Apple is expected to announce its long-awaited mixed-reality headset at its World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) on Monday, in the iPhone maker’s first major launch into a new product category since the Apple Watch nine years ago.
The move is a risky bet in a market that has yet to prove it has a broad appeal with users, and which is crowded with major competitors including Facebook parent Meta Platforms and Sony.
Industry watchers say they expect a high-quality display and build materials along with hand-tracking meaning virtual objects can be manipulated without an external controller.
Other expected features include an external display showing the user’s facial expressions, a magnetic charger and apps including immersive FaceTime video conferencing, Apple TV+ content and games.
The headset is rumoured to include a snap-in prescription lens system, as it is too small to allow wearing standard glasses.
The company has reportedly set up an area near its employee basketball courts where it plans to allow controlled demonstrations during WWDC and on through the summer.
The headset is rumoured to cost about $3,000 (£2,410), far higher than the $500 Quest 3, and even then is expected to be a low-margin product for Apple.
Meta has made the “metaverse” a central part of its future strategy, to the point of changing its name to reflect the concept, while Sony and ByteDance-owned Pico have also recently released virtual reality devices.
Research firm IDC said a total of only 8.8 million headsets were sold last year, down 20.9 percent from 2021, while in the first quarter of 2023 sales were more than 50 percent down.
The presentation at Monday’s event, which begins at 10 a.m. PT (1700 GMT), is intended to stir the interest of Apple’s thousands of developers, while the device itself will not launch for several more months – toward the end of this year or early next year, according to analysts.
Apple is also expected to deliver updates to its operating systems for iPhones, iPads and Mac computers, as well as its in-vehicle CarPlay system.
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