Apple on Monday unveiled its most ambitious – and riskiest – new hardware product in years: a mixed reality headset called the Apple Vision Pro.
(AAPL) CEO Tim Cook touted the Vision Pro, which combines virtual reality and augmented reality, as a “revolutionary product,” with the potential to change how users interact with technology, each other and the world around them.
The highly anticipated announcement came at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, where it also teased a long list of new features and updates to some of its most widely used products.
Here’s what you should know from the event:
The new Apple Vision Pro looks like a pair of ski goggles and lets people overlay virtual images on live videos of the real world.
Cook, who has been talking up the potential of augmented reality for years, touted the headset as “the first product you look through, not at.”
According to Apple, once a user puts on the device, they’re able to see apps directly projected in front of them. At the event, Apple showed off a range of unique experiences with the product, including apps for medicine, productivity and entertainment. Disney CEO Bob Iger also joined the Apple event to discuss how Disney will create content for the new Vision Pro headset.
Unlike other headsets, the new mixed reality headset will display the eyes of its users on the outside, so “you’re never isolated from the people around you, you can see them and they can see you,” said Alan Dye, vice president of human interface.
But the product faces a number of challenges: Apple is diving into an unproven market littered with other tech companies who have tried and largely failed to find mainstream traction for their devices. Apple is also charging $3,499 for the device – more than had been rumored, and a hefty amount at a time of lingering economic uncertainty.
While much of the focus of the event was predictably on VR, Apple said less directly about how it’s keeping pace with Silicon Valley’s current obsession: artificial intelligence.
In recent months, most of Apple’s Big Tech rivals have laid out ambitious plans for how to incorporate generative AI into their products following the viral success of ChatGPT. WWDC would have been a natural opportunity for Apple to do the same.
Instead, Apple spoke about artificial intelligence in a more subtle way. For example, Apple announced an update to autocorrect that uses machine learning and a language model for better accuracy and even “sentence-level autocorrections.” Apple will also expand its predictive text abilities.
“When it comes to speeding up your typing, predictive text already helps you quickly finish add or change a word,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president for software engineering, said at the event. “And now you’ll get predictions in line as you type.”
The first hardware product unveiled on Monday was a 15-inch MacBook Air with Apple’s custom-made M2 processor. Apple said the new MacBook Air is the world’s thinnest laptop, at just 11.5 mm. It also weighs just 3.3 pounds.
The new MacBook Air promises 18 hours of battery life, significantly faster performance than Intel-powered MacBook Airs and a six-speaker sound system.
It starts at $1,299, and $1,199 for education. Meanwhile, the older 13-inch MacBook Air with M2 is now $999.
In addition to the latest MacBook Air, Apple also introduced the M2 Max and M2 Ultra chips as updates to its Mac Studio. Developers can build new apps at immense speed, with up to 25x faster performance than the M1 Max.
Apple also unveiled a slew of new updates coming to iOS 17 later this year, including new tools to make calling and messaging others more personalized and customized.
iOS 17 will now get contact “posters,” allowing iPhone users to design a custom image to appear when you call someone or receive their call. iPhone users will be able to personalize their contact card “poster” with a photo or “memoji” of choice, as well as text.
A new feature called Live Voicemail transcribes a caller’s message in real-time, so users can decide whether to ignore it or take the call. An upcoming check-in feature makes it easier to keep friends and family alerted to their safety. And a tool called NameDrop lets users share their contact information by holding two iPhones close together.
The company also rolled out software updates for the iPad, Watch and AirPods.
The iPad will get some of the beloved existing lock screen features on the iPhone, including the ability to personalize wallpapers, as well as new interactive widgets to get more information at a glance and perform quick actions.
Apple Watch will get a smart stack that uses machine learning to show relevant widgets, from medication logs and calendars to viewing sleep data.
And the company is bringing new “adaptive audio” features to its wireless AirPods. The update is intended to reduce distracting noises when changing environments and also to learn the listener’s preferences so the AirPods can make audio changes on the fly.