Introducing the Apple Vision Pro

6th June 2023
Harry Fowle

Apple has unveiled its latest product, Apple Vision Pro, a spatial computer that merges digital content with the physical world while enabling users to remain present and connected with others.

This device introduces a new approach to canvasing apps, moving away from the limits of traditional displays by offering a fully three-dimensional user interface controlled through natural and intuitive inputs such as eye movement, hand gestures, and voice commands.

At the core of Vision Pro lies the visionOS spatial operating system, allowing users to interact with digital content in a manner that feels tangibly present within their own space. The design features a high-resolution display system comprising two displays with a combined 23 million pixels, while a custom dual-chip design with Apple silicon ensures real-time experiences that appear right in front of the user's eyes.

Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, declared: "Today marks the beginning of a new era for computing. Just as the Mac introduced us to personal computing, and the 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.”

Mike Rockwell, Apple's Vice President of the Technology Development Group, emphasised the comprehensive invention involved in creating this spatial computer. “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.”

For Apple, Vision Pro represents a new dimension in powerful personal computing, changing the way users interact with their favourite apps, capture, and relive memories, enjoy immersive entertainment, and connect with others through FaceTime.

The visionOS operating system introduces a three-dimensional interface, allowing for display freedom. Vision Pro gives users customisable access to preferred apps, and multitasking capabilities. Additionally, with support for Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad, users can create their ideal workspace or wirelessly bring the capabilities of their Mac into the Vision Pro.

Apple Vision Pro includes Apple's first three-dimensional camera, allowing users to capture, relive, and immerse themselves in memories accompanied by Spatial Audio. Users can access their entire photo library on iCloud and view their photos and videos at a life-size scale. Panorama shots taken on an iPhone expand and wrap around the user, creating the sensation of standing right where the photo was captured.

During FaceTime calls, Apple Vision Pro leverages the surrounding space to reflect participants in life-size tiles, while Spatial Audio makes it seem as if everyone is speaking from their actual positions. Users wearing Vision Pro are represented by a digital persona, created using Apple's machine learning techniques, which reflects their facial and hand movements in real-time. Users can engage in shared activities during FaceTime calls, such as watching a movie, browsing photos, or collaborating on a presentation.

Apple Vision Pro also offers an all-new App Store, providing users with access to apps and content from developers. It also supports hundreds of thousands of familiar iPhone and iPad apps that seamlessly adapt to the new input system for Vision Pro. Apple's developer community can further explore the unique capabilities of Vision Pro and visionOS, designing new app experiences and reimagining existing ones specifically for spatial computing.

The all-new visionOS

Built upon the macOS, iOS, and iPadOS; visionOS has been designed to meet the low-latency demands of spatial computing. The result is an operating system that delivers spatial experiences, utilising the user's surroundings to enhance possibilities in professional and personal settings.

The visionOS interface offers a brand-new three-dimensional experience, to make digital content appear and feel like a part of the user's physical world. By dynamically responding to natural light and casting shadows, the interface enhances the user's perception of scale and distance. Apple Vision Pro introduces an input system that responds to a person's eyes, hands, and voice for navigation and interaction with spatial content. Users can browse through apps by looking at them, tapping their fingers to select, flicking their wrist to scroll, or using voice commands to dictate actions.

EyeSight, a feature of the Vision Pro, facilitates connections between the user and those around them. When someone approaches a Vision Pro user, the device becomes transparent, allowing the user to see the person while simultaneously displaying the user's eyes. When immersed in an environment or using an app, EyeSight provides visual cues to others, indicating the user's focus for better transparency.

Designed for all-day use when plugged in, Apple Vision Pro delivers computing performance within a compact wearable form factor. The high-resolution display system, powered by Apple silicon, employs micro-OLED technology to incorporate 23 million pixels across two postage stamp-sized displays. Custom catadioptric lenses further enhance visual fidelity. Users requiring vision correction can utilise ZEISS Optical Inserts to maintain visual accuracy and eye-tracking precision.

Spatial Audio is key to the Apple Vision Pro experience, delivering an immersive soundscape that matches the user's environment and spatial positioning. Each audio pod houses two individually amplified drivers, tailoring Personalised Spatial Audio to the user's unique head and ear geometry.

The M2 chip, powered by Apple silicon in a dual-chip design, drives the performance of Vision Pro, offering standalone capabilities. The newly developed R1 chip processes input from 12 cameras, five sensors, and six microphones, streaming new images to the displays in a mere 12 milliseconds — eight times faster than the blink of an eye. Apple Vision Pro is designed to provide all-day usage when connected to a power source and offers up to two hours of usage with its external high-performance battery.

Security and privacy

To ensure secure authentication, Vision Pro features Optic ID, a system that analyses a user's iris using various invisible LED light exposures. This information is then compared to securely stored Optic ID data within the ‘Secure Enclave,’ instantly unlocking the device. Optic ID data is fully encrypted, inaccessible to apps, and never leaves the user's device, ensuring privacy and security.

Apple has said that it places a strong emphasis on user privacy, with private gaze tracking during Vision Pro navigation, and eye tracking data remains undisclosed to Apple, third-party apps, or websites. Additionally, camera and sensor data are processed at the system level, eliminating the need for individual apps to access the user's surroundings for spatial experiences. EyeSight incorporates a visual indicator that notifies others when the user is capturing a spatial photo or video.

Apple Vision Pro will be available for purchase starting at $3,499 in the early months of next year.

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