Apple unveiled the Vision Pro headset at its annual WWDC event on Monday, ending months of speculation that the Cupertino tech giant is preparing to launch its own VR or augmented reality product.
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Executives at some of the biggest companies in the augmented and virtual reality space hailed competition from the U.S. tech giant, saying the debut of Apple’s mixed-reality headset was a “watershed” for the industry.
apple Vision Pro headset unveiled at annual WWDC event on Mondayending months of speculation that the Cupertino tech giant is preparing to launch its own VR or augmented reality product.
Char Wang, CEO of Taiwanese tech giant HTC, told CNBC that he sees Apple’s move as legitimacy for the industry. HTC has long been a powerhouse in the virtual and augmented industry, pivoting from its struggling smartphone business a few years ago to focus on the Vive headset division.
“Apple’s entry into the market is an inflection point for the industry and a great validation of everything HTC Vive has been working on so far,” she told CNBC. “This will bring more confidence to the global VR market.”
But the “closed” nature of Apple’s services ecosystem, which is more restrictive in terms of the platforms and devices users access services from, is problematic, he added.
“Apple has traditionally used a closed ecosystem for its iOS products and content distribution platform, which could limit new value chains for developers. It’s hard to maximize reach when you’re trapped.”
Apple says Vision Pro will allow users to see apps in the space around them in new ways. Users can use their eyes and hands to navigate the app and search by voice.
Headsets allow users to watch movies such as 3D with spatial audio, view photos and videos of themselves, and play video games. It can also be used for work via video conferencing apps such as microsoft office tools and Adobe light room.
Vision Pro runs on visionOS, a new spatial computing platform designed specifically for the company’s new headset, allowing developers to build apps just like iOS on the iPhone. It will be available early next year starting at $3,499.
Admittedly, audience reaction to Apple’s AR headset was more muted than other announcements the company made earlier in the day, including new features for the iPad and the Apple TV Siri Remote.
“The next paradigm shift will occur when these devices are fully integrated with 5G technology and stream content from cloud edge networks,” Wang told CNBC.
“HTC VIVE has already invented this technology and in the near future we will lead this paradigm shift.”
Over the years, HTC has ramped up its focus on VR from its smartphone expertise as it struggles to gain traction in the highly competitive mobile phone market.
In 2018, the Taiwanese company sold most of its smartphone business to Google for $1.1 billion.
The VR industry has long struggled to be taken seriously, with consumers primarily turning to VR as a way to play casual games rather than a device embedded in their daily lives.
Formerly known as Facebook, Meta has created the “Metaverse.”
However, Meta has yet to find broad commercial appeal for its products. The company loses billions of dollars each year investing in this technology.
Sales of VR headsets have been sluggish lately, especially as consumers suffer from a steep rise in the cost of living.
The NPD Group, a research group, told CNBC last December that sales of VR headsets in the US in 2022 will drop 2% from the previous year to $1.1 billion.
This is a rather surprising announcement for a company like Apple, which has typically been adamant about waiting for mass adoption of its products before entering a product category.
Nevertheless, industry executives said the launch was an important milestone for the nascent mixed reality market.
Urho Kontri, chief technology officer at Varjo in Finland, said in an emailed comment that this indicates that mixed reality is likely to have more viable use cases for business.
“Apple’s entry into XR with the Vision Pro is an important moment for the entire industry,” Contri said.
“Mixed reality has already taken hold in the enterprise sector, and the game-changing technology pioneered by Varjo has changed the way the world’s largest companies work, train, design, conduct research and collaborate.”
“We hope that today will be a turning point for consumers, where promising applications for entertainment, personal productivity and communication will emerge and begin to become part of their daily lives,” he added.
CCS Insight analyst Leo Gebbie said, “If it doesn’t launch until early 2024, the Vision Pro will transform the spatial computing space, thanks in part to Apple’s design decisions and the revolutionary visionOS. I look forward to it,” he said.
“Virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) have been going through a period of intense scrutiny and skepticism lately, but if there’s one company with the star power to revive the space, it’s Apple,” he added. rice field.
— CNBC’s Kif Lesswing, Ashley Caputo and Rohan Goswami contributed to this report