Apple has unveiled a mixed-reality headset called Vision Pro – its first entirely new product in eight years.
The US tech giant claims the device is “the most advanced personal electronic device ever”.
Resembling a pair of ski goggles, it features a glass 23-million-pixel screen which covers the upper face and is controlled using the wearer’s eyes, hands and voice.
Vision Pro is labelled as “mixed reality” as it combines “virtual reality”, in which the wearer is fully immersed in the digital world, with “augmented reality” where digital images are overlaid on to the real world.
The device, which is the first new product since the Apple Watch was launched in 2015, blends a video feed from the outside world with a virtual world displayed on screens inside the headset.
It is set to rival Meta’s Quest Pro from last year and Quest 3 announced last week.
However, costing $3,499 (£2,849), Vision Pro also comes with a heftier price tag than the planned $500 (£402) for Quest 3.
“Today marks the beginning of a new era for computing,” said Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, as he launched the new device at the company’s annual software developer conference on Monday.
“Blending digital content with the real world can unlock experiences like nothing we’ve ever seen.”
It will be available online and in Apple stores in the US from early next year and will come to more countries “later next year”.
The company also gave updates on its operating systems for iPhones, iPads and Mac computers.
Mixed response to mixed reality
If virtual reality is all about placing you into an entirely digital world, and augmented reality instead places digital elements into the real world, then mixed reality takes the concept one step further.
It allows people to interact with digital concepts in the real world, for example, a surgeon-in-training practising a complex operation on a digital patient.
But the response to virtual, augmented and mixed reality has been varied among consumers so far.
Some of the gadgets deploying the technology have even been derisively mocked in the past.
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After a poor critical reception and disappointing sales, with Mark Zuckerberg’s metaverse pitch failing to move customers and investors alike, the Quest Pro price has dropped from £1,499 to £999.
Most notably, Google’s internet-connected glasses released more than a decade ago, faced a backlash and were subsequently taken off the market by the company.
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.