Apple Vision Pro: Just announced! Features, First Impressions and Price
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Apple Vision Pro: Just announced! Features, First Impressions and Price

Jul 17, 2023

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Apple Vision Pro is Apple's augmented and virtual reality headset, a device that has been in development for more than a decade. Vision Pro marks the company's first entrance into a new product category since the 2015 Apple Watch, with the device introduced at WWDC 2023 in June. A launch is set for early 2024.

While the Apple Vision Pro is definitely a headset, Apple does not use that word when referring to it. Instead, Apple calls it a spatial computer because of its ability to blend digital content with the physical world.

Apple Vision Pro is a mixed reality headset that displays augmented reality content overlaid on world around you, and immersive entirely virtual content, but it's worth noting that the headset is not see through. Everything you see is digital. For augmented reality content that does not make your surroundings disappear, Apple uses cameras that map out what's in front of you, translating that into a digital image augmented by virtual elements.

For a virtual reality experience, Apple shuts off those cameras and can make it seem like you are completely isolated from what's going on around you, allowing you to focus solely on what's being displayed on the headset's screens. This shift between the "real" and the "immersive" can be controlled with an on-device Digital Crown.

Design wise, Apple Vision Pro is not unlike a pair of ski goggles, featuring a singular piece of laminated glass for the front that melds into an aluminum alloy frame. A soft, fitted Light Seal attaches magnetically to the frame and confirms to your face to block out light.

Two Audio Straps with built-in speakers are positioned at the sides of the headset, delivering Spatial Audio that blends what you're hearing on the headset with what's going on in the real world. The Audio Straps connect to a 3D knitted headband that holds the Vision Pro in place. Apple designed it to be breathable, cushiony, and stretchy for comfort, and a Fit Dial ensures the headset fits tight against your head. Apple plans to offer Light Seals and headbands in multiple sizes, and these components are swappable.

Inside the frame, there are two micro-OLED displays that deliver over 4K pixels to each eye for a total of 23 million pixels. There's also an external display called EyeSight that projects an image of your eyes so people can tell whether you're using the headset in an immersive mode or if you can see what's going on around you. For glasses wearers, there are custom prescription Zeiss Optical Inserts that can be attached magnetically to the headset's lenses.

There are no controllers for Apple Vision Pro, with the headset instead controlled by eye tracking, hand gestures, and voice commands. An app can be navigated to and highlighted by looking at it and then opened with a tap of the fingers. Scrolling is done with a simple flick of the fingers.

More than a dozen cameras and sensors in Apple Vision Pro map out the world around you, keep track of your hand and eye movements. Optic ID, which scans your iris with infrared lights and cameras, is used for authentication. Each person has a unique iris pattern, and Optic ID is akin to Face ID and Touch ID. It can be used for unlocking the device, making purchases, and as a password replacement.

There are two Apple silicon chips inside Vision Pro, including the same M2 chip that's in the Mac and a new R1 chip. The M2 chip runs visionOS, executes computer vision algorithms, and provides graphics, while the R1 chip processes input from the cameras, sensors, and microphones.

Apple Vision Pro can take 3D photos and videos using a built-in camera that's powered by tapping on the top button of the device. Apple says that users can capture videos and photos in 3D and then relive those memories like never before. Vision Pro will also show existing photos and videos in large scale, making them more immersive. Note that when you are recording video, Vision Pro makes it clear that recording is happening with an animation on the external display.

Due to weight constraints, Apple did not put a battery in Apple Vision Pro. Instead, it can be powered by a braided cable that is attached to a battery pack worn at the hip or plugged into an adapter. The battery pack offers two hours of battery life on a single charge.

With Apple Vision Pro, content is displayed in the space around you. You can position apps and windows in mid-air, rearranging them as you see fit, with multiple windows supported. Apple says there's an "infinite canvas" to work with. Apps can be displayed in the actual environment that you're in so you can stay present with what's going on around you, or you can use a more immersive view that shuts out the world and puts content on a virtual background called an Environment.

A visionOS operating system runs on Apple Vision Pro, and it has a dedicated App Store with apps designed specifically for the device, but it is also able to run iPhone and iPad apps. You can connect the Vision Pro to a Mac, with the headset serving as a display for the Mac. It works with Bluetooth accessories for text input and control, or you can use virtual typing or dictation for text.

There is a main Home View that has all of your favorite Apple apps like Mail, Messages, Music, Safari, Photos, and more, with your data synced through iCloud. The interface is similar to the iPhone interface, but you can open apps and arrange them virtually. Apple is updating its main apps for visionOS and has created APIs for developers. Apple Vision Pro offers an immersive experience for entertainment like TV and movies. Content can be expanded to feel like it's in your own personal theater, complete with spatial audio.

FaceTime has been redesigned for Vision Pro. People on the call are shown in large tiles to the headset wearer, while the headset wearer is shown as an accurate digital recreation using their Digital persona. With FaceTime, Vision Pro users can collaborate on documents with colleagues or share apps with others, and spatial audio makes it clear who is speaking.

The Cinema Environment allows you to watch shows and movies at the frame rate and aspect ratio chosen by the creator, or you can use a nature-themed Environment to make the screen feel 100 feet wide. Apple created Apple Immersive Videos that are 180-degree 3D 8K recordings that put users right inside the action, plus streaming services like Apple TV+ and Disney+ are available on Vision Pro. As for gaming, Vision Pro supports Apple Arcade, with 100 iPad games to be available at launch. Games can be played with Bluetooth game controllers that connect to the headset.

Apple Vision Pro is priced starting at $3,499 and it is set to launch in early 2024. It will be available on when it launches, and in stores only in the United States to begin with.

Apple is already working on a version of the AR/VR headset that will be priced more affordably. The first AR/VR headset will cost somewhere around $3,000, but Apple wants to develop a model that is closer in price to the iPhone.

Apple engineers plan to use more affordable components to bring the price down, but the lower-priced headset will have the same general AR/VR "mixed reality" functionality of the headset launching in 2023. The chips in the device will be on par with the iPhone rather than the Mac-level chips used in the first AR/VR headset, and Apple may also use lower resolution internal displays and cheaper materials.

As of right now, development on the more affordable headset is in the early stages and Apple has not created a working prototype. Such a headset could launch in 2025, and Foxconn is already working on it.

According to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the second-generation AR/VR headset will be available in both high-end and low-end models, similar to the iPhone. Apple is expected to offer one more affordable model and one that is a follow up to the higher-end and more expensive first-generation model.

Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes that Apple could be planning augmented reality "contact lenses" that could launch sometime in the 2030s.According to Kuo, the lenses will bring electronics from the era of "visible computing" to "invisible computing." There is "no visibility" for the contact lenses at the current time, and it's not a guaranteed product that Apple will develop.

Apple was also developing augmented reality "Apple Glasses" that were supposed to launch a year or so after the headset, but the project has been placed on hold so the company can instead focus on a cheaper version of the AR/VR headset. Apple Glasses are expected to launch in 2027 at the earliest.

A future version of the AR/VR headset could have accessibility settings that are designed to help people who suffer from eye diseases and visual issues.

Apple Vision Pro augmented and virtual reality headset introduced at WWDC 2023 in June early 2024 spatial computer blend digital content with the physical world mixed reality headset augmented reality content entirely virtual content Digital Crown not unlike a pair of ski goggles singular piece of laminated glass aluminum alloy frame Light Seal Audio Straps Spatial Audio 3D knitted headband breathable, cushiony, and stretchy Fit Dial micro-OLED displays over 4K pixels to each eye 23 million pixels EyeSight so people can tell using the headset in an immersive mode glasses wearers Zeiss Optical Inserts eye tracking, hand gestures, and voice commands highlighted by looking at it opened with a tap of the fingers dozen cameras and sensors Optic ID Apple silicon chips same M2 chip new R1 chip 3D photos and videos tapping on the top button when you are recording video can be powered by battery pack worn at the hip two hours of battery life content is displayed in the space around you position apps and windows as you see fit an "infinite canvas" to work with Environment visionOS operating system iPhone and iPad apps connect the Vision Pro to a Mac works with Bluetooth accessories virtual typing Home View data synced through iCloud updating its main apps for visionOS immersive experience for entertainment FaceTime redesigned for Vision Pro Digital persona Cinema Environment Environment Apple Immersive Videos supports Apple Arcade Bluetooth game controllers priced starting at $3,499 launch in early 2024