Sunday, September 24, 2023
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The ‘Apple Vision Pro’ headset is even more innovative (and expensive) than expected

Apple Vision Pro could finally deliver virtual reality without motion sickness.

As expected, Apple unveiled its augmented reality/virtual reality headset today at its Worldwide Developer Conference. It’s called Apple Vision Pro, not “RealityPro” or “RealityOne,” as some pundits predicted.

It’s also more innovative and more expensive than most folks anticipated. As described by Apple, the Apple Vision Pro is “a revolutionary spatial computer that seamlessly blends digital content with the physical world, while allowing users to stay present and connected to others.”

The headset won’t arrive until 2024. And it will cost US$3,499 (even more, if you wear eyeglasses), so start saving your moolah.

Here’s how Apple describes the Vision Pro: “It creates an infinite canvas for apps that scales beyond the boundaries of a traditional display and introduces a fully three-dimensional user interface controlled by the most natural and intuitive inputs possible — a user’s eyes, hands, and voice. Featuring visionOS, the world’s first spatial operating system, Vision Pro lets users interact with digital content in a way that feels like it is physically present in their space. The breakthrough design of Vision Pro features an ultra-high-resolution display system that packs 23 million pixels across two displays, and custom Apple silicon in a unique dual-chip design to ensure every experience feels like it’s taking place in front of the user’s eyes in real time.

“Today marks the beginning of a new era for computing,” CEO Tim Cook says in the announcement. “Just as the Mac introduced us to personal computing, and iPhone introduced us to mobile computing, Apple Vision Pro introduces us to spatial computing. Built upon decades of Apple innovation, Vision Pro is years ahead and unlike anything created before — with a revolutionary new input system and thousands of groundbreaking innovations. It unlocks incredible experiences for our users and exciting new opportunities for our developers.”

“Creating our first spatial computer required invention across nearly every facet of the system,” adds Mike Rockwell, Apple’s vice president of the Technology Development Group. “Through a tight integration of hardware and software, we designed a standalone spatial computer in a compact wearable form factor that is the most advanced personal electronics device ever.”

Here are some of the specifics of the Apple Vision Pro, according to Apple:

° An “infinite canvas.” visionOS features a three-dimensional interface that frees apps from the boundaries of a display so they can appear side by side at any scale. Apple Vision Pro enables users to be even more productive, with infinite screen real estate, access to their favorite apps, and all-new ways to multitask. And with support for Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad, users can set up the perfect workspace or bring the powerful capabilities of their Mac into Vision Pro wirelessly, creating an enormous, private, and portable 4K display with incredibly crisp text.

° Lots of entertainment possibilities. With two ultra-high-resolution displays, Apple Vision Pro can transform any space into a personal movie theater with a screen that feels 100 feet wide and an advanced Spatial Audio system. Users can watch movies and TV shows, or enjoy stunning three-dimensional movies. Apple Immersive Video offers 180-degree high-resolution recordings with Spatial Audio, and users can access an exciting lineup of immersive videos that transport them to entirely new places.

Spatial computing makes new types of games possible with titles that can span a spectrum of immersion and bring gamers into all-new worlds. Users can also play over 100 Apple Arcade games on a screen as large as they want, with incredible immersive audio and support for popular game controllers.

° Environments. With Environments, a user’s world can grow beyond the dimensions of a physical room with dynamic, beautiful landscapes that can help them focus or reduce clutter in busy spaces.A twist of the Digital Crown lets a user control how present or immersed they are in an environment. 

° 3D Memories. Featuring Apple’s first three-dimensional camera, Apple Vision Pro lets users capture, relive, and immerse themselves in favorite memories with Spatial Audio. Every spatial photo and video transports users back to a moment in time, like a celebration with friends or a special family gathering. Users can access their entire photo library on iCloud, and view their photos and videos at a life-size scale with brilliant color and spectacular detail. Every Panorama shot on iPhone expands and wraps around the user, creating the sensation they are standing right where it was taken.

° Spatial FaceTime. With Apple Vision Pro, FaceTime calls take advantage of the room around the user, with everyone on the call reflected in life-size tiles, as well as Spatial Audio, so it sounds as if participants are speaking right from where they are positioned. Users wearing Vision Pro during a FaceTime call are reflected as a Persona — a digital representation of themselves created using Apple’s most advanced machine learning techniques — which reflects face and hand movements in real time. Users can do things together like watch a movie, browse photos, or collaborate on a presentation.

° An app store. The Apple Vision Pro has an all-new App Store where users can discover apps and content from developers, and access hundreds of thousands of familiar iPhone and iPad apps that run great and automatically work with the new input system for Vision Pro. Apple’s developer community can go even further and take advantage of the powerful and unique capabilities of Vision Pro and visionOS to design brand-new app experiences, and reimagine existing ones for spatial computing.

° Revolutionary user interface. visionOS features a brand-new three-dimensional interface that makes digital content look and feel present in a user’s physical world. By responding dynamically to natural light and casting shadows, it helps the user understand scale and distance. To enable user navigation and interaction with spatial content, Apple Vision Pro introduces an entirely new input system controlled by a person’s eyes, hands, and voice. Users can browse through apps by simply looking at them, tapping their fingers to select, flicking their wrist to scroll, or using voice to dictate.

° Eyesight. Apple Vision Pro also features EyeSight, an extraordinary innovation that helps users stay connected with those around them. When a person approaches someone wearing Vision Pro, the device feels transparent — letting the user see them while also displaying the user’s eyes. When a user is immersed in an environment or using an app, EyeSight gives visual cues to others about what the user is focused on.

° Design innovation. A singular piece of three-dimensionally formed and laminated glass is polished to create an optical surface that acts as a lens for the wide array of cameras and sensors needed to blend the physical world with digital content. The glass flows into the custom aluminum alloy frame that gently curves around the user’s face, while the modular system allows for a tailored fit to accommodate a wide range of people. The Light Seal is made of a soft textile, and comes in a range of shapes and sizes, flexing to conform to a user’s face for a precise fit. Flexible straps ensure audio remains close to the user’s ears, while a Head Band — available in multiple sizes — is three-dimensionally knitted as a single piece to provide cushioning, breathability, and stretch.1 The band is secured with a simple mechanism, making it easy to change to another size or style of band.

° Hardware innovation. Featuring a breakthrough ultra-high-resolution display system built on top of an Apple silicon chip, Vision Pro uses micro-OLED technology to pack 23 million pixels into two displays, each the size of a postage stamp, with wide color and high dynamic range. This technological breakthrough, combined with custom catadioptric lenses that enable incredible sharpness and clarity, delivers jaw-dropping experiences. 

Apple Vision uses an M2 processor to deliver standalone performance, while the brand-new R1 chip processes input from 12 cameras, five sensors, and six microphones to ensure that content feels like it is appearing right in front of the user’s eyes, in real time. R1 streams new images to the displays within 12 milliseconds — 8x faster than the blink of an eye. Apple Vision Pro is designed for all-day use when plugged in, and up to two hours of use with its external, high-performance battery.

° Audio and cameras. An advanced Spatial Audio system is core to the Apple Vision Pro experience, creating the feeling that sounds are coming from the environment around the user and matching the sound to the space. Two individually amplified drivers inside each audio pod deliver Personalized Spatial Audio based on the user’s own head and ear geometry.

In addition to creating a breakthrough display and advanced audio experiences, the high-performance eye tracking system in Apple Vision Pro uses high-speed cameras and a ring of LEDs that project invisible light patterns onto the user’s eyes for responsive, intuitive input.

Users with vision correction needs will use ZEISS Optical Inserts to ensure visual fidelity and eye tracking accuracy.

° Privacy and security. Optic ID is a new secure authentication system that analyzes a user’s iris under various invisible LED light exposures, and then compares it to the enrolled Optic ID data that is protected by the Secure Enclave to instantly unlock Apple Vision Pro. A user’s Optic ID data is fully encrypted, is not accessible to apps, and never leaves their device, meaning it is not stored on Apple servers. 

Where a user looks stays private while navigating Apple Vision Pro, and eye tracking information is not shared with Apple, third-party apps, or websites. Additionally, data from the camera and other sensors is processed at the system level, so individual apps do not need to see a user’s surroundings to enable spatial experiences. EyeSight also includes a visual indicator that makes it clear to others when a user is capturing a spatial photo or video.

Pricing and availability

The Apple Vision Pro starts at US$3,499, and will be available early next year on apple.com and at Apple Store locations in the U.S., with more countries coming later next year. Customers will be able to learn about, experience, and personalize their fit for Vision Pro at Apple Store locations. For more information about Vision Pro, visit apple.com/apple-vision-pro.

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.