At the WWDC 2023 devcon, Apple unveiled a boatload of new features and improvements to its operating systems. However, the event’s expected but still, mindblowing highlight was Apple Vision Pro, the company’s first-ever mixed-reality headset.
With this extremely powerful hardware combined with an unbelievable immersive experience, Vision Pro looks truly amazing. However, what exactly is it, and what does it offer? In this article, you are going to learn everything you need to know about the Apple Vision Pro.
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What is the Apple Vision Pro Headset?
Apple Vision Pro is the company’s first and most groundbreaking mixed reality headset that combines the real physical world with the virtual one. Calling it a spatial computer, Apple claims that the Vision Pro is the most powerful and immersive personal electronics device ever.
Vision Pro expands and blends the real life and digital canvas by creating a three-dimensional space users can interact. However, instead of giving users controllers like competitors, Vision Pro only uses your hands, voice, and eyes to operate. The mixed reality headset uses a combination of high-quality hardware, including an advanced combination of Apple Silicon, to make this possible.
According to the company, Apple Vision Pro has been years in the making and is quite unlike any other mixed reality headset or product in the market. The spatial computer seamlessly creates a lifelike virtual atmosphere while keeping users in the real world. So, let’s talk about it below.
Apple Vision Pro: Design
Apple has incorporated the same level of sophisticated yet elegant design users have come to know and love in their products. The Vision Pro is fashioned out of a combination of glass, steel, fabric, and other materials to give it its overall aesthetic and quality.
The front of the headset has been made with a single piece of three-dimensionally formed and laminated glass that has been polished to form a lens. This is the backbone used by the headset’s cameras and sensors to perceive the real world. The glass is connected to a custom aluminum alloy frame that seamlessly wraps around a user’s face while keeping them comfortable.
The top of this frame holds a button, while the right has a crown for controlling the immersion. Like other headsets, Vision Pro uses a modular design that lets users achieve a custom fit.
This is made possible by the click-like enclosure on the right side of the Vision Pro. Furthermore, to make the entire Pro headset even more comfortable, the alloy frame also houses vents for air intake.
The headband itself is a single piece of 3D knitted fabric that is supposed to be extremely comfortable, breathable, and stretchy. Coupled with the balanced design, this should make the Vision Pro a pleasing headset.
Finally, the bottom left of the Apple Vision Pro has a slot for the battery pack that connects to the headset. From the available information, the battery pack is connected through a wire that essentially clicks on the headset with visible light.
Apple Vision Pro: Key Features
Full-Scale Immersive UI with Apple Apps
While the Apple Vision Pro starts like any MR headset, it quickly changes that narrative. The headset shows you your home view with the digital one layered over it.
Unlike other headsets, Apple has gone for a lifelike-centric UI design that feels perfectly at home in real environments. The elements have 3D layering that gives them dimensions and thickness.
The design even responds to light and casts shadows on the environment. Since the design understands scale and distance, it dynamically responds to your environment and movement. However, users can easily place any app anywhere they want in their environment. You can even make the apps extremely large for comfortable viewing.
Like the Meta Quest Pro, Apple Vision Pro allows you to open multiple apps simultaneously, each taking its own space and adjusting to the environment. This gives the Vision Pro an infinite amount of canvas to play as appear can appear side by side with any size and space at once. So no matter if you’re opening apps for work and play, it can all be done easily.
Environments Clear Away Distractions
Even though the Apple Vision Pro is primarily an MR headset, it comes with what the company calls Environments. The Vision Pro will come with dynamic and beautiful landscapes that can quickly help users hide the cluttered real world away. All one needs to do is twist the crown, and the augmented reality will disappear, leaving behind what’s on display.
This is made even better with enhanced entertainment with Vision Pro. As mentioned above, the apps can be scaled as big as they like. This also applies to movies and TV shows, as users can make the screen feel as big as 100 feet. To supplement this, Apple’s Immersive Video will have 180-degree high-resolution recordings with spatial audio and even 100 Apple Arcade games to play on the Vision Pro.
Users can find even more experiences in the all-new visionOS app store. Apple claims this store will house hundreds of familiar iPhone and iPad apps that automatically work with the headset’s system.
A Full Controller-Less System
A big surprise with the Apple Vision Pro is that it comes with no controllers to use it. The headset relies on the user’s hands, voice, and eyes for navigation. Users will be able to browse through apps by simply looking at them.
The headset reads the intent and directs automatically. You can then use your wrists and fingers to select apps and finally use your voice to dictate. This is a big step away from an industry that still primarily uses handheld controllers to navigate around headsets. Even though the Meta Quest series comes with a capable hand-tracking system, it is nowhere as capable of being used independently without any issues. However, Vision Pro surely looks otherwise.
Apple Vision Pro: Eyesight
The new Apple AR headset also comes with a new feature called “Eyesight” that will help the users stay connected to the real world. The display will feel transparent whenever another person approaches a Vision Pro user. This will let both people see each other. The Eyesight feature will even give visual cues to others about what the user is focused on.
This feature differs from the Meta Quest’s passthrough, which allows the headset user to see the outside world but dims the display altogether. Eyesight works more in tandem with both worlds and, by the looks of the demo, looks quite detailed.
visionOS Brings Apple Pro to Life
Even though some interesting hardware powers the Apple Vision Pro, as you will see below, the headset’s software to is entirely new. Apple Vision is powered by a new visionOS. This operating system has been built from the ground up to support the low latency requirements of spatial computing.
visionOS also comes with a brand-new three-dimensional interface we mentioned above. While we won’t go into detail here, you can find out everything you need to know about visionOS here.
Optical ID Bring Privacy up a Notch
Like everything else Apple, the Vision Pro has been built with privacy and security in mind. The spatial computer comes with what Apple calls Optical ID. Put simply, Optic ID is a new authentication system that analyzes a user‘s iris and then compares the data to the enrolled ID data. The headset does that through various invisible LED light exposures, making it a sophisticated technology by itself.
Privacy also carries over to general headset use as the new Apple Vision Pro will protect the area the user is looking at and not share that information with other third-party apps.
Apple Vision Pro: Hardware Specs
While Apple did not provide the exact specifications for the displays inside the Vision Pro, we got a good idea of what was under the hood. The Apple Vision Pro uses micro-OLED technology that the company claims packs 23 million pixels into two displays. These displays are supposedly the size of a postage stamp but pack wide color and high dynamic range. Apple also claims this translates to more than a 4K TV display for each eye.
This is accompanied by custom catadioptric lenses that lend the Vision Pro extraordinary sharpness and clarity, as the reveal showcases. All this is powered by Apple Silicon which we will talk about below. While bespectacled users might have a problem, Apple has thought of that already. The company has partnered with and used ZEISS Optical Inserts for accessibility and clarity.
It is only natural that Apple must install a world full of speakers in the Vision Pro to make the audio experience equally immersive. Surprisingly, the Vision Pro only uses two amplified drivers inside each audio pod next to each ear to make this happen.
These drivers work alongside the user’s head geometry to deliver a spatial audio experience. So even if you don’t experience full surround sound, you will always feel like you are. Furthermore, Apple uses ‘Audio Ray Tracing‘ technology that intelligently hears your environment and delivers a consistent and melodious audio experience.
A spatial computer as sophisticated as the Apple Vision Pro requires copious computational power. Combined with the need for no lag, this can get tricky. However, Apple has thought ahead and changed the MR game. The Apple Vision Pro is powered by an intricate combination of the M2 Chip and a brand-new R1 chip.
The M2 chip handles the computational tasks while intelligently keeping the headset cool and comfortable. The second part is where the R1 takes over. The new R1 chip has been specifically designed for the sole task of sensor processing. The chip processes input from the headset’s 12 cameras, five sensors, and six microphones. The R1 chip’s capability gives a numbingly low latency of 12 ms while streaming new images to the display. Apple claims this is 8x faster than the blink of an eye.
This is powered by an external high-performance battery that can give up to two hours of use on a single charge. While plugged in, however, the Apple Vision Pro can last all day.
Apple Vision Pro: Price and Availability
Apple Vision Pro comes jam-packed with features and looks like one of the finest products of this decade. As such, it is only natural that it would cost a fortune.
The Vision Pro headset will cost a steep $3,499 in the market. Apple has mentioned that the Vision Pro will release in early 2024 in the U.S. The worldwide market will have to wait till late 2024 to get their hands on a Apple Vision Pro.