WWDC: Apple unveils the mixed reality Vision Pro headset

6 Jun 2023

Image: Apple

New Macs and the iOS 17 were also shown alongside the new headset, which has powerful features and a hefty price tag.

After months of leaked reports about its development, Apple’s upcoming mixed reality headset was revealed at the tech giant’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).

Apple said the Vision Pro is a “spatial computer”, which gives users a three-dimensional interface that is controlled by their eyes, hands and voice. The company said this device will let users interact with digital content that feels like it is “physically present”.

The device will have a resolution display that has 23m pixels across two displays, along with its own “spatial operating system” called visionOS. Apple said the high resolution will let users turn spaces into personal movie theatres or enhance their gaming experience with 100 Apple Arcade games.

Apple said Vision Pro users will be able to adjust their environment with digital landscapes, or take three-dimensional photos and videos to capture memories in greater detail. Apple CEO Tim Cook claims the device is “years ahead” and marks a “new era of computing”.

“Just as the Mac introduced us to personal computing, and iPhone introduced us to mobile computing, Apple Vision Pro introduces us to spatial computing,” Cook said.

The Vision Pro is due to be released later this year and will face a competitive market, with Meta recently revealing its Quest 3 headset. While Apple boasts of the Vision Pro’s capabilities, its price is also significantly higher than many competitors, coming in at $3,499 in the US.

iOS 17

Meanwhile, WWDC showcased a range of new upgrades coming to Apple products, including the latest operating system for the iPhone. Apple also unveiled new operating systems for its iPad and smartwatch offerings.

The iOS 17 is set to upgrade the core apps of the iPhone, with new features for Phone, Messages and FaceTime.

The Phone app will soon include “Contact Posters”, which will let viewers change how they appear when calling other people. This sounds like it will be similar to users creating their own avatars on social media sites like Snapchat.

A live voicemail feature will let users see a real-time transcription as someone leaves a voicemail, along with the opportunity to pick up while the caller is leaving a message.

FaceTime is getting boosted with new audio and video messages, which a user can leave if their contact is not available. This feature is also getting new reactions that can be activated through simple gestures while on a call.

Messages is getting similar upgrades with live stickers, letting users take subjects from photos and add their own effects, which can then be used as reactions for conversations. This app is also getting a feature that can notify users when a family member or friend makes it to their destination safely.

“Phone, FaceTime, and Messages are central to how we communicate, and this release is packed with updates we think our users are going to love,” said Craig Federighi, Apple senior VP of software engineering.

Mac Studio and Mac Pro

Two Mac computers next to each other in a white background. They are the Mac Studio and the Mac Pro.

The Mac Studio and Mac Pro. Image: Apple

Apple also revealed powerful additions to the Mac family, with new versions of the Mac Studio and Mac Pro.

The Mac Studio is designed with 3D artists and motion designers in mind, featuring performance upgrades to handle software like After Effects and Octane.

The device can also be equipped with the M2 Ultra, Apple’s latest chip which is twice as powerful as the previous M2 Max, according to the company. Apple first revealed the original M2 chip at last year’s WWDC event.

The Mac Pro, meanwhile, can be configured to house a massive 192GB of memory to handle tasks for demanding workflows. The company said these machines have 24-core CPUs and up to 76-core GPUs.

Apple senior VP of hardware engineering John Ternus said the devices are “the two most powerful Macs we’ve ever made”.

“Mac Studio has been a breakthrough for pros everywhere, and it’s at the heart of hundreds of thousands of home and pro studios across the world,” Ternus said. “And for those users who need the versatility of internal expansion, Mac Pro combines PCIe slots with our most powerful chip.”

The Mac Studio starts at a $1,999 price while the Mac Pro starts at a pricey $6,999. They are available to order and will start coming to Apple stores from 13 June.

Macbook Air

A MacBook Air laptop that is sideways with its screen visible, in a white background.

The 15-inch MacBook Air. Image: Apple

Apple also unveiled a new laptop that features a 15.3 inch display screen, up to 18 hours of battery life and a six-speaker sound system.

The company’s new Macbook Air is designed for mobility, being 11.5mm thin and weighing 3.3 pounds. Apple claims this is the thinnest 15-inch laptop in the world.

The laptop screen’s “Liquid Retina” display has up to 500 nits of brightness and can support 1bn colours, which Apple said gives content a rich and vibrant look.

The Macbook Air is powered by Apple’s M2 chip for fast performance. The laptop also features an 8-core CPU – which contains four performance cores and four efficiency cores – and a 10-core GPU.

The 13-inch version of this laptop with the M2 chip will have a starting price of $1,099, while the 15-inch version will cost $1,299. They are available to order and will start coming to Apple stores from 13 June.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic