Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) headset Apple Vision Pro became a classic one more thing during the presentation at WWDC 2023. While on stage, the company’s CEO Tim Cook said that the new device, which Apple calls a “revolutionary spatial computer”, has become the quintessence of a decade of development. In particular, it was announced that while working on the headset, Apple engineers created 5,000 new patents.
The main focus of Apple Vision Pro is not so much to immerse the user in virtual reality, but to expand their possibilities by combining the real world with the digital one. During the demonstration of the capabilities of the headset, Apple paid special attention to this. Application icons in the device’s visionOS operating system appear directly on top of what a person sees in reality. When displayed, program windows cast shadows on objects in the room.
That is, unlike Meta’s idea of a comprehensive metauniverse in which you can get lost, Apple still prefers not to completely separate people from reality. Although, in general, they allow you to immerse yourself more deeply in the digital world, very finely regulating this process thanks to the Digital Crown wheel. However, let’s take our time and take a closer look at the capabilities of Apple Vision Pro. Especially since the general idea of the headset has already been formed, and its detailed characteristics, it seems, will appear only later, closer to the start of sales at the beginning of next year.
Apple Vision Pro modular design
From the first glance at the headset, it is easy to recognize the hand of Apple designers, who seem to have been inspired by the Apple Watch. At least the Apple Vision Pro has something in common with them. The front part of the device is occupied by a solid glass panel that smoothly flows into the aluminum frame of the case, to which the soft Light Seal fabric face cap is magnetically attached, as well as the Head Band – a fabric strap with special weaving for breathability and better flexibility.
The modular design of Apple Vision Pro allows you to choose the right size face nozzle. The company did not specify exactly how this process will take place, but it seems that if the headset is planned for use by the whole family, then everyone will have their own nozzle. This is, in principle, more hygienic, but the question arises as to the cost of such nozzles.
The Head Band can also be detached from the Apple Vision Pro body and is adjusted with a separate lock similar to the Digital Crown’s enlarged scroll wheel. Apple will sell additional sizes of the strap and offer customers different colors. Everything is like in Apple Watch.
The company does not disclose the weight of Apple Vision Pro, but it assures that the headset is comfortable to wear all day.
It is interesting that during use in the mode of augmented reality, an image of the user’s eyes is displayed on the front glass so that the people around them can better interact with them. The company calls this feature EyeSight. At the same time, if you immerse yourself in virtual reality, the front glass starts to glow, showing that the user cannot see the people next to him.
Displays and platform
Traditionally for Apple, when announcing a new device, let alone a new category, there are very few technical details. The company focuses on use cases, which of course is a great marketing ploy, but it doesn’t make my job any easier.
So far, it is known for certain that the two micro-OLED screens built into the Apple Vision Pro will form an image with 23 million dots, which is higher than the 4K resolution per eye. Apple promises a very high-quality and realistic picture with a clear display of text at any viewing angle.
Each Apple Vision Pro screen covers three ultra-clear lenses, but the diopters in the headset are not adjustable. Apple offers people with poor eyesight to separately purchase special ZEISS optical inserts for their visual acuity. They will be connected to the body of the headset with magnets.
Given the various usage scenarios for the Apple Vision Pro, the device needed a fast platform, but with passive cooling. Apple’s own M2 processor supplemented with the new R1 chip was just right for this. The latter is required to process data from the headset’s 12 built-in cameras, 5 sensors and 6 microphones.
Data security in Apple Vision Pro is ensured by biometric scanning. However, unlike fingerprints or facial recognition, as implemented in Mac computers and iPhones, the headset scans the iris of the eye through the Optic ID system. Apple says that even identical twins will not be able to use the same profile, so accurate is the eye scan.
The user’s iris is scanned under various invisible LED beams and then compared to registered Optic ID data protected by the Secure Enclave to unlock the headset or make a payment via Apple Pay.
Apple assures that where the user looks remains private information when using Apple Vision Pro, and eye tracking data is not transmitted to Apple, third-party applications, or websites. In addition, data from the camera and other sensors is processed at the system level, so individual applications do not need to see the user’s environment to work.
The EyeSight system also includes a visual indicator that lets bystanders know when the user is taking photos or videos with the headset’s built-in cameras.
Cameras and sensors in Apple Vision Pro are needed not only to determine the position of the headset in space. They allow it to use a rather futuristic control system, and to understand where the user is looking and in what position their hands are.
Thanks to this, in the interface of the visionOS operating system, it is enough to look at the program icon or interface element and connect the thumb and forefinger to click on them. In exactly the same way, you can change the position of virtual elements of the interface in space and change their size. It is quite intuitive and does not require additional training from the user. You can also use voice commands instead of gestures.
However, the Apple Vision Pro has Bluetooth support and the ability to connect a keyboard and mouse if needed. After all, visionOS also has a virtual keyboard with predictive input.
On the body of the headset there is a Digital Crown wheel, which allows you to fine-tune the transition between augmented and virtual reality. For example, you can change the background of only a small field of view, or you can completely “move” to another location.
Another key is responsible for creating spatial photos and spatial videos, turning the headset into an advanced 3D camera.
Apple Vision Pro capabilities
Augmented and virtual reality have quite a few usage scenarios, and Apple Vision Pro tries to give users the best of both worlds, both for work and entertainment. The advantage here is that the entire space around the user in the headset can become an interioractive It can display program windows, display additional information or graphics, or even a completely different, virtual picture.
During the presentation, Apple showed several scenarios for using the headset, which are based on its own applications. One of them is viewing photos and videos, when images can be enlarged to any size, and panoramas can be viewed in such a large format that it will seem as if you are at the shooting location.
For watching movies, you can create an effect as if you are in a movie theater by expanding the giant screen and shading everything around.
Disney CEO Bob Iger spoke at the Vision Pro launch, saying the “revolutionary platform will enhance immersive storytelling in previously impossible ways.” A commercial for the headset showed various concepts that Disney is working on, including a 3D showing of NBA games. Iger said that the Disney+ streaming service will be available on the Apple Vision Pro “on the first day of sales” of the headset.
Apple Vision Pro will support game controllers, and the company plans to make 100 games from Apple Arcade available for it at the start of sales of the headset. Most likely, additional offers from developers will appear by then.
During operation, the headset allows you to use the browser, check mail, work with documents and generally supports the installation of additional programs from third-party developers from the App Store. It is quite convenient that Apple Vision Pro immediately supports the installation of applications from iPhone and iPad. In addition, developers will be able to immediately create applications for the new visionOS platform.
On the sides of the Apple Vision Pro, in the place of attachment of the strap for fixation on the head, there are two directional speakers that allow the headset to form spatial sound.
Personalized surround sound is based on the geometry of the user’s head and ears, and the headset’s sensors scan the surrounding space to account for objects and their materials in the room and create sound that feels like it’s coming from outside.
Apple does not disclose exactly which battery is used in the Apple Vision Pro, it is only known that it is located in a separate unit that connects to the headset through a MagSafe type magnetic connector.
One such battery is only enough for 2 hours of operation, but Apple notes that the Vision Pro can run on constant power all day. Apple has not yet announced whether a Mac power supply will be suitable for this, or whether a special charger will come with the headset.
Most likely, it will simply be a USB-C cable with a magnetic connector.
How much does Apple Vision Pro cost?
The headset starts at $3,499 and should start selling at the beginning of the next year on the website and in Apple Stores in the US, and in other countries later next year.