[1/7] Apple CEO Tim Cook makes an appearance at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, U.S. June 5, 2023. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
CUPERTINO, California, June 5 – Apple Inc (AAPL.O) unveiled an augmented-reality headset called the Apple Vision Pro at its annual software developer conference on Monday, its first big move into a new product category since the introduction of the Apple Watch nine years ago.
CEO Tim Cook described it as “spatial computing” with the device controlled by your eyes, hands and voice.
“It’s the first Apple product you look through, not at,” Cook said.
Apple said that Vision Pro has a three-dimensional camera and microphone system to capture videos and pictures that can be viewed in 3D later. The company showed the feature being used by a parent at a child’s birthday celebration.
Walt Disney’s (DIS.N) Disney+ streaming service will be available on day one on the device. Disney has partnered with Apple for years. Disney CEO Bob Iger took the stage in 2005 to announce that some of its most popular television shows would be available for download through the iTunes Music Store.
Apple’s human interface chief Alan Dye said that users will select content inside the goggles with their eyes, tap their fingers together to click and gently flick to scroll.
The device also has an exterior display that shows the user’s eyes to people on the outside world. The exterior screen goes dark when a user is fully immersed in a virtual world. When a person approaches a user who is in full virtual mode, the headset will show both the user and the outside person to each other. “You’re never isolated from people around you,” Dye said. “You can see them, and they can see you.”
For work uses, Apple showed how the headset can be used with a trackpad and keyboard to work like a traditional computer with multiple displays.
Apple did not make any major announcements about generative AI products similar to ChatGPT or Google’s Bard search engine, but it quietly imbued several smaller features with AI, like live transcriptions of voice mails.
The headset launch will see Apple test a market crowded with devices that have yet to gain traction with consumers and put it in direct competition with Facebook-owner Meta Platforms (META.O).
Shares of the iPhone maker rose 2% to hit a record high of $184.95 ahead of the launch but shares were flat after the announcement. Intel fell 3.9% after Apple dropped Intel chips from its most powerful desktop.
Investors and tech fans alike are focused on how much Apple’s view of the virtual reality market overlaps with Meta’s. Meta Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has outlined his vision for using headsets to dip in and out of a “metaverse” where people can meet virtually to work, play and spend.
In addition to Meta, Sony Group Corp (6758.T) and ByteDance-owned Pico both recently released virtual reality devices.
Research firm IDC said companies sold a total of 8.8 million headsets last year, down 20.9% from 2021. In the first quarter of 2023, sales more than halved.
APPLE UPDATES MACS
Apple also announced a 15-inch MacBook Air powered by an Apple-designed M2 processor chip. The laptop with six speakers will start at $1,299 and be available next week. The 13-inch MacBook Air will drop to $1,099.
Apple updated its Mac Studio desktop machine, saying its new M2 Ultra chip can process artificial intelligence work that rival chips do not have enough memory to handle.
Apple also introduced a new version of the Mac Pro, its highest-performing desktop, with an M2 Ultra chip and a price tag starting at $6,999. The M2 Ultra chip is essentially two of Apple’s largest M2 chips bonded together, a similar approach Apple took to boosting the performance of its M1 chips.
Until Monday, the Mac Pro was the last computer in Apple’s lineup that still used an Intel (INTC.O) chip.
“For PC users, there’s never been a better time to switch to a Mac,” said John Ternus, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware engineering.
The updates combine improvements to high-end machines aimed at the developer crowd at Monday’s event with tweaks to messaging and a new Mac Air aimed at a much broader group of customers, including potential switchers to Apple.
Apple introduced small improvements to its iOS software, some aimed at small annoyances like a “NameDrop” feature to more easily share contact information and others focused on safety and security, like a check-in feature to tell contacts when a user has arrived safely at a destination.
Apple said that it was improving the autocorrect feature on iPhone keyboards.
“In those moments where you just want to type a ducking word, well, the keyboard will learn it, too,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s software chief. Apple is famous for autocorrecting a common expletive to “ducking”.
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