Apple’s AR headset is a game-changer for startups

TechCrunch tried out the Apple Vision Pro headset, concluding that it is very good — but perhaps also too good to be true. Apple has a long history of launching first-generation products that are pretty decent, before quickly following up with updates and amendments that make the original kit better.

From hardware engineers, you occasionally hear an under-breath muttered comment along the lines of “the third generation of X was the one we wanted to ship in the first place.” That isn’t uncommon in hardware; it’s pretty rare that a full product vision survives the constraints of supply chains and manufacturing. There’s a chasm of difference between building a single prototype of something, and building a few million of something.

Yes, the Apple Vision Pro is weighed down by its $3,500 price tag, and judging from the videos and cut-away photos alone, I’d be surprised if the company will make any money at all on the devices.

How did Apple wind up there? It appears that its engineers were given carte blanche to make the best device they could, solving some crucial problems along the way. To make this a standalone device (it can be used without being tethered to a phone or computer, although it does, awkwardly, have an external battery pack), the company packed an M2 processor into the headset, along with a brand-new R1 processor, which takes care of all the inbound data from the 12 (!) cameras, lidar, eye sensors, six microphones and more. The company says the device has 23 sensors in total.

Still, the preposterously over-engineered headset is a vital flag in the ground for startups.

It’s been more than a decade since the original Oculus Rift hit Kickstarter, with its 640×800 pixels per eye resolution, a product that was persistently plagued by complaints that it made people feel motion sickness. Since then, we’ve seen dozens of additional headsets launched. The $300 Meta Quest 2 is proving to be an important entry-level headset for the masses, while the $1,000 Meta Quest Pro and the $1,500 HTC VIVE Pro 2 are shoring up the high-end headset market. Apple’s device is launching at more than twice the price.

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