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WWDC 2023: Apple Vision Pro, iOS 17, the absence of AI
Apple launched new VR / AR headsets at WWDC as well as a number of novelties for iPhone, Watch, iPad and AirPods – AI excellent in return for its absence.
Apple yesterday unveiled what some are calling the company’s most ambitious but also riskiest new hardware product in years: a mixed-reality headset called the Apple Vision Pro.
Many were looking forward to Apple’s WWDC 2023 more than they have in years, especially because of all the rumours surrounding the company’s first mixed reality headset lately. It was also launched and it under the name Vision Pro.
There were also a number of other interesting launches at WWDC 2023, Apple’s major developer conference.
Apple Vision Pro
The new Apple Vision Pro looks like a pair of ski goggles or swimming goggles and allows people to overlay virtual images on top of live videos of the real world.
Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, who has been talking about the potential of augmented reality for years, highlighted the headset as “the first product you look through, not at.”
When you put on the device, according to Apple, you can see apps directly projected in front of you. At the event, Apple showcased a number of unique experiences with the product, including medicine, productivity and entertainment apps.
Disney CEO Bob Iger also attended the Apple event to discuss how Disney will create content for the new Vision Pro headset.
Unlike other headsets, the new mixed reality headset will show the user’s eyes on the outside, so “you’re never isolated from the people around you, you can see them and they can see you,” said Alan Dye, Apple’s vice president of human interface.
However, the product faces a number of challenges. Apple is entering a market filled with other tech companies that have tried to mainstream VR and AR but without success.
The price of the Apple Vision Pro will certainly limit buying interest as well. Apple charges 3,499 dollars for the device, close to 25,000 dollars directly converted and without taking into account Danish VAT rules. That’s more than was rumoured, $3,000, and that’s a staggering amount at a time of ongoing economic uncertainty.
Artificial Intelligence Completely Absent
While much of the focus of the event was, as expected, on VR, there was far less focus on the tech industry’s current obsession: artificial intelligence.
OpenAI and their ChatGPT have become what everyone is talking about and both Microsoft and Google are going all in on it. WWDC would have been a natural opportunity for Apple to do the same. However, Apple was very cautious about addressing AI directly.
Instead, Apple talked about artificial intelligence in a more indirect way. For example, Apple announced an update to autocorrect that uses machine learning and a language model for better accuracy and even “sentence-level autocorrections”.
The predictive text helps predict and quickly add or change a word in the sentence you’re writing.
That’s convenient enough, of course, but Apple’s level of external ambition when it comes to artificial intelligence is very muted.
More Convenient IOS 17
Apple also unveiled a number of new updates coming to iOS 17 later this year.
iOS 17 now gets contact “posters” so iPhone users can design a custom image that appears when they call someone or receive their call. You will also be able to personalize contact card “posters” with a photo or a “memoji” of your choice as well as text.
A new feature called Live Voicemail transcribes a call message in real-time. A new check-in function makes it easier to keep friends and family informed of where you are and whether you will arrive at an agreed place in time.
A tool called NameDrop lets users share their contact information by holding two iPhones close together.
What’s New for Watch, iPad, and Air Pods
Apple also rolled out a number of software updates for iPad, Watch, and AirPods. iPad gets some of the existing lock screen features on iPhone, including the ability to personalize wallpapers, as well as new interactive widgets to get more information at a glance and perform quick actions.
Apple Watch gets a smart stack that uses machine learning to display relevant widgets, from medication logs and calendars to viewing sleep data.
As for AirPods, they get the new “adaptive audio” feature. The purpose of the update is to reduce distracting sounds when switching environments, and also to learn listener preferences so that AirPods can make audio changes on the go.
15-Inch Mac Book Air
Apple launched a 15-inch MacBook Air with Apple’s custom-made M2 processor. Apple said the new MacBook Air is the world’s thinnest laptop at just 11.5mm. It also weighs just over 1.5 kilos.
The new MacBook Air promises 18 hours of battery life, significantly faster performance than Intel-powered MacBook Airs, and a six-speaker audio system. The price starts from $1299.
In addition to the latest MacBook Air, Apple also introduced M2 Max and M2 Ultra chips as updates to Mac Studio. Developers can build new apps at tremendous speed, with up to 25x faster performance than M1 Max.