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Apple unveils long-awaited mixed reality headset, Apple Vision Pro, at WWDC 2023

Apple (AAPL) unveiled its long-awaited mixed reality headset, Apple Vision Pro, at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference 2023 (WWDC).

"It's the first Apple product you look through and not at," Apple CEO Tim Cook told the audience.

The Vision Pro is built with five sensors, six microphones, and 12 cameras. Processing power comes from both Apple's M2 chip and its new R1 chip. While Apple says the Vision Pro will run all day when plugged into an outlet, you'll need a secondary battery pack to use it on the go. The battery, however, lasts just two hours on a charge.

The headset, which Apple refers to as a "spatial computer," includes Apple's first fully 3D interface, ways to scale apps up or down in your space, and a feature called Environments, which transforms the room you're in into an immersive, natural landscape.

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Running on Apple's new visionOS, you'll navigate the headset using your eyes, hands, and voice. For those looking at you while wearing the headset, there's a feature called EyeSight that allows others to see a representation of your eyes on the Vision Pro's external display.

Apple unveiled its long-awaited headset at WWDC
Apple unveiled its long-awaited headset at WWDC

The company also emphasized its existing apps, saying that Apple Vision Pro will change how you use apps like Notes, Keynote, FaceTime, and Messages. The headset also is compatible with Bluetooth accessories, and the company briefly touched on gaming options – 100 Arcade app games will be linked to the Vision Pro.

Disney (DIS) CEO Bob Iger also made a surprise appearance to tout special features that will be available on the Vision Pro tied to some of the company's most prized intellectual property, from Star Wars to Marvel. The company's streaming service, Disney+, will also be available on the Vision Pro. Additionally, Microsoft (MSFT) apps like Word, Excel, and Teams will be compatible with the headset. Apps can be downloaded via the Vision Pro's new App Store.

Apple touted Vision Pro as the company's first 3D camera, allowing users to take 3D photos and revisit them in the headset's environment.

The Apple Vision Pro has been in development for the better part of a decade and is Apple's first new product category since it debuted the Apple Watch in 2014. That makes it an especially important device for both Apple, which is still heavily dependent on revenue generated by the iPhone, and CEO Tim Cook's legacy. According to the announcement, Apple filed some 5,000 patents related to the headset.

Apple Vision Pro starts at $3,499 and will be available early next year on apple.com and at Apple Store locations in the US, with more countries coming later next year.

The struggling VR market

Apple is entering a market currently dominated by rival Meta (META), which currently controls 80% of the global AR/VR market share thanks to its Quest line of headsets, according to IDC. Meta isn't sitting idly by while Apple jumps into the fray either. On Thursday, the company introduced its own new AR/VR headset called the Meta Quest 3.

Available later this year for $499, the Meta Quest 3 features a thinner, lighter design, as well as two times the graphics performance of the Meta Quest 2. It also includes a full-color pass-through design which allows you to see the world around you thanks to its front-facing camera. That should enable some powerful AR capabilities from various apps.

Still, there are concerns about the longevity of the AR/VR market, including the stickiness and usefulness of the technology and worries about growth in the metaverse. The AR/VR market is also coming off of a steep decline in 2022 during which global shipments fell 20% year-over-year to 8.8 million units.

Apple stock is up about 46% year-to-date, as of Monday.

Allie Garfinkle is a Senior Tech Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @agarfinks and on LinkedIn.

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