Apple expected to unveil stylish and expensive headphones

File – Apple CEO Tim Cook discusses the Apple Watch at the Apple event at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco on Wednesday, September 9, 2015. If Apple unveils a widely anticipated headset featuring mixed reality technology on Monday, it will be the the company’s biggest new product since the introduction of the Apple Watch nearly a decade ago. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, Files)

Apple appears poised to unveil a long-rumored headset that will place its users between the virtual and real worlds, while also testing the ability of tech trendsetters to popularize new devices after others have failed to capture the public’s 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 the Cupertino, California, theater named after the late company co-founder Steve Jobs. Apple is also likely to use the event to showcase its latest Mac computer, preview the upcoming iPhone operating system, and discuss its AI strategy.

But the star of the show is expected to be a pair of glasses perhaps called the Reality Pro, according to leaks that could become another milestone in Apple’s tradition of releasing groundbreaking technology, even if the company hasn’t always been the first to try his hand at the making of a particular device.

Apple’s lineage of discoveries dates back to Jobs with the arc selling the first Mac in 1984, a tradition that has 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 headset could also be met with a lukewarm reception from all but the wealthy technophiles.

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

Apple glasses are supposed to be elegantly designed and able to switch between fully virtual or augmented options, a blend sometimes known as mixed reality. Even that flexibility is sometimes called external reality, or XR for short.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg described these alternate three-dimensional realities as the metaverse. It’s an ingenious concept that he’s been trying to push into the mainstream by changing the name of his social networking company to Meta Platforms in 2021 and then investing billions of dollars to improve the virtual technology.

But the metaverse largely remains a digital ghost town, even as Meta’s virtual reality headset, the Quest, remains the best-selling device in a category that has so far primarily appealed to gamers looking for even more immersive experiences.

It seems likely that Apple executives will avoid referencing the metaverse, given the skepticism that has quickly built around that term, when discussing the potential of the company’s new headset.

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

If you look back in time, you know, zoom out to the future and look back, you’ll wonder how you conducted your life without augmented reality, Cook, who is 62, said last September as he spoke to a student audience 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 won’t be deep overnight.

The response to virtual, augmented and mixed reality has so far been decidedly monotonous. Some of the gadgets that implement the technology have even been derisively mocked, with the most notable example being Google’s Internet-connected glasses released more than a decade ago.

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

Microsoft has also had limited success with HoloLens, a mixed reality headset it released in 2016, though the software maker earlier this year insisted it stays true to the technology.

Magic Leap, a startup that has sparked excitement with previews of mixed reality technology that conjures up the sight of a whale smashing through a gym floor, had so much trouble getting its first headset to consumers in 2018 which has since shifted its focus to industrial, sanitary and emergency uses.

Daniel Diez, head of transformation at Magic Leaps, said there are four main questions Apple glasses will need to answer: What can people do with it? What does this thing look like? Is it comfortable to wear? And how much will it cost?

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

In a move seemingly aimed at raising the projected price of Apple eyewear, Zuckerberg said last week that the upcoming Quest headset will retail 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 devices have averaged 8.6 million units, according to research firm CCS Insight. The company expects sales to remain sluggish this year, with sales projected to be around 11 million devices before gradually climbing to 67 million in 2026.

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

I would never rule out Apple, especially with the consumer market and especially when it comes to finding those killer apps and solutions, Magic Leaps Diez said. If anyone is going to enter the consumer market anytime soon, I wouldn’t be surprised that it would be Apple.

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