Apple’s VR/AR headset has finally been revealed – the Vision Pro.
The Vision Pro was Apple’s ‘one more thing’ for its WWDC 2023 developer conference. To start, Apple compared the new product to the introduction of touchscreens with the iPhone, and the touch wheel on the iPod.
As rumours over the past three years had indicated, the device is multi-modal: It can be used as an AR device, VR device, and as an XR device, with support for many of Apple’s main-stay apps. When you’re wearing the device, here’s what it looks like.
“With Vision Pro, you’re no longer limited by a display,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said.
Cook calls the Vision Pro a “spatial computer”, with its ability to bring a computing experience into a wearable, visual system.
Apple Vision Pro VR/AR headset
To start with, it’s reasonable to expect the Vision Pro to be complimentary to the rest of Apple’s product range. Most of the features Apple showed off during WWDC 2023 were from Apple’s own apps, such as Apple TV+, FaceTime, FreeForm, and more.
The Vision Pro is powered by an all-new ‘R1’ chip and the M2 chip, along with an all-new operating system – VisionOS. M2 handles the processing of applications, while the R1 chip handles the rendering of applications in front of your eyes.
Put simply, this ‘spatial computer’ is most similar to a VR headset, such as the Meta Quest 2. You slip this device onto your head, and you can use augmented reality apps on the integrated OLED screen. That means you can start apps while being able to look right through the screen of the device at your surroundings.
If you want to interact with apps on the Vision Pro, you can use your hands to open, close, move, and interact with widgets. If you want to type something, you can pair an Apple keyboard to the headset, or you can use your voice.
If you would like to be more immersed in an experience and see less of your surroundings, you can use the digital crown on the side of the device to do this, scrolling it clockwise or anti-clockwise to surround yourself more or less in a virtual world.
The headset includes support for focused optical lenses and has spatial audio. With the ability to have multiple apps open at any given time, surrounding your vision and useable as you move your head to focus on them, the spatial audio from your headset will reflect the positioning of the apps in your vision.
Additionally, Apple’s VP of industrial design Richard Howarth said that the headset supports “all-day use” when plugged into power, and up to two hours of battery life when using the below external battery, which has been created to slip neatly into a pocket.
If you want to pay for things on Reality Pro, a new feature called ‘OpticID’ uses your retina as a password, similar to FaceID on iOS.
Apple reckons people will want to use the Vision Pro for productivity and entertainment purposes, but there’s a bunch of stuff that users should be across. Firstly…
How does FaceTime work on Vision Pro?
While the Vision Pro seems capable of performing FaceTime calls with your friends, FaceTime won’t simply work with a camera on the Vision Pro to show your face – so Apple got creative with it.
Instead of showing off a warped vision of your face, or using an external camera, Vision Pro uses machine learning to map and recreate your face as a digital version, so that an animated version of yourself can appear in FaceTime calls. We obviously haven’t seen this live just yet, but here’s what that apparently looks like to your friends on FaceTime.
A ‘new dimension’ for photos and videos
The Vision Pro offers a 3D camera, allowing the user to capture and “relive” captured content in 3D (or, projected onto a 2D screen similar to other apps). Spatial audio and the multiple cameras on the device come into play here, with the device capable of recording several elements of a scene from several angles and creating a 3D experience.
How can the Vision Pro be used for productivity?
Apple’s new VR/AR headset offers a neat little feature often referred to as ‘passthrough’, letting the user see their surroundings while also working in productivity apps like FreeForm (allowing for a collaborative workspace between Apple product users). Because the headset has AR capabilities, it can render 3D models in your vision, such as the model on the desk below. This is also how the virtual windows are created in the image below (on the left is Safari, and on the right is Messages).
Apple’s VR/AR headset can also supposedly work as an extended virtual monitor for an Apple computer, allowing you to use any apps you have on your Mac on your headset. Here’s what that looks like.
Additionally, Microsoft Word, Excel, and Teams are all compatible with the Vision Pro. As VisionOS is compatible with iOS applications, thousands of iOS-built apps will be accessible on the Vision Pro on day one. Oh, and the Vision Pro will have its own App Store.
And what about entertainment?
With the ability to use Disney+ and AppleTV through Vision Pro, you can use your hands to adjust the size of the show you’re watching (as in, the size of the screen it’s being shown on). Your hands can be used to select content and scroll through streaming libraries, and with the digital crown, you can render virtual environments around you, such as trees in a forest, to be immersed in your content.
Gaming is also supported on the Vision Pro with game controller support, with over 100 Apple Arcade titles promised on launch day for the headset. Apple also announced that it had been working with Unity on game and app optimisation for the headset.
Speaking of entertainment, Disney showed up at WWDC 2023…
Disney showed up at the reveal
Disney is excited for Apple’s foray into VR/AR, with CEO Bob Iger joining the WWDC live stream to share a hype reel and a half on the company’s plans for “bringing Disney to fans in ways that were previously impossible”. The hype reel (which’ll hopefully be live soon to embed below), ran through an interactive Disney+ screen within the headset, allowing you to watch sport in a more 3D manner, explore documentaries closer than ever, and pull out characters such as Mickey from the plain and so 2022 flat screen experience.
What If…? was showcased – and with Iger saying Disney+ will be available on the headset from day one, it’ll be interesting to see what interactive features have been optimised for the new live-action Marvel show.
How much will Apple Vision Pro cost?
The Apple Vision Pro will cost $US3,499, which converts to $5,288 in Australia. This of course doesn’t include the ‘Australia tax’, which boosts the price often well beyond the conversion. We wouldn’t be surprised if this thing ends up around the $7,000 mark (Apple is only providing U.S. pricing at this stage). It will be released in 2024.
This article has been updated since it was originally published.
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