to other countries later in the year.
Positioned primarily as an augmented reality device, the Vision Pro can switch between augmented and full virtual reality through a dial. It offers a controller-free experience, where users can navigate rows of app icons simply by looking at them, tapping to select and flicking to scroll. Voice commands are also supported. Additionally, the headset is compatible with Bluetooth accessories such as the Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad, allowing users to connect their Mac and use it within the headset. The downward-facing cameras can capture hand movements, even when they are resting at a low position.
Featuring a glass front and an aluminum frame, the headset incorporates five sensors, 12 cameras, a display, and a fan-cooled computer. The mask and strap are cloth-lined and modular, designed to accommodate various face shapes and head sizes. The ribbed headband wraps around the back of the head, and different sizes and styles of bands can be swapped. Zeiss has created custom optical inserts that magnetically attach to the lenses for users who wear glasses. The external battery provides up to two hours of usage and can be connected via a supple woven cable, allowing it to fit conveniently into a pocket. Apple promises an unprecedentedly sharp display capable of delivering 4K video.
Powering the system is the M2 chip, accompanied by a new chip called the R1. Despite the immersive nature of the experience, Apple ensures users won't be isolated from their surroundings. The EyeSight system displays the user's eyes, and in full virtual reality mode, a glowing screen obscures them to indicate unavailability. The device also generates a hyperrealistic avatar by scanning the user's face. Using passthrough video, the headset enables users to view the real world in full color while projecting 3D objects into the environment, such as pulling objects out of a message thread and placing them into the physical space.
Spatial audio enhances remote interactions, allowing users to arrange FaceTime participants as video tiles around the room. Inside the headset, users can capture and relive 180-degree video with a 3D camera. Apple highlights the inclusion of TV and Arcade content on the headset, including premium offerings from Disney.
The development of the Apple Vision Pro spanned several years and reportedly underwent numerous iterations, leading to significant delays. As CEO Tim Cook's signature addition to Apple's product lineup, it has garnered praise from industry insiders, despite entering a market that has yet to fully take off. Its main competitor is expected to be Meta, which has experienced relative success with its games-focused Quest 2 headset, while the reception to its general-purpose Quest Pro has been more mixed.
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