Meta Platforms ‘ vision to sell a future where people work, play and mingle in a virtual world may finally be getting its long-overdue validation thanks to an unlikely partner. Apple on Monday unveiled its highly anticipated mixed reality product, known as Vision Pro , at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference . The product, expected to hit the market in 2024 at a steep $3,499 price tag, allows users to interact with content and popular iPhone apps without the controller. The launch from Apple comes at a time when interest in the metaverse appears to have dwindled, and investors are putting their hopes on the promise of artificial intelligence. It’s been more than a year and a half since Meta Platforms made its bet. So confident in the bright future of the metaverse, Facebook rebranded itself as Meta Platforms in 2021 to better reflect its vision beyond social media. At the time, CEO Mark Zuckerberg called the metaverse the “next frontier,” and likened it to social networking when the company first launched. With Meta’s big bet, brands like Walmart , Roblox and popular casual dining chain Chipotle Mexican Grill , quickly hopped on the trend . Even luxury brands like Gucci entered the virtual world. That hype soon died down as the economy slowed and technology stocks hit a wall, leaving many investors questioning Meta’s gamble and whether the masses would adopt this vision. More than a year and a half later Apple’s metaverse entry may finally offer the much-needed support to Meta’s overambitious vision, and lure once skeptical investors back to the virtual world. “It’s a huge validation point,” said Deepwater Asset Management’s Gene Munster. “The big picture metaverse takes a step forward.” So far this year, Meta’s made a comeback from its 2022 selloff, with shares up more than 120%. But those gains mostly stem from the company’s focus on cost cutting and AI, rather than the metaverse’s potential. Apple’s bet on a ‘grand slam’ For years, Wall Street’s viewed Apple as a technology bellwether. It’s one of the largest companies worldwide, and bigger than many overseas markets . It makes up nearly 7.5% of the S & P 500’s weighting, with its market capitalization closing Friday at about $2.85 trillion. Earlier this week, shares hit an all-time high before retreating. “You’re so large, you can’t have new products that do just okay,” said Paul Meeks, portfolio manager at Independent Solutions Wealth Management. “Everything you do has got to be a grand slam home run to keep the stock valuation up.” Wall Street and investors alike expect a relatively muted market launch. JPMorgan’s Samik Chatterjee, said in a recent note that he isn’t bracing for significant volumes, although he views the headset as a “potential catalyst” for the industry long term. “Apple has proven in the past that consumer engagement can deliver willingness to pay premium pricing and Apple’s focus is clearly to hit an home run on consumer engagement as opposed to volumes with the first device in what admittedly will be a multi-year journey for the platform,” he wrote. Advisors Capital Management’s JoAnne Feeney viewed the first iteration as geared toward a smaller market of wealthier, ardent fans and developers. She expects newer, more affordable models at different price points further down the road, similar to the iPhone’s trajectory. Rolling out the product, even at the steep price, incentivizes the developer community to build out apps for consumers, and allows Apple to defer costs incurred with app creation, the portfolio manager said. This should also generate similar excitement around Meta’s headset platform, according to Deepwater’s Munster. Facing a tough macro backdrop Apple’s entry into virtual reality couldn’t come at a more inconvenient time, as lingering recession fears and still-high inflation pinch consumer pockets and stamp out big-ticket purchases. With the company — and metaverse vision — so dependent on consumer adoption, this creates a difficult near-term setup, Meeks said. But this backdrop could prove a major boon for Meta’s Quest Pro, at less than a third of the price, D.A. Davidson’s Tom Forte highlighted in a cent downgrade of Apple . While some fear the steep price tag threatens to scare off most buyers, many investors draw similarities to previous product launches. When the iPhone debuted in 2007, investors scoffed at the high sticker price, with a similar phenomenon occurring during Vision Pro’s reveal. More than 15 years after the iPhone’s release, Apple’s captured a major chunk of the worldwide smartphone market, while managing to convince consumers to wait hours in winding lines for the latest models. The iPhone 14 starts at a whopping $799. Apple may not always offer the most consumer-friendly price point, but it always enters a market with top-tier design, oftentimes doing so later than competitors as it builds out features, Feeney said. Bernstein’s Toni Sacconaghi highlighted the company’s strong track record of creating new markets through its products, in a recent note. Its entry into the smartphone, wireless and music player industry, to name a few, increased the market tenfold within five years, he said. “On net, we believe AR adoption will be a long-term journey and not financially material to Apple in the near term,” he said.