Apple announced its brand new mixed reality headset, the Vision Pro, during its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) on June 5th – following a dramatic fall in investment in the augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) market last year.

The iPhone maker’s mixed reality headset has already made waves in the technology space and has divided opinion with its hefty $3,499 price tag.

The Vision Pro is being launched with its very own operating system, named visionOS, and will host existing Apple apps such as Messages, Maps, Photos and FaceTime, all of which will appear in real space in front of the user.

Unlike other headsets on the market, Apple’s Vision Pro is completely controller-free. Users will use their eyes, hands and voice to control the system.

The headset is fitted with five sensors, 12 cameras, and a 4K display screen for each eye.

“It’s the first Apple product you look through, and not at,” Tim Cook, Apple CEO, said during the unveiling.

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By GlobalData

The release comes just a week after Meta announced the next installment of its Quest headset series, the Quest Pro 3.

This will also have a focus on mixed reality – with cameras on the exterior allowing for real-life images to be mixed with virtual spaces. 

Meta has been struggling to muster mainstream excitement for its VR and AR products. Last year, metaverse-mad CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, infamously envisioned “around a billion people in the metaverse” spending hundreds of dollars each.

Reality Labs, the division of Meta that deals with VR and the metaverse, recorded a $3.99bn operating loss in the first quarter of 2023.

The recorded loss came after total sales of VR headsets declined by two percent in 2022.

However, experts believe Apple’s new addition to the industry has the power to “transform” the market in a way that hasn’t been seen since the iPhone.

“VR and AR have been through a period of intense scrutiny and scepticism in recent times but if one company has the star power to revive the segment, it’s Apple,” Leo Gebbie, principal analyst at CCS Insight told Verdict.

Gebbie added that he believes the Apple Vision Pro will “transform the spatial computing market”.

Sol Rogers, global director of innovation at VR and AR production studio Magnopus, told Verdict: “Apple’s entry goes far beyond just another headset addition.”

“This launch has the power to catalyse a remarkable expansion of the XR (extended reality) industry itself,” Rogers said, “with the world’s most iconic tech company actively pursuing the medium, it sends a strong message about the value and potential of a unified reality.”

The announcement comes as investment in VR and AR has been dwindling.

Research analyst, GlobalData, recorded a dramatic fall in VR and AR venture capital investment in 2022, after a record peak in 2021.

VR and AR investment volumes, in 2022, totalled $5.8bn, made up of 283 deals. This is less than half the total invested the year prior, which totalled $18.9bn over 311 deals.

Investment in the VR and AR industry had been on a fairly steady trajectory for the last decade. In 2012, VR and AR saw investment of $223m over 11 deals. This had grown substantially in 2014, where investment totaled $2bn in investment over 124 deals.

GlobalData is the parent company of Verdict and its sister publications.