At its annual Worldwide Developers Conference today, Apple is anticipated to unveil expensive mixed-reality headgear, competing with Meta, the owner of Facebook, in a market that has yet to gain momentum.
The iPhone maker has remained mum on reports that it plans to unveil a headset for augmented or virtual reality experiences at its annual developer and app designer camp.
The release is the iconic iPhone maker’s most significant product launch since it unveiled the Apple Watch in 2015.
It could also increase tensions between Apple CEO Tim Cook and Meta subsidiary Mark Zuckerberg, who have clashed over the handling of their sprawling tech empires, particularly data issues and relations with China.
Expectations are high that Apple will use the WWDC stage to highlight the “Reality Pro” headset, priced around $3,000, as well as a standalone hardware program, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a note to investors.
“We believe there will be many applications and use cases for Apple’s Reality Pro,” Ives said.
Cook is also expected to talk about the company’s strategy for artificial intelligence, which has been in the spotlight since the OpenAI startup launched ChatGPT late last year.
According to Ives, the headset has been in development at Cupertino-based Apple for years and focuses on gaming, video streaming and conferencing, as well as health and fitness.
It is also expected to sync closely with other Apple devices, following the company’s strategy of using premium devices to lock customers into other products and services.
“From all reports, Apple was hoping to launch a product that feels more like designer glasses than a gaming headset, but brings something much more to the market,” said Yory Wurmser, principal analyst at Insider Intelligence.
“It wants to get its hardware into the hands of developers and early adopters who are starting to build an ecosystem (mixed reality) around Apple’s software.”
A Bloomberg report described the headset as a pair of high-tech ski goggles that project the user’s eyes and expressions onto an external screen.
Just days before the Apple event, Meta has added the Quest virtual reality headset to its lineup.
Zuckerberg said the next-generation Quest 3, with improved performance and a slimmer design, will be available later this year with a starting price of $500.
The Facebook founder called the upcoming model “Meta’s most powerful headset yet” and promised it would offer the best wireless way to experience virtual reality.
Zuckerberg was adamant that Meta remains dedicated to building a future where life is played out online in virtual worlds called metaverses.
“Meta has been the dominant VR manufacturer for the past several years with their low-cost Quest hardware,” Wurmser said.
But Meta’s track record in the metaverse has been mediocre despite leading the nascent segment, and many wondered if Apple would eventually jump on board.
And less than two years after changing its name to Metal to reflect the primacy of metaverses, the Facebook giant has laid off tens of thousands of workers and vowed to get back to the basics of social media.
Meta’s false start follows the failure of Google Glass. For decades, the search engine giant endured the effort, which was shut down for good in March.