Amidst great anticipation, Apple took the stage at WWDC 2023 to unveil their inaugural XR headset, the extraordinary Vision Pro. As expected, this revolutionary device surpasses all existing virtual and augmented reality headsets in terms of sheer hardware prowess. However, the futuristic technology elegantly fused within the Vision Pro’s sleek and captivating design comes at a cost, making it an elusive luxury for the majority of eager consumers.
Setting a New Standard: Apple Unveils the Vision Pro XR Headset
Introducing the Apple Reality Pro: Redefining AR, VR, and the World of XR at $3,499. Immerse yourself in a new realm of possibilities as you effortlessly position virtual screens around your Mac, seamlessly answer FaceTime calls, all while comfortably composing emails from the cozy confines of your couch.
While the steep price tag might have deterred early adopters if the Apple Reality Pro had offered nothing more than tight integration with Apple devices, the reality is far from disappointing. Apple has exceeded expectations by equipping its XR headset with genuinely groundbreaking capabilities, ensuring a truly revolutionary experience for its users.
Most virtual reality (VR) headsets rely on controllers for interaction, but the Vision Pro sets itself apart by offering full access using only your hands. Apple has kept some details under wraps, but it appears that gestures like tapping and flicking your fingers, grasping objects, and tracing with your index finger will suffice to trigger actions and interact with visionOS.
While hand-tracking is already supported to some extent in Meta’s Quest 2, Quest Pro, and the upcoming Quest 3, it is limited to a few specific games and apps. However, Apple’s emphasis on hand interaction as a primary input method means that every app in the visionOS App Store should be equipped to support this feature.
For authentication purposes, the Vision Pro incorporates a swift and effortless retina scan to verify your identity.
Your private theater
Apple boasts that its headset offers a viewing experience equivalent to a colossal 100-foot wide screen. This, combined with Spatial Audio, creates a personal theater-like environment perfect for enjoying movies, TV shows, sports events, and more. Naturally, Apple TV+ will be accessible on the Vision Pro as well.
Notably, Apple’s Vision Pro surpasses its competitors in terms of image quality. With a remarkable 4K resolution for each eye, the two displays boast a combined total of 23 million pixels. This exceeds the pixel count of Meta’s top VR headset by more than double and even outshines the impressive 2880-by-2720 pixel-per-eye resolution of the Varjo Aero.
Although Apple has not shared specific details about display brightness or color space, they did mention brilliant colors, stunning detail, and high dynamic range. In a presentation, someone was shown using the professional image editing software Adobe Lightroom on the Vision Pro, suggesting that photographers, videographers, and graphic designers may be able to use the headset instead of a traditional monitor while still achieving excellent picture quality. However, the accuracy of color fidelity has yet to be confirmed.
With its reputation for top-notch mobile camera technology, Apple has ensured that photography and video capabilities are not overlooked in its versatile headset. The Vision Pro includes a convenient button located on the top of the headset, allowing users to effortlessly capture spatial photos and videos.
These special captures preserve memories with a realistic depth effect, enabling users to relive important moments in a truly immersive way. The Vision Pro lets you play back these spatial memories directly within the device, adding an extra layer of realism and depth to the experience.
Vision Pro apps
The Vision Pro from Apple features a home screen with a familiar app layout, resembling the interface of an iPhone. Users can easily access essential information such as the time, date, weather, and notifications, just like on any other Apple device.
To ensure a seamless transition for iPhone, iPad, and Mac users, Apple has brought many of its core apps to the Vision Pro. Safari, Photos, Music, Messages, and more can be found on the headset, displaying familiar icons and themes. This familiar environment is crucial for users who are adapting to a new way of interacting with a device.
Text input can be accomplished using voice input or a floating keyboard available on the Vision Pro itself. For enhanced productivity, users also have the option to pair the headset with an Apple Magic Keyboard and Trackpad.
While the Vision Pro is a new product category for Apple, it may not initially offer as extensive a library of native third-party apps as the Mac or iPhone. However, this limitation is mitigated by the availability of iPad and iPhone apps, broadening the range of applications accessible on the headset.
In contrast, Meta’s Quest 2 and Pro headsets have a vast library of games, benefitting from their platform’s existence since 2019, which built upon the legacy of the Oculus Rift.
Apple has been proactive in having key developers work on Vision Pro apps ahead of its announcement, but the process of developing new games and porting existing content to the new platform will likely span several years. To bridge this gap, Apple is leveraging iPad apps, which may include recently released software like Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro.
The Vision Pro will have the ability to run iPad apps, significantly expanding its capabilities while immersive apps are being developed. Thanks to its high-performance M2 chip, the headset is as fast as an iPad Pro. This same chip powers other Apple devices, including the new 15-inch MacBook Air and various Macs.
When you put on an Apple Vision Pro, you can seamlessly resume your activities from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac. The headset supports multitasking, allowing you to have multiple apps side by side or focus on a single app, providing a versatile and efficient user experience.
In contrast to the passthrough feature found in Meta Quest Pro and other VR headsets, which often exhibit noticeable visual flaws, Apple’s mixed reality view of the user’s actual surroundings is incredibly close to what they would see without the headset. This remarkable fidelity is achieved through the use of higher-quality cameras and enhanced processing power, allowing for quick and precise alignment of the generated images.
The Vision Pro incorporates a digital crown, reminiscent of the one found on the Apple Watch, which facilitates a seamless transition between the immersive view and a view of the user’s real environment. When someone approaches the user, the display intelligently reveals their presence, enabling mutual visual interaction.
During Apple’s Vision Pro demonstration, it became apparent that the graphics processing performance is exceptional, rendering virtual objects that appear nearly as tangible as the physical desk or table on which the user is seated. This represents a breakthrough in achieving the highly anticipated mixed reality experience. The only drawback is its price, which surpasses that of a MacBook Pro, making it a substantial investment.
Apple’s Vision Pro harnesses the power of Apple Metal 3 technology on its M2 chip, delivering excellent gaming performance. However, the main challenge lies in building up enough content on the platform to compete with existing VR headsets that have established libraries over the course of several years.
To address this, Apple Arcade will offer over 100 apps upon launch, drawing from the extensive iPad library. However, it may not be sufficient to fully entice gamers to invest in Apple’s powerful yet gaming-constrained device.
Apple has also announced a promising partnership with Disney, but meeting the demand for gaming experiences that fully utilize the Vision Pro’s immersive capabilities, super-high resolution, and special features will require time and concerted efforts.
It is clear that Apple recognizes the need to expand its gaming offerings and attract developers to create content specifically optimized for the Vision Pro. Over time, as the library of compatible games grows, the device’s potential as a gaming platform will become more compelling.
Eyes front and center
One of the most contentious features of the Vision Pro headset is undoubtedly the placement of a display on the exterior, allowing your eyes to remain visible even while wearing the device. Although the view may appear slightly dark, it manages to create a convincing effect.
We have previously encountered Meta prototypes with a similar design known as reverse passthrough. However, Apple’s implementation appears to be significantly superior, giving the impression of wearing ski goggles.
It is important to note that opinions on this particular aspect may vary, and its controversial nature stems from the debate surrounding the balance between privacy and social interaction in immersive experiences.
The Vision Pro headset from Apple is equipped with state-of-the-art technology, indicating that it is indeed an expensive device. Previous rumors had already hinted that Apple recognized this as a product not meant for everyone. Instead, it targets early adopters, developers, and corporations who can afford the cost, considering the immense potential it offers.
With the inclusion of the powerful M2 chip and a new R1 processor, the Vision Pro delivers exceptional performance, comparable to that of a MacBook Air in terms of computing power. In the realm of virtual reality, achieving a similar level of speed would typically require connecting to a high-end PC with a powerful discrete GPU.
Price and availability
Apple unveiled the Vision Pro, its highly anticipated XR headset, with a starting price that may leave some astonished at $3,499. The powerful device is set to hit the market in early 2024.
As further information becomes available, we will be closely monitoring developments, providing comprehensive specifications, additional app details, and more updates. Stay tuned for the latest news on this groundbreaking product from Apple.