Enter Apple. At its Worldwide Developers Conference starting on Monday, the tech giant is expected to debut its virtual reality hardware product: high-tech goggles that blend together the digital and physical worlds.
The company is betting that it can tempt consumers with mixed reality products better than Meta, whose high-end Quest Pro headsets have not sold well, and that it can ignite mainstream interest in virtual reality in a way that other companies have not. The Apple headset is expected to cost about $3,000 and will look like ski goggles, according to current and former employees familiar with its development.
Apple has done this before. Eventual hits like the iPod, iPhone and Apple Watch started in niche markets that grew into big businesses. But even Apple executives have been skeptical about the company’s prospects in virtual reality, which, they say, may still not be ready for its mainstream moment.
Apple declined to comment.
The idea of an immersive, all-encompassing online universe made more sense to many investors when people weren’t leaving their homes during the height of the pandemic. Metaverse-related start-ups raised about $664 million in venture capital in the first five months of 2023, a drastic drop from the more than $2.93 billion they raised in the same period in 2022, according to data compiled by PitchBook. That drop-off cuts recent metaverse start-up investment to about a quarter of its peak in the first half of 2022, PitchBook said.
“The metaverse investment fad — it came and went, and now people are focused on A.I.,” said Doug Creutz, an analyst at Cowen & Company. “The people who were hopping on it because it was a sexy thing to talk about have hopped back off.”