Apple presented Monday, June 5 its first “mixed” reality headset (virtual and augmented), called “Vision Pro”, a field currently dominated by its neighbor Meta (Facebook, Instagram, Quest), on which the manufacturer of the Iphone had been expected for years.
“Blending digital content with the real world will create new experiences like we’ve never seen,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s boss, before unveiling this “revolutionary new product”, with the usual emphasis from the Californian tech giant. The new device will start selling at $3,499 early next year.
“If you bought a new, state-of-the-art television, high-performance speakers, a powerful computer with multiple high-definition screens, a sophisticated camera and more, you wouldn’t reach the level of the Vision Pro,” assured Richard Howarth, vice-president chairman of the design group.
The headset – which isn’t wireless, unlike recent models from Quest (Meta) or Vive (HTC) – was launched at WWDC, Apple’s annual conference for developers. It is connected to a battery which is placed in the pocket and lasts two hours.
Users will be able to choose the degree of immersion, thanks to a wheel that allows them to switch from augmented reality (AR, superimposition of virtual elements on reality) to virtual reality (VR, complete immersion).
Carolina Milanesi said she was “impressed by the fluidity”: “I was in an immersive universe when someone started talking to me and this person materialized in front of me. I could see her, she could see my eyes, and we were able to have a conversation,” the Creative Strategies analyst detailed.
“A little clumsy”
The presentation was “stunning,” commented Insider Intelligence analyst Yory Wurmser, although “the choice to have an external battery is a bit of an awkward compromise.” “There are two main open questions: who is going to pay $3,500? And do people really want those VR and AR experiences with a wire? “.
Users will control virtual apps and screens through eye movements, certain hand gestures, and voice commands.
The helmet has sensors that “create your digital image” through an artificial intelligence program trained on videos of “thousands of diverse individuals”, explained Richard Howarth. During video calls, the interlocutors will thus see “a natural representation (of the user) which dynamically reproduces the movements of the face and the hands”, he specified.
The leaders presented potential uses related to work, communication and entertainment, including a partnership with Disney, but no games or physical exercises (such as virtual tennis).
” Helmet “
This is the most important product launch for Apple since its connected watch, the Apple Watch, unveiled in 2015. The apple brand thus lands on the privileged playground of Meta, its neighbor and rival in Silicon Valley. .
Virtual reality is currently dominated by the social media giant – its Quest brand headsets accounted for more than 80% of the market at the end of 2022, according to the firm Counterpoint.
On Thursday, Meta launched the Quest 3, the “first consumer headset with high-resolution color mixed reality,” which will start at $500 in the United States in the fall. At the end of 2021, Facebook became Meta with the idea of becoming a metaverse company, described by boss Mark Zuckerberg as the future of the Internet, after the web and mobile.
According to Insider Intelligence, some 35 million people now use a VR headset at least once a month in the United States, or about 10% of the population.
Apple is used to arriving in markets that are already cleared up, with the ambition to establish itself as the benchmark, starting with luxury products for companies and fans. “Finally, + The Helmet + is here,” reacted Wedbush analyst Dan Ives. “We are expecting around 150,000 models sold in the first year, and a million the following year when the price drops.”