Apple's mixed reality Vision Pro, to cost $3,500; Kerala brings high-speed internet to the poor

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Apple yesterday revealed its long-anticipated mixed reality headset, called Vision Pro, which the company describes as a spatial computer that merges digital content with the physical world. The headset can even display your eyes on its front-facing screen to show others if the headset wearer is fully immersed in something or looking at them, for example. 

  

Apple announced the headset at its annual worldwide developer conference that started yesterday. It features an ultra-high-resolution display system that uses micro-OLED to deliver 23 million pixels spread across two displays, and a dual-chip design. 

 

With the headset, Apple also introduced visionOS, which again, Apple describes as a spatial operating system, enabling users to interact with digital content in a three-dimensional user interface controlled by natural inputs like eyes, hands, and voice. 

 

Vision Pro's design incorporates advanced materials and a compact wearable form factor, but also an external battery pack – about the size of an iPhone – that connects to the headset via a cable. It features a high-performance eye tracking system and a Spatial Audio system for immersive sound. Privacy and security are prioritized, with features like Optic ID for secure authentication and privacy-focused eye tracking. 

 

The headset starts at $3,499 and will be available early next year in the U.S., with more countries to follow. 

 

On the silicon front, Apple, unveiled the M2 Ultra, at the opening of its worldwide developer conference, WWDC. M2 Ultra is a powerful new system on a chip (SoC) for Mac devices. The chip offers significant performance improvements and completes the M2 family, Apple said in a press release. 

 

It is Apple's largest and most capable chip to date, featuring a second-generation 5-nanometer process and UltraFusion technology that connects two M2 Max chips for double the performance. The M2 Ultra chip boasts 134 billion transistors and a unified memory architecture with a capacity of up to 192GB and 800GB/s of memory bandwidth. 

 

The CPU is 20% faster, the GPU is up to 30% faster, and the Neural Engine is up to 40% faster than the previous M1 Ultra. The chip also includes a media engine with twice the capabilities for ProRes acceleration. The GPU can be configured with 60 or 76 cores, resulting in up to 30% improvement in graphics rendering. 

 

The M2 Ultra chip powers the new Mac Studio and Mac Pro desktop computers. The chip's exceptional performance and power efficiency have been optimized for professional workflows. The introduction of the M2 Ultra marks the completion of Apple's transition to its own silicon, according to the press release. 

 

Apple also announced a 15-inch MacBook Air, which features a large 15.3-inch Liquid Retina display, the M2 chip, up to 18 hours of battery life, and a six-speaker sound system. The laptop boasts a thin and light, fan-less design, making it the world's thinnest 15-inch laptop. The MacBook Air also includes features like MagSafe charging, two Thunderbolt ports, a 1080p FaceTime HD camera, and the macOS Ventura operating system. 

 

In the US, the 15-inch MacBook Air is available for order, with shipping starting on June 13, and pricing starts at $1,299. 

 

Apple also announced the release of iOS 17, the next full update to its operating software for iPhones. The update includes some nifty upgrades to the Phone, FaceTime, and Messages apps, as well as new features like Journal and StandBy. 

 

Phone app improvements include personalized Contact Posters and Live Voicemail with real-time transcription. FaceTime now supports audio and video messages, reactions, and extends to Apple TV. Messages introduces an all-new stickers experience and features like Check In and improved search. 

 

AirDrop has new sharing capabilities with NameDrop, while autocorrect and dictation offer more intelligent input. StandBy provides glanceable information when the iPhone is charging, and Journal is a new app for practicing gratitude. 

 

iOS 17 brings a range of updates to enhance the communication experience on iPhones. The Phone app introduces personalized Contact Posters and Live Voicemail with real-time transcription. FaceTime now supports audio and video messages, reactions, and extends to Apple TV. 

 

The iOS 17 developer beta is available now, with a public beta coming next month, and the official release expected in the fall, meaning September onwards. Apple also released updates to iPadOS, MacOS, and tvOS. 

 

One new feature in Safari that caught my interest is the ability to add your favourite sites as Webapps to the dock on your Apple laptop. 

 

Meanwhile, Kerala has become the first Indian state to provide high-speed internet access free of cost to the poor. Some 14,000 poor households and 30,000 government offices are soon to get these connections as part of its ambitious project, the Kerala Fibre Optic Network (KFON), Manorama reports. 

 

The initiative, launched in 2019, aims to provide internet connectivity to all of Kerala's 35 million citizens, with a particular focus on the 2 million individuals living in poverty. KFON, the first network of its kind in India, will be established across 35,000 km of optical fibre network spanning the state's 14 districts. 

 

To get a KFON connection, individuals need to install the KFON app and select the "new customer" option, providing the necessary details to request a connection. KFON's business support centre will then handle the subsequent steps. 

 

The app will be available on Google's Play Store and even Apple’s App Store. KFON aims to offer a minimum speed of 20 Mbps, with better options available based on individual needs. Already, approximately 1,000 households have successfully connected to KFON. Kerala boasts one of the highest rates of internet penetration in India, reaching 56 percent across the state's population.

 

Summary

Apple yesterday revealed its long-anticipated mixed reality headset, called Vision Pro, which the company describes as a spatial computer that merges digital content with the physical world. The pricey device will only be available next year in the US. Apple also announced a slew of other updates, including the M2 Ultra chip, new Mac computers and iOS 17. Meanwhile, Kerala has kicked off a project to bring free internet connections to the poor in the state, and at affordable rates to everyone else. A thousand households got connections upon inauguration yesterday, Manorama reports