During its WWDC 2023 developer conference keynote, Apple the Vision Pro, an XR headset, claimed to seamlessly merge virtual and augmented reality experiences.
Priced at $3,499, the Vision Pro is scheduled for release next year and will be available for purchase on Apple.com as well as in select U.S. retail stores.
The headset boasts a single laminated glass panel that houses an extensive range of cameras and sensors. Its frame incorporates a convenient button for capturing photos and videos and a digital camera for seamless transitioning between augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) environments.
To ensure optimal performance, the Vision Pro features a thermal design that effectively circulates air through strategically placed system apertures, preventing overheating. While this design incorporates a cooling mechanism, Apple assures users its operation remains nearly silent.
Apple has declared the new device “the most advanced personal electronics device over” and reveals its development draws upon a collection of over 5,000 patents.
The Vision Pro features a versatile light seal available in various sizes, designed to conform perfectly to the contours of the wearer’s face. Innovative straps extend outward from the frame, equipped with “Audio Pods” that deliver immersive spatial audio.
The headband showcases a ribbed, 3D pressure design, ensuring a snug and comfortable fit, enhanced by an attachable mechanism. Additionally, an adjustment dial allows for effortless fine-tuning while using the headset.
Apple has partnered with Zeiss to provide specially designed inserts for people who wear glasses that seamlessly attach to the lenses. However, during the presentation, no information was disclosed regarding the cost of these accessories.
Apple guarantees a two-hour battery life per charge, though the headset can be used for longer durations when connected to a power source. To accommodate extended usage, the hardware incorporates a wired battery pack to the headset.
This convenient setup allows users to carry the battery pack in a belt or pocket, ensuring a continuous power supply throughout their VR or AR experience.
To enhance social interaction and prevent feelings of isolation, Apple employs the EyeSight feature to display the wearer’s eyes on an external screen to those around the wearer, allowing others to easily identify whether the wearer is engaged in a virtual reality experience.
Super impressive product launch for the Vision Pro. Not surprised by the price as the display costs amount to more than 10% of the price…
— Ross Young (@DSCCRoss) June 5, 2023
Vivid visuals, immersive audio
The Vision Pro fits 64 pixels within the space occupied by a single pixel on an iPhone. With 23 million pixels spread across its two panels, the headset offers a resolution surpassing 4K.
Apple ensures support for high dynamic range, resulting in vivid visuals and enables the display of sharp text, enhancing overall visual clarity.
Apple’s Vision Pro incorporates a cutting-edge dual-chip design, featuring the powerful M2 chip alongside the innovative R1 chip. The R1 chip is specifically engineered to handle input from 12 cameras, five sensors and six microphones.
Its primary focus is to create a deeply immersive experience, allowing users to feel fully engaged within their virtual environment. On the other hand, the M2 chip ensures seamless operation and optimal headset functionality.
To personalize the wearer’s audio experience, Vision Pro employs innovative Audio Pods, which utilize sound to tailor the wearer’s environment dynamically. Apple refers to this technology as “audio ray tracing.” The headset is equipped with an extensive array of scanners, including LiDAR, enabling precise 3D tracking capabilities.
The headset operates solely based on the wearer’s eyes, hands and voice, eliminating the need for a separate controller. Infrared (IR) cameras and LEDs are integrated to accurately track the wearer’s eye movements. Graphical elements on the screen respond to a “V gaze”, and a simple tap of the wearer’s fingers selects items. The wearer can effortlessly scroll by flicking their hands.
Neurotechnology specialist Sterling Crispin, a member of the team behind the headset, explained that the Vision Pro could predict when “a user was going to click on something before they actually did.”
“Your pupil reacts before you click in part because you expect something will happen after you click,” he said. “So you can create biofeedback with a user’s brain by monitoring their eye behavior, and redesigning the UI in real time to create more of this anticipatory pupil response. It’s a crude brain computer interface via the eyes, but very cool. And I’d take that over invasive brain surgery any day.”
“It’s the first Apple product you look through and not at.”
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple
In the case of FaceTime, Apple leverages advanced technology to generate a digital representation of the wearer’s face. Through scanning conducted by the front cameras, the company employs a neural network to construct a lifelike 3D avatar that can be utilized during FaceTime conversations.
When engaging with someone using another Vision Pro headset, they will perceive the wearer’s avatar in three-dimensional form, adding an immersive dimension to the wearer’s interactions.
Apple also introduced its latest operating system, visionOS, seamlessly integrating with the iOS framework. This innovative OS boasts a real-time subsystem, a cutting-edge foveated rendering pipeline and a multi-app 3D engine.
To ensure robust security, Apple introduced Optic ID, an advanced authentication feature. Optic ID securely stores the wearer’s iris scan within the device’s dedicated enclave, ensuring data privacy.
Apple emphasizes that eye input will be handled separately through a specialized background process, guaranteeing that websites or applications cannot access information about the wearer’s gaze.
Apple’s AR and VR operating system offers a familiar interface for users of iOS and iPadOS, featuring a customizable home screen with rearrangeable app icons and widgets. The home view seamlessly integrates with the wearer’s surroundings, with apps appearing as floating objects in the wearer’s environment.
These apps dynamically respond to lighting conditions, casting realistic shadows within the wearer’s space. The wearer can scale and position apps anywhere within their surroundings.
The “canvas for apps” in Vision Pro allows for the flexible positioning of apps. The interface presents a floating Mac-like experience, with web browsing and productivity apps surrounding the user. Navigation between apps is achieved by simply turning the head, and 3D objects can be placed in front for viewing from different angles.
With a dial reminiscent of the Apple Watch’s digital crown, the wearer can effortlessly switch between AR and VR modes, offering a versatile and immersive user experience.
Vision Pro supports compatibility with Bluetooth accessories such as the Magic Trackpad and Magic Keyboard. The headset can be connected to a Mac, providing a large-scale 4K display experience.