Apple finally unveiled its plans for a mixed-reality wearable computer today at WWDC, its annual software conference.
The headset, named Apple Vision Pro, has been in the works for years, withtaking its familiar wait-and-see approach while other giant tech companies have dived headfirst into the still-kludgy AR/VR market. The new platform and headset have massive implications for the rest of the market; once Apple wades into a product category, it often both validates the category and obviates competitors. Recently, a report from Bloomberg that top Apple executives have been at odds over the positioning of and release of this headset.
None of that tension was apparent on stage today, when Apple chief executive Tim Cook showed off the device in a pre-taped demo video. “It’s the first product you look through, and not at,” Cook said. “You can see, hear, and act with digital content just like it’s in your physical space. You’re no longer limited by a display.”
“You can relive your most important memories in an entirely new way,” Cook added. “Apple Vision Pro will introduce spatial computing” similar to the way the iPhone introduced mobile computing, he said.
As previously reported, the Apple headset allows the wearer to see the real or physical world around them, unlike VR headsets that fully envelop the face and limit visibility. There’s a floating “Home View” visible as soon as the wearer straps it on. And scenes in the pre-taped video showed a person wearing the headset walking around their home, grabbing a sparkling water from the fridge, indicating that the company expects people will wear this as part of their day-to-day. Or, during long flights.
Apple declined to share the specifics of the headset technology, except to remark many times that the field of view isn’t limited, which means it’s likely not using the waveguide lens technology common on other augmented reality headsets (which refract light and cast virtual objects into the wearer’s eyes.)
One of the notable features of the Vision Pro headset is its small dial, which lets wearers alternate between mixed reality mode—seeing more of the real world—and virtual reality mode, which offers more immersive face-computing. It also relies on voice input, including Siri, to open and close apps and play media. In the pre-taped demo of the new headset, no hand controllers were used. Apple is also touting a new technology—to call it new is almost humorous—is called Eyesight. When someone is nearby, they’ll suddenly appear in your view, even if you’re using the headset in a more immersive mode.