Apple has officially introduced to the world Vision Pro, a revolutionary pair of virtual reality goggles that the company promises will unlock a new universe of virtual and augmented reality applications.
The headset will be priced starting at $3,499, available starting in early 2024 in the U.S. Apple announced the long-awaited headset at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) from its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.
“I believe that augmented reality is a profound technology,” said CEO Tim Cook, saying that Apple’s introduction of Vision Pro will introduce people to new forms of “spatial computing” and comparing the product introduction to the way iPhone introduced smartphones to millions of people.
“Built upon decades of Apple innovation, Vision Pro is years ahead and unlike anything created before — with a revolutionary new input system and thousands of groundbreaking innovations,” Cook said. “It unlocks incredible experiences for our users and exciting new opportunities for our developers.”
On the entertainment front, Disney CEO Bob Iger made an appearance during the launch, saying the platform will let the company create “deeply immersive” stories in ways that were “previously impossible.” Disney’s sizzle reel for Vision Pro showed various concepts the media company is working on for the device, “to bring you real-life magic,” Iger said. Disney+ will be available on Vision Pro on “day one,” he added.
Apple’s Vision Pro uses eye movements and hand movements for navigation — with no external controllers — and also employs voice input. Vision Pro uses a feature Apple calls EyeSight that shows other people a wearer’s eyes if they’re in augmented-reality mode to help “users stay connected with those around them”; the screen turns opaque to the outside world if the wearer is in fully immersive VR mode. The headset also includes Apple’s first 3D camera, for capturing spatial video and photos, and can serve as a “personal movie theater” with a screen “that feels 100 feet wide” with support for Apple TV+, Apple Arcade games (more than 100 titles at launch) and other Apple services.
Vision Pro provides ultra high resolution, with more pixels for each eye than a 4K TV — with 23 million pixels across two displays — and provides a newly designed spatial-audio system, according to Apple. Vision Pro will change “the way users interact with their favorite apps, capture and relive memories, enjoy stunning TV shows and movies, and connect with others in FaceTime,” the company said.
The tech giant’s VR and mixed-reality headset reportedly has been in development for seven years, and marks the first new product category entry for Apple since it launched Apple Watch in 2015. The company has projected selling 900,000 VR headsets in the first year, Bloomberg reported last month.
The VR headset runs visionOS, an operating system Apple said was “designed from the ground up to support the low-latency requirements of spatial computing.” Apple said it gave some developers access to Vision Pro to create apps for the headset, including Microsoft’s Word and Excel and the Sky Guide planetarium app. At launch, Vision Pro will support hundreds of thousands of existing iPhone and iPad apps; in addition, Apple’s Vision Pro supports the Unity game engine to bring 3D apps developed using Unity to the platform.
The Vision Pro has a singular piece of 3D-formed laminated glass, which acts as an optical surface for the cameras and sensors. That is connected to an aluminum alloy frame that “gently curves to wrap around your face while serving as an attachment point for the Light Seal,” the section of fabric that touches the wearer’s face. All told, it includes 12 cameras, five sensors and six microphones “to ensure that content feels like it is appearing right in front of the user’s eyes, in real time,” according to Apple. The device’s new R1 chip processes and plays images within 12 milliseconds — eight times faster than the blink of an eye, per the company. Apple Vision Pro provides up to two hours of continuous use with its built-in battery, according to the company’s tests.
Apple said it’s teaming with Zeiss to provide prescription Zeiss Optical Inserts (sold separately) for users who need vision correction “to ensure visual fidelity and eye tracking accuracy.”
Just days prior to Apple’s VR announcement, Meta announced the next generation of its own VR headset, the Meta Quest 3, priced at $500 and slated to ship in the fall of 2023.