Apple unveils virtual headset with “jawdropping” technology and a whopper of a price tag

CUPERTINO, Calif. — Apple’s new headset is billed as a design breakthrough with googles that feature 12 cameras, six microphones and sensors that will place users between the virtual and real worlds, allowing them to control apps with just their eyes and hands.

The company on Monday unveiled the new headset dubbed “Vision Pro” after years of speculation, The Associated Press reported.

“This marks the beginning of a journey that will bring a new dimension to powerful personal technology,” Apple CEO Tim Cook told the crowd at Apple’s corporate headquarters.

Vision Pro seems designed to add an immersive phone-like experience — it can feel like the apps are floating in front of you, Barron’s reported. A feature called EyeSight allows users to sense that there are other people nearby, who will appear in the user’s view, while revealing the user’s eyes to them.

A demonstration on Monday in an office setting showed Vision Pro’s ability to see a large numbers of apps in space — above or below or moved to the side to add new apps, Barron’s said. Users can open three-dimensional objects sent in messages and can use virtual keyboard or dictation to send messages.

But with the unveiling came many questions.

Will buyers be willing to drop thousands of dollars for the headsets? Vision Pro will sell for $3,500 once it is released in stores early next year.

Will the headset become another milestone in Apple’s lore of releasing game-changing technology, even though Apple has not always been the first to try making a particular device?

Will it just be a niche product, leaving Apple in the same bind as other major tech companies and startups that have tried selling headsets or glasses equipped with technology?

Apple on Monday emphasized that it drew upon its past decades of product design during the years it spent working on the Vision Pro, which involved more than 5,000 different patents, The AP said.

Daniel Diez, Magic Leap’s chief transformation officer, told The AP there are four major questions Apple’s goggles will have to answer: “What can people do with it? What does this thing look and feel like? Is it comfortable to wear? And how much is it going to cost?”

The projected price tag already has dampened expectations for the product.

Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives expects Apple’s goggles to boast “jaw dropping” technology but predicts just 150,000 units will sell during the device’s first year — a speck in Apple’s portfolio.

Apple annually sells more than 200 million of its marquee iPhones a year. But the iPhone was not an immediate sensation, with sales of fewer than 12 million units in its first full year on the market.

The metaverse largely remains a digital ghost town and the response to virtual, augmented, and mixed reality has largely been ho-hum.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg tried to push into the mainstream by changing the name of his social networking company to Meta Platforms in 2021 and then pouring billions of dollars into improving virtual technology.

Meta’s virtual reality headset, the Quest, remains the top-selling device in a category that so far appeals mostly to video game players.

Microsoft’s HoloLens, a mixed-reality headset released in 2016, has had limited success. The company earlier this year insisted it remains committed to the technology.

Magic Leap stirred excitement with previews of a mixed-reality technology that could conjure the spectacle of a whale breaching through a gymnasium floor. It had so much trouble marketing its first headset in 2018 that it shifted its focus to industrial, health care and emergency uses.

Since 2016, annual shipments of virtual- and augmented-reality devices industrywide have averaged 8.6 million units, according to the research firm CCS Insight. The firm expects sales to remain sluggish this year, with a sales projection of about 11 million of the devices before gradually climbing to 67 million in 2026, The AP reported.