Apple on Monday unveiled its first-ever virtual reality headset challenging Facebook-owner Meta in a market that has yet to tempt users beyond videogamers and tech geeks.
The release was the most significant product launch by the iconic iPhone maker since it unveiled the Apple Watch in 2015.
“Blending digital content with the real world can unlock experiences like nothing we’ve ever seen,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook as he unveiled the Vision Pro, a sleek VR device that resembled ski goggles.
The Vision Pro will cost a hefty $3,499 and be available early next year, the company said.
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The headgear was introduced at the close of an Apple event in Cupertino, California in which the company announced a long list of product updates.
Disney partnered with Apple for the headset launch and the Mickey Mouse company teased streaming content from Marvel, Star Wars and live sports that would be available on the device.
“We’re so proud to yet again be partnering the greatest storytelling company in the world with the most innovative technology company in the world to bring you real life magic,” said Disney CEO Bob Iger.
The Vision Pro would require a lot of computing power and run mainly by being plugged into the wall, with a battery only able to keep the goggles working for two hours.
Apple did not deny the gaming audience and said that over 100 Apple Arcade games would be available from the day of release.
The device would also put a projection of a user’s eyes on an external screen in order to ease interactions with others.
The headset has been in development at Apple for years, and will focus on gaming, streaming video and conferencing, as well as health and fitness.
“It would be drastic to say that Apple Vision Pro will replace a computer or cellphone in the immediate future,” said Rolf Illenberger, founder and CEO of VRdirect, a software company for virtual reality devices.
“But that day will happen soon, most likely starting with those who enjoy having a second or third monitor at their workstations,” he added.
The release puts Apple on a collision course with Facebook-owner Meta, which had taken a head start on doubling down on virtual worlds, sometimes referred to as the metaverse.
Just days before Apple’s event, Meta ramped up its line of Quest virtual reality headgear.
A new-generation Quest 3 with improved performance and slimmed design will be available later this year at a starting price of $500, Zuckerberg said.
The Facebook founder described the coming model as Meta’s “most powerful headset yet” and promised it would provide the best wireless way to experience virtual reality.
Zuckerberg has been adamant that Meta remains devoted to building for a future in which internet life plays out in the metaverse.
But Meta’s experience with the metaverse has been humbling despite it being a leader in the emergent sector and many questioned whether Apple would in the end jump in.
And less than two years after changing its name to Meta to reflect a metaverse priority, the Facebook giant has fired tens of thousands of staff and promised to get back to its social media basics.
Apple also unveiled a new 15-inch MacBook Air, offering a large screen to users who are less interested in powerful computing needs.
The company also updated its iPhone operating system, with updates that in many cases played catchup with features that exist on Android phones or WhatsApp.