Apple launches expensive Vision Pro augmented reality headset

The king of tech firms Apple has made its long anticipated entrance to the AR/VR/XR field with the Apple Vision Pro headset, which comes with a hefty $3,499 price tag.

Andrew Wooden

June 6, 2023

5 Min Read
Apple Vision Pro2

The king of tech firms Apple has made its long anticipated entrance to the AR/VR/XR field with the Apple Vision Pro headset, which comes with a hefty $3,499 price tag.

The Apple Vision Pro is described as a spatial computing headset – which at first glance appears to be what everyone else is calling AR – the world as it is around you overlaid with some sort of heads-up display interface.

However, unlike Google Glass or other such gadgets, what the wearer sees is entirely fed through from an array of cameras on the front of the opaque headset, representing both the actual environment and the digital overlay. A screen at the front of the headset does a similar thing and can present an image of the users’ eyes to give the illusion that the goggles are transparent.

To do this its loaded with two small ultra-high-resolution displays that show 23 million pixels and is powered by custom Apple silicon in a dual-chip design to crunch all the data in a speedy fashion. So what do you do with it once you’ve strapped it to your bonce?

Apple has developed a new operating system for the Apple Vision Pro called visionOS, and from here you can open and interact with a series of proprietary apps using a combination of eye tracking and finger tapping in the air. From here you can make Facetime calls, watch films with greater immersion, play games, or work on documents thanks to some synching with other Apple devices, linking it to the wider Apple ecosystem – a key pillar of the firm’s overall business strategy.

For Facetime calls, while you can see the other caller as usual the problem that there is no phone in front of your own face has been addressed by the device scanning the wearer’s face and rendering a virtual avatar instead, which could be a bit jarring but it’s a better solution than just transmitting an ultra-close up image of your twitching eyeballs.

“Today marks the beginning of a new era for computing,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Just as the Mac introduced us to personal computing, and iPhone introduced us to mobile computing, Apple Vision Pro introduces us to spatial computing. 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 ground-breaking innovations. It unlocks incredible experiences for our users and exciting new opportunities for our developers.”

“Creating our first spatial computer required invention across nearly every facet of the system,” said Mike Rockwell, Apple’s vice president of the Technology Development Group. “Through a tight integration of hardware and software, we designed a standalone spatial computer in a compact wearable form factor that is the most advanced personal electronics device ever.”

Paolo Pescatore from PP Foresight told “All eyes were on the Vision Pro; undoubtedly the star of the show. Make no mistake, this is a wow moment for the company and the consumer electronics industry. Today marks Apple’s biggest device launch in a while (since the Watch) that will change the way we interact and engage with content forever.

“This is the start of a long journey. Apple has grand plans to revolutionise this segment as it has done with the iPhone; remember this is its first foray. The hardware, services and experiences will evolve considerably over time to include other devices. Apple’s focus around deftly blending the digital and real world brings a new category into the XR mix. Spatial computing, as Apple positions it, brings with it the start of a whole new platform. This provides a much-needed boost and is expected to reignite interest in the market. If anyone can kickstart demand for this segment, then Apple can.”

However great all this sounds in the marketing, it has to be said the $3,499 price tag will rule it out for most people when it’s made available in the US next year. Apple fanatics with cash on the hip and developers may be eager to get their hands on it, but there at that price it seems unlikely to fly off the shelves right away, though that could change with future iterations.

Another slight fly in the ointment would appear to be the battery. Some reviewers who have got their hands on it have pointed out it has a battery life of only 2 hours, which wouldn’t get to the end of most films these days. The battery is also a separate unit which is connected by a cord to the headset, which doesn’t seem mega-elegant as befitting Apple’s aesthetic.

However it’s probably best to see the Apple Vision Pro as a first step in what the sector might become, as opposed to a gangbusting mass market money spinner for Apple in the near term. The whole area of AR, metaverse, XR, MR, and VR is frankly messy right now, and while everyone and their dog in telecoms and tech will tell you just how revolutionary and vital its all going to be, it’s thus far proven a bit tricky to see the vision when Meta presents its clunky avatars or Nestle announces the breakfast cereal metaverse. What this headset might do is set some more solid examples of what is doable, useful, and fun and thus begin redefining a sector – which Apple has form in doing.

It also might serve as a tactical foothold in the market for Apple – many commentators believe some form of headset-based device will replace the smartphone at some point in the future, which is where it makes most of its revenue right now. What this thing is and what it’s good at will probably become clearer in time when third party developers can get their teeth into, and in that sense it’s not dissimilar from the initial iPhone launch, which was comparatively bare bones when it first arrived.

Time will tell if the Apple Vision Pro turns out to be as lucrative for Apple and game-changing for the industry as that piece of tech history was.


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About the Author(s)

Andrew Wooden

Andrew joins on the back of an extensive career in tech journalism and content strategy.

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