Apple unveils mixed reality headset, aiming to popularize new technology

Apple is on the verge of unveiling its highly anticipated headset, rumored to bridge the gap between virtual and real worlds. The announcement is expected to be made at Apple’s annual developers conference, where the company may also showcase its latest Mac computer, preview the next iPhone operating system, and discuss its artificial intelligence strategy.

The star of the event is likely to be a sleekly designed pair of goggles, possibly named “Reality Pro,” capable of toggling between virtual and augmented reality—a combination known as “mixed reality” or “XR.” Apple’s legacy of groundbreaking technology, from the Mac to the iPhone and Apple Watch, has set high expectations for this new device.

However, with an estimated price tag of around $3,000, the headset may face a lukewarm reception from all but affluent technology enthusiasts. It’s not uncommon for major tech companies and startups to struggle with selling headsets or glasses equipped with augmented or virtual reality technology.

The concept of the “metaverse,” popularized by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, refers to alternate three-dimensional realities. While Zuckerberg has invested heavily in virtual technology, the metaverse remains largely unpopulated. Apple is unlikely to embrace the term during the announcement, given the skepticism surrounding it.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has frequently praised augmented reality, describing it as the next significant leap in technology, but without providing a specific timeline for its mass adoption. Virtual, augmented, and mixed reality technologies have received a relatively tepid response so far, with some products, like Google Glass, even being mocked and discontinued.

Apple’s goggles will need to address key questions about functionality, design, comfort, and pricing to gain wider appeal. Analysts have tempered their sales expectations due to the anticipated high cost, predicting initial sales of just 150,000 units in the first year. However, Apple has a track record of gradually popularizing products, as was the case with the iPhone.

The average annual shipments of virtual and augmented reality devices have been modest, but industry forecasts were made before Apple’s potential entry into the market. CCS Insight expects sales to remain sluggish in the coming year before gradually increasing to 67 million units in 2026.

Despite the challenges, industry experts recognize Apple’s ability to innovate and capture the consumer market. The company’s history of finding killer applications and solutions leaves room for optimism that it could be a frontrunner in the consumer mixed reality space.

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