Apple unveiled its new Vision Pro mixed reality headset on Monday, at its 2023 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). The device, which Apple calls its “first spatial computer,” is set to launch in early 2024 and will retail for $3,500.

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Apple Vision Pro

The New York Times calls it “a bet on injecting iPhone-esque magic into virtual reality.” And while that may be true on the surface, there are some key features of the device that deepen its potential impact, taking it past a shiny new toy and heralding an emerging future of digital engagement.

For one, the device makes digital engagement more organic, intuitive and natural. The Vision Pro is controlled using hand gestures, eye movements and voice commands. It also has a dial that lets the wearer control how immersed they are in the virtual world and features an external display that lets others see the wearer’s eyes.

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Apple Vision Pro

Secondly, it “seamlessly blends digital content with the physical world,” Apple says—making it a significant mass-market effort at untethering digital interfaces from screens. “Vision Pro creates an infinite canvas for apps that scales beyond the boundaries of a traditional display and introduces a fully three-dimensional user interface,” Apple says, all “while allowing users to stay present and connected to others.”

The Intelligence take

Mixed realities like VR and AR are changing the nature of digital engagement. “[VR] changes us from being a passive audience into an active citizen,” speculative architect and director Liam Young tells VML Intelligence. “To be a citizen of an immersive world is a different kind of relationship than being an audience member in front of a screen.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook predicts that augmented reality (AR) will become an integral part of daily life. “Zoom out to the future and look back, you’ll wonder how you led your life without augmented reality. Just like today, we wonder: ‘How did people like me grow up without the internet?’,” Cook told Dutch publication Bright. “AR is a profound technology that will affect everything.”

“We believe Apple Vision Pro is a revolutionary product,” Cook told developers and journalists on Monday. While it may seem like a tall order given VR’s track record, Apple’s take introduces elements that are advancing engagement for the next digital era, which will see a diversification of immersive technologies and further blur the digital and the physical—ushering in a new reality.

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