Apple unveiled its first mixed-reality headset, the Apple Vision Pro, on Monday.
Tim Cook took the stage at Apple's WWDC conference to make the big announcement, and Disney CEO Bob Iger also made an appearance.
It'll cost a whopping $3,499 and Apple says it starts shipping early next year.
After years of rumors and reports, Apple's big new product is finally here.
Tim Cook revealed Apple's first mixed-reality headset, the Vision Pro, during the company's annual keynote at the Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday. It'll launch early next year.
The Vision Pro represents Apple's first major product release since the Apple Watch was announced in 2014, and has been years in the making, reportedly with some setbacks and product design compromises along the way.
But Apple's Vision Pro looks sleeker than the competition and has features that no one else on the market currently offers — it's the definition of an ultra high-end product, and it has a price tag to match: an eye-watering $3,499.
Say hello to 'EyeSight' — designed to make it less isolating
The Vision Pro's most immediately differentiating feature is a screen on the front of the device that is called "EyeSight," which shows the eyes and eyebrows of the person wearing the device — something no other headset on the market offers, including Meta's Quest lineup.
When the headset detects someone else is nearby, it'll populate the outer display with EyeSight.
However, it's not a literal real-time video of your eyes — Apple is using some high-tech AI to create a "digital persona" of you, and the effect looked pretty impressive in the demos it showed off. You simply look at the headset when setting it up, and it takes care of the rest.
That digital likeness is then used when you're FaceTiming someone from inside the headset.
When you're using an app, the exterior EyeSight display obscures your eyes to reflect that your attention is elsewhere.
When someone is interacting with you, the Vision Pro can adjust to ensure you can see them. One video showed a child kicking a soccer ball to a father who was wearing the device, and the soccer ball and child came into focus.
Goodbye, controllers — unless you want to use 'em
The headset is controlled by a combination of hand and finger gestures, eye-tracking, and voice.
You can use your fingers to select and expand content, and the eye-tracking can see where you're looking and highlight selections, which you can confirm with your voice or fingers.
When wearing the device, you can also use a "Digital Crown" dial to switch between the virtual environment and real world.
The headset's input can also be physical — Apple's new headset works with the company's Magic Trackpad, keyboard, and MacBook. Apple also said it will support popular game controllers via Apple Arcade.
4K content and crisp, non-blurry text could be a game-changer
Apple is positioning the device as a mix of an entertainment, productivity, and communication device, and the integration with existing Apple control inputs are key to that, as are the device's high-end internal displays, which boast a resolution of more than 4K per eye.
Apple says it can render "true 4K" content, allowing for non-grainy TV and movies, and "crisp" text when viewing articles or doing work within the device.
A custom theater and sports hub
On the entertainment front, movies and TV shows can be as massive virtual TV screens placed in front of you.
While watching content on the virtual display, the Vision Pro can automatically dim your surrounding room. And if you're watching a 3D movie like "Avatar: The Way of Water," that'll seamlessly display in front of you.
But you can also choose to transport yourself to a wholly virtual environment to watch your movie or TV show, if you prefer.
Apple showed examples including watching its Apple TV+ show, "Foundation," on a gigantic screen in an virtual outdoor environment.
Speakers built into the headband of the Vision Pro offer Apple's Spatial Audio sound. You can also use AirPods.
The Vision Pro can also play interactive content that seems more like traditional virtual reality experiences, such as "Encounter Dinosaurs," which brings 3D dinosaurs into your living room.
Disney and Apple cozy up on content
Notably, Apple brought out Disney CEO Bob Iger, who announced a partnership between Disney and Apple that will bring Disney+ to the headset right out of the gate when it launches next year.
Iger said that the Vision Pro will bring "Disney to our fans in ways that were previously impossible."
Iger then played a preview of upcoming Disney experiences on the Vision Pro that offer increased immersion when watching content — such as watching "The Mandalorian" in a "Star Wars"-themed environment, or getting a tour underwater with "National Geographic."
Live sports got a spotlight, ranging from being able to watch multiple games at once on multiple displays in your living room, to seeing miniature replays from games on your tabletop.
The miniature sports replay made the players look a bit like action figures.
On the gaming front, Apple is creating a separate App Store for the Vision Pro.
The device runs on a new operating system that Apple is calling VisionOS, and is powered by two chips: the M2 and R1, both designed by Apple.
Apple is also partnering with the game engine Unity. You'll also be able to play Apple Arcade games on the device.
If you're using the headset for a while, you'll need to keep it plugged in for all-day use — otherwise there's an attachable battery pack that Apple claims will give you two hours of battery life.
The band and the part of the headset that rests against your face is customizable, and Apple is partnering to offer prescription lenses for people who usually wear glasses.
Apple enters a tough market nobody has cracked yet
Apple faces an uphill battle by entering a headset market that multiple tech companies and startups have struggled in historically.
However, the company has a strong track record of entering new product categories at the right time and finding success with best-in-class design, splashy marketing, and compelling features that drive adoption.
Apple has internally projected that the product will eventually grow to be as significant as the iPad or Apple Watch, Bloomberg reported. Though, it could take time for the pricey product to develop a market. Meta, which sells a variety of virtual reality headsets, has recorded billions of dollars in operating losses from its Reality Labs division. Earlier this year, the company took as much as $500 off the price of its headsets, following mixed reviews and "underwhelming sales," The Verge reported.
What's more, some Apple employees that have worked on the headset have expressed doubts about the device, including its price and whether it fits into the company's brand, The New York Times reported earlier this year.
Ultimately, Apple is set to go head-to-head with Meta, the current market leader for standalone headsets.
Mark Zuckerberg announced Meta's latest headset, the Quest 3, just four days prior to Apple's release. The device is part of Zuckerberg's plans to pivot his social media company to focus on the metaverse. The Meta CEO said it will go on sale in the fall and with a starting price of $499. The Facebook cofounder has said in the past that Meta is in "deep philosophical competition" with Apple when it comes to building the metaverse.
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