Apple unveils augmented reality headset and latest iPhone Operating System at major hardware launch event


6th June 2023 – (Cupertino) Apple has launched its much-anticipated augmented reality headset, called the Apple Vision Pro, at its first major hardware event in almost a decade. The device is set to “seamlessly blend the real world and the virtual world,” according to Apple CEO Tim Cook. The tech giant also unveiled its latest iPhone operating system iOS17, as well as updates to its MacBook Air. The Apple Vision Pro has a two-hour battery life, costs $3,499 (£2,849), and is set to be released in the U.S. early next year.

The Apple Vision Pro looks different from other headsets on the market, and is more akin to a pair of ski goggles than a virtual reality headset. Apple has described the device as “augmented reality,” which superimposes virtual objects onto the world around users, enabling them to mix reality with virtual reality by looking through a screen. Users can access apps, watch movies, and write documents in a virtual world. However, there is currently little evidence of a significant market for this kind of wearable tech.

The Apple Vision Pro is controlled using a combination of hand, voice, and eye movements. It allows users to “see, hear and interact with digital content just like it’s in your physical space,” Cook said in his sales pitch. The device responds to users tapping their fingers together to select and flicking them to scroll. The announcement comes a week after Meta and Lenovo announced new iterations of their virtual reality headsets, which do not superimpose objects onto a view of the real world. Meta has also invested heavily in mixed reality but the sector is struggling. The headset market saw a 54% drop in global sales last year, according to the International Data Corporation.

The cost of the Apple Vision Pro is considerably more than virtual reality headsets currently on the market, with Meta’s Quest costing $449. Hartley Charlton, senior editor of MacRumors, was unsure how much the headset would appeal to the general public. He said it “won’t appeal to mainstream consumers at first on account of its extremely high price point and immediate shortcomings as a first-generation device, such as its separate wired battery pack.” However, he added that Apple has a track record of “overcoming scepticism” about new devices.

Aside from the Vision Pro announcement, Apple also unveiled the latest version of its iPhone operating system, iOS17. Updates include “contact posters” – a picture or image of yourself that will appear on a person’s phone when you call them – and “live voicemail,” which provides a real-time transcription of an answerphone message being left to you. This transcription will also apply to audio messages left using Apple Messages. Additionally, Apple introduced a system called Check-In, which will automatically inform a friend or family member when you’ve arrived home. If your journey is substantially delayed, it has the power to tell others that you have not made it home safely yet.

Thomas Husson, of Forrester Research, told BBC News it may take time for Apple’s new headset to take off. “The overall AR/VR space has been a bit overhyped over the past few years with the metaverse and that kind of experience,” he said. “That’s the reason why I think it will take a bit more time. Having said that, if I told you 10-15 years ago that people would be ready to pay almost $2,000 for a mobile phone, I don’t think many people would have said they would be willing to pay that.”

During the announcement, made at a developer’s conference at Apple Park, the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, Apple said little about generative artificial intelligence, the buzzy technology that is the talk of Silicon Valley. The company’s share price fell slightly during the announcement.

The new operating system, iOS17, will be available in Autumn 2023.