Apple appears to be on the verge of unveiling a headset that has long been rumored to put its users between the virtual and the real world, while also testing the tech trendsetter’s ability to popularize hot gadgets after others they failed to capture the public imagination.

After years of speculation, the stage is set for the widely anticipated announcement to be made Monday at Apple’s annual developer conference in a theater in Cupertino, California, named after the company’s late co-founder Steve Jobs. Apple is also likely to use the event to show off its latest Mac computer, preview the upcoming operating system for the iPhone, and discuss its artificial intelligence strategy.

But the star of the show is expected to be a pair of glasses, perhaps dubbed “Reality Pro” according to media leaks, which could become another milestone in Apple’s tradition of releasing revolutionary technology, even if the company doesn’t always do so. has done. been the first to try to make a particular device.

Apple’s lineage of advancements dates back to a bow-tie-wearing Jobs selling the first Mac in 1984, a tradition that continued with the iPod in 2001, the iPhone in 2007, the iPad in 2010, the Apple Watch in 2014, and its AirPods. in 2016.

But with a hefty price tag that could be in the $3,000 range, Apple’s new headphones may also be met with a lukewarm reception by all but wealthy technophiles.

If the new device turns out to be a niche product, it would leave Apple in the same bind as other big tech companies and startups that have tried to sell headphones or glasses equipped with technology that pushes people into artificial worlds or projects digital images onto landscapes. . and things that are actually in front of them, a format known as “augmented reality.”

Apple’s glasses are expected to have a sleek design and be able to toggle between fully virtual and augmented options, a combination sometimes referred to as “mixed reality.” That flexibility is also sometimes called external reality, or XR for short.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been describing these alternate three-dimensional realities as the “metaverse.” It’s a geeky concept that he tried to popularize by renaming his social media company Meta Platforms in 2021 and then pouring billions of dollars into improving virtual technology.

But the metaverse is still very much a digital ghost townalthough Meta’s virtual reality headset, the Quest, remains the best-selling device in a category that has so far primarily attracted gamers looking for even more immersive experiences.

Apple executives are likely to avoid referring to the metaverse, given the skepticism that has quickly developed around that term, when discussing the potential of the company’s new headphones.

In recent years, Apple CEO Tim Cook has regularly touted augmented reality as the next quantum leap in technology, without setting a specific timetable for when it will gain mass appeal.

“If you look back at a point in time, you know, you go far into the future and you look back, and you’ll wonder how you ever got on without augmented reality,” Cook, 62, said last September. while speaking to an audience of students in Italy. “Just like today, you wonder how people like me grew up without the Internet. You know, so I think it could be that deep. And it’s not going to be deep overnight.”

The response to virtual, augmented, and mixed reality has been decidedly boring so far. Some of the devices that implement the technology have even been ridiculed, the most notable example being Google’s Internet-connected glasses launched more than a decade ago.

After Google co-founder Sergey Brin initially sparked buzz for the device by demonstrating the potential “wow factor” of an early model with a skydiving stunt staged during a tech conference in San Francisco, consumers quickly became disinterested in a product that allowed its users to surreptitiously take photos and videos. The backlash became so intense that people using the equipment became known as “Glassholes”, leading Google to withdraw the product a few years after it debuted.

Microsoft has also had limited success with HoloLens, a mixed-reality headset released in 2016, though the software maker earlier this year he insisted that he remains committed to technology.

Magic Leap, a startup that generated excitement with advances in a mixed-reality technology that could conjure the spectacle of a whale going through the floor of a gymit had such trouble getting its first headphones to market to consumers in 2018 that it has since shifted its focus to industrial, healthcare and emergency uses.

Daniel Diez, director of transformation at Magic Leap, said there are four main questions that Apple’s glasses will have to answer: “What can people do with them? What does this thing look and feel like? Is it comfortable to wear? And how much is it going to cost?

The anticipation that Apple’s glasses will sell for several thousand dollars has already lowered expectations for the product. While he expects Apple’s glasses to feature amazing technology, Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives said he expects the company to sell just 150,000 units during the device’s first year on the market, a mere speck in the Apple’s portfolio. company. By comparison, Apple sells more than 200 million iPhones, its flagship product each year. But the iPhone wasn’t an immediate sensation, selling fewer than 12 million units in its first full year on the market.

In a move apparently aimed at raising the expected price of Apple’s glasses, Zuckerberg said last week that the next Quest headset will sell for $500, an announcement made four months before Meta Platform plans to showcase the latest device at its conference. technological. .

Since 2016, average annual shipments of virtual and augmented reality headsets have averaged 8.6 million units, according to research firm CCS Insight. the firm awaits sales will remain low this year, with projected sales of around 11 million devices before gradually rising to 67 million by 2026.

But those forecasts were obviously made before it was known whether Apple could launch a landscape-altering product.

“I would never discount Apple, especially with the consumer market and especially when it comes to finding those amazing apps and solutions,” said Magic Leap’s Diez. “If someone is going to conquer the consumer market early, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s Apple.”

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