WWDC: Apple unveils Vision Pro mixed-reality headset with groundbreaking tech, eye-watering price

Apple has unveiled its long-rumoured mixed reality headset, officially named the Vision Pro, at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).

The Vision Pro, which looks similar to a hi tech ski mask, is powered by an external battery pack worn on the body, and controlled by tracking users' hands, voice and eyes. 

The headset, which Apple claims is "the most advanced personal electronics device ever", will integrate Apple's apps like Safari, Apple Music, Notes and Facetime and layer those apps into your visual field, blending physical and digital space. 

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

Vision Pro, which marks the company's first new product category since the Apple Watch launch in 2015 will also integrate with other Apple hardware, meaning you can look at your Mac or iPhone screen and use them through the headset. 

The device is powered by an M2 processor and a brand new chip called the R1, made specially for Vision Pro and features its own operating system, Vision OS.

Internally, the Vision Pro uses two Micro OLED displays which promise 23 million pixels across two screens. Externally, a front-facing OLED panel represents the eyes of the wearer while in use and when speaking to others via video conference inside the headset, a user's face will be scanned and represented by a digital avatar. 

On the sound front, Vision Pro uses integrated audio pods and a feature dubbed "audio ray tracing" which scans your environment using the headset's sensors and tailors the spatial audio output based on the surfaces in your room.  

As for entertainment, users can watch TV and movies through Apple TV with a customisable display that can be shaped to suit your environment.  

Disney CEO Bob Iger also took the stage at WWDC alongside Tim Cook to promise Disney+ will be available in the headset at launch. When it comes to gaming, the headset will support 100 games from the Apple Arcade at launch and can be paired with a PlayStation5 or Xbox controller.

While the underlying tech is impressive, the price point may raise eyebrows. 

Vision Pro will cost US$3499 / NZ$5764 at launch, though that price could be higher locally once shipping costs are factored in. 

For comparison, the current generation of Meta Quest 2 retails at approximately NZ$750 with the recently announced Meta Quest 3 launching at US$499/ NZ$823.

The broader VR/AR market has struggled to find mainstream adoption outside of gaming, despite a public pivot towards the technology by Meta in 2021. 

The introduction of the Vision Pro could mark a turning point in the market as Apple has a proven track record of popularising innovative tech but whether the currently high price point attracts users beyond hardcore enthusiasts remains to be seen.

Elsewhere in the WWDC keynote, Apple unveiled several new MacBooks, including a 15 inch version of the MacBook Air and a new MacBook pro powered by the M2 Ultra processor. 

On the software front Apple showcased IOS17 for iPhone and iPad and the integration of generative AI technology into some apps, among a slew of other announcements. 

The Vision Pro will launch in the US sometime early next year and roll out internationally later in 2024.