The Apple Vision Pro is the biggest new product concept to be launched by Apple for many years. As a relative latecomer on the extended reality (XR) scene, it’s already creating quite a stir. The announcement of this innovation from Apple has polarized the XR and technology communities. While many evangelize about the possibilities, some are already labeling this new concept as a rare misstep for the Apple brand.
In the words of one detractor, the Apple Vision Pro is “still a big honking gizmo plonked between its wearer and the rest of the world, inherently a barrier more than a conduit.”
Sure, for people used to Apple’s sleek designs that slide unnoticed into your back-pocket, this stands out as a totally different beast. However, as a new entrant in the XR space, the Vision Pro is already disrupting expectations of XR and creating new possibilities.
So, is the Apple Vision Pro the future of XR? Or will it be a massive flop? And will Fectar support this upcoming device? Let’s take a closer look.
What is Apple Vision Pro?
The Apple Vision Pro is a groundbreaking mixed reality headset. It scans the physical environment, and turns it into a digital version that can be combined with virtual elements, new environments, and 3D content. On the surface, it looks a lot like any other mixed reality (MR) headset, but it’s much more, as we’ll see in a moment.
What’s already clear is a lot of gamers and tech enthusiasts find the Apple Vision Pro confusing – maybe because it’s not specifically made for them.
Unlike other passthrough VR headsets such as Meta Quest2, the Apple Vision Pro has distinguished itself by not targeting the ‘gamer’ or ‘GenZ’ market at all. Instead, it’s targeted directly at working adults who value their time. It might not slip into your back pocket, but it dovetails perfectly with everyday life.
Most tellingly, Apple doesn’t even call the Vision Pro a headset – instead it’s ‘Apple’s first spatial computer’. According to Apple, the Vision Pro “seamlessly blends digital content with the physical world, while allowing users to stay present and connected to others”.
To be clear – it is an MR headset, but one that’s equipped with a powerful spatial computer that can ‘understand’ the space you’re in, and blend virtual elements with it perfectly. It also straddles the line between mixed reality/AR and full virtual reality, because it can selectively immerse the user in entire virtual environments, or augmented physical ones.
A big innovation behind the Vision Pro is a new operating system that’s optimized for extended reality: VisionOS.
This new operating system enables virtual 3D objects to stay fixed in one place while the user moves around them. VisionOS makes virtual elements ‘behave’ naturally in AR, in terms of lighting, shadow, distance, and scale. It has also been specially developed for the low latency requirements of spatial computing.
The processing core of the Apple Vision Pro is made up of two powerful chips: one chip for handling the sensor inputs, cameras, and streaming ultra-low latency images to screens (the R1 chip), and another lightning-fast processor for the new VisionOS operating system and advanced processing tasks (the M2 chip, which is used in other Apple devices too).
Features of the Apple Vision Pro include:
- Ability to make it less or more immersive just by turning a dial.
- Immersive spatial audio that’s optimized for the space you’re in.
- New input system, controlled by hand movements, eyes, or voice.
- EyeSight feature, so a user can see someone who approaches with a transparent halo, and others can see a user’s eyes when talking to them, or get a visual cue if they’re engaged in activity.
- Equipped with 12 cameras, 5 sensors, and 6 microphones, which scan the physical environment and track eye movements, hand gestures, and listens for voice commands.
- ‘Optic ID’ security, using iris scanning (this data never leaves the device).
- New VisionOS spatial operating system.
- Can react to lighting conditions, ensuring virtual environments match the ‘real’ ones with accurate lighting, saturation, and shadows.
- Runs for 2 hours per charge, or all day when plugged in.
- Option to use with vision correction, when using the ZEISS optical inserts (sold separately).
- 2 x ultra high resolution 4K displays, with 23 million micro-OLED pixels over 2 displays.
How can you use Apple Vision Pro?
Apple has made it clear that the Vision Pro is a spatial computer that serves as an interface between the physical and digital worlds. It’s much more than ‘just’ a metaverse or XR solution; Vision Pro is a gateway for leisure and digital working in an immersive, productive environment.
By avoiding the language and situations typically used around ‘metaverse’ and ‘extended reality’ concepts, Apple has made it into something more approachable and intuitive for the mainstream. It’s not so much an ‘XR solution’, but a personalized, high-definition immersive display and computer you can wear (and use) anywhere.
Apple gives inspiration about using it in ways most people will find relatable:
- Interact with ‘regular’ apps as 2D tiles in a mixed reality environment.
- Entertainment: Watch TV and movies in an immersive environment, getting the movie theater experience anywhere.
- Facetime with colleagues and friends (Vision Pro users are displayed as a ‘Persona’ that’s synced to the user’s own movements and facial expressions).
- Work in a productive way, seamlessly moving between screens, 3D, and 2D content, using keyboards and pointing devices where needed.
- Gaming isn’t an emphasis, but 2D games will be available at launch. 3D gaming is almost certain.
- Relive memories by viewing photos and videos.
- Experience panoramic images as immersive wrap-around environments.
Is Apple Vision Pro VR or AR?
Although it’s called a ‘spatial computer’, the Vision Pro is a high-quality MR headset with the ability to turn up or down reality. Mixed reality is, of course, a form of AR, but this is different. It’s high-level AR that can become VR with the turn of a dial.
As a headset with an integral platform for experiencing XR, it stands out for being truly immersive, with user experience at the center of the design. Vision Pro straddles the line between being an XR tool, and a portable immersive 4K display (and computer) that gives users an infinite canvas for 3D content, XR, and everyday apps.
Apple hasn’t rushed to create 3D content or apps for the new VisionOS, but instead has left the door open for developers to define their own ways to create value. By not pigeonholing themselves, Apple has left it open for the maximum number of possible VR, AR, and MR experiences. This means it can cherry-pick the best use cases from both.
When is the Apple Vision Pro available, and how much does it cost?
The Vision Pro will become available at the start of 2024. The international rollout will probably take some time, but most users will be able to get their hands on one by 2025.
The cost will be US$3499 at launch. This may seem like a lot, but it’s on a par with other enterprise mixed reality headsets like the HoloLens2 and MagicLeap2.
Is Vision Pro expensive?
That depends on your perspective. Vision Pro is more expensive than the Meta Quest2 VR headset by some distance but they’re really not in the same league. Sure, you can get cheaper VR goggles or AR glasses – but as a powerful spatial computing platform, there’s nothing quite like it. The ultra-low latency also promises a superior experience to any other headset currently available.
Compared to the cost of a top-level 4K display or TV, you can easily pay twice as much for something far less immersive or versatile, and still get lower image quality than the Vision Pro. Apple Vision Pro can deliver solid business value too, and this is perhaps where the greatest potential lies.
How will Apple Vision Pro affect the XR world?
There’s nothing like healthy competition to stimulate innovation, and the Apple Vision Pro has substantially raised the bar.
Apple has given plenty of time and scope for developers to port their apps to the new VisionOS, using familiar development kits, tools, and frameworks for AR and VR. Many of the most common Apple apps will be instantly available on VisionOS, used as 2D tiles in the AR space. Following this, third-party apps can be easily extended to VisionOS in the same way. This is the initial phase of development.
The next stage of development will be much more interesting, as developers start creating apps and experiences especially for the Vision Pro. These will include 3D interfaces, richer immersive experiences, and enterprise software like training programs or digital twins.
Because the VisionOS uses the same essential standards (ARKit, RealityKit, SwiftUI) as Apple’s current AR support, the development of apps and experiences for the Vision Pro will just be a natural extension of existing ones. This makes it easy to build bespoke enterprise solutions as well as mass-market ones. Businesses will not find it problematic to create (or port) XR tools for the Apple VisionOS.
With the new input system, users can control the Vision Pro in a variety of ways. This makes it accessible to a wider range of people, including those with mobility issues or other considerations. It can be used entirely with one input type, or a combination. So, if moving your eyes is all you can do, a new world is opening up.
Will it be a hit or flop?
This remains to be seen. Critics come primarily from the ‘gaming’ side of the technology enthusiasts, who probably also don’t see the value in other enterprise MR solutions (like HoloLens2) either. But it’s not made for them.
The Apple Vision Pro is made for people in general; people who do stuff, like living, working, creating, and collaborating. It’s made to slip into your daily routine, not your pocket. The Vision Pro opens many new possibilities for MR and XR without being prescriptive about it.
In essence, Apple has created a new world of brand new real estate that’s now open for development. There are many possibilities in this new frontier, from artists creating 2D and 3D designs, to Architects creating new building concepts, or Surgeons training or operating a remote surgery robot – and much more.
It will take time to grow: both iPods and iPhones were an instant hit that generated massive initial sales, but this is a different class of product that’s being added to Apple’s portfolio.
Instead of choosing a ‘quick hit’, Apple has made a big bet on the long-term future of XR. It’s a solid investment that will grow steadily. Unlike iPods, the Vision Pro will add sales for decades, as XR becomes a bigger part of everyday life.
But let’s forget the headset for a moment, and remember that Apple has created a powerful spatial computer.
It’s a versatile and powerful platform that numerous mixed reality assets can be built upon. Even if the headset is outpaced by newer display technologies, the computer part will continue to be relevant. So, we may well see many different iterations of this technology in the coming decades; this new innovation is just our first glimpse of the future.
Will the Fectar support the new Apple Vision Pro?
And finally, the looming question takes center stage: Will Fectar seamlessly integrate with the state-of-the-art Apple Vision Pro headset? The answer is a definite yes. Everything technical, all the software stuff, and how easy it is to use, match up perfectly with what Fectar believes about VR, AR, and XR. This means that the new Apple Vision Pro headset and Fectar will team up to take the way we use computers to a whole new level.