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The backstory: It's no secret that Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, has been pretty interested in augmented reality (AR), or mixed reality. Basically, AR is a mind-bending technology that overlays digital elements in the real world. Think Pokémon GO, where you can see those cute little creatures frolicking in your own backyard through your smartphone. Now this isn’t the same as virtual reality (VR), which is like diving completely into a digital world, so you can’t really see the environment around you when in VR.
Now, let's talk about Apple again. You know the tech giant is all about making some of the most popular gadgets like Macbooks and iPhones, right? Now, it's venturing into the realm of mixed reality by combining AR and VR together into one headset. And guess who it’s going up against? Yep, it's Meta (formerly Facebook).
Mark Zuckerberg and his crew jumped into the VR scene way back in 2012 when it snatched up Oculus, a VR headset company. It also developed a roadmap in 2021 to invest heavily in VR and AR tech. The company’s since been pretty much the main player in the market, leaving competitors like Sony and HTC in the dust. But now, Apple and Meta are about to go head-to-head in the same market for the very first time, which is a pretty big deal.
More recently: Speaking of Meta, it just announced the Meta Quest 3 headset, its next-gen virtual and mixed-reality headset. Meta Quest 3 is set to hit stores later this year with a price tag of US$449.
The development: It’s been a while since Apple has come out with any new major products. But, the company made a big splash at its 2023 Worldwide Developers Conference with some major announcements that got everyone talking.
The star of the show was the Apple Vision Pro, a fancy mixed-reality headset coming out next year. Apple has come up with something called visionOS, which is basically the first-ever spatial computing operating system designed specifically for its headset. Basically, this is where the user will control it using their hands, eyes and voice – without needing any hardware or devices, like a mouse. Cook said it's all about blurring the line between what's real and what's virtual. And yeah, this bad boy comes with a hefty price tag of US$3,499, but Apple’s convinced it's going to change the game.
Now, onto the iPhone stuff. Apple also revealed iOS 17, its latest operating system, and it's packed with some seriously cool features. Imagine having personalized caller images, voicemail transcriptions in real-time and a Check-In system to let your peeps know you're safe.
And let's not forget about the super sleek 15-inch MacBook Air. This bad boy is crazy thin, powered by the M2 processor, has a crazy battery life of 18 hours and it starts at US$1,299. Apple says it's the thinnest laptop you've ever seen.
Apple also jazzed up FaceTime, Messages, iPad, Apple Watch and AirPods with new features. You've got customization options for iPad lock screens, machine learning magic for the Apple Watch and adaptive audio goodness for AirPods. The company’s also upgraded its mental and physical health features and apps across the new devices.
"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 groundbreaking innovations. It unlocks incredible experiences for our users and exciting new opportunities for our developers."
"You can control it with hands, eyes and voice," said Cook. "Relive your most important memories in an entirely new way."
"The overall AR/VR space has been a bit overhyped over the past few years with the metaverse and that kind of experience," said Thomas Husson of Forrester Research to BBC. "That's the reason why I think it will take a bit more time."
"We're constantly in search of new ways to entertain, inform and inspire our fans by combining extraordinary creativity with groundbreaking technology to create truly remarkable experiences," said Bob Iger, Disney CEO, during the keynote address. "And we believe Apple Vision Pro is a revolutionary platform that can make our vision a reality."