Following the thrilling announcement of Apple stepping into the realm of reality technology, this article will detail what we currently know about Apple Vision Pro, Apple’s mixed reality headset. We’ll explore the specifications, pricing, delays, features, and more related to the Apple Vision Pro.
The Apple MR headset will launch to consumers this early 2024, giving third-party developers six months to port their VR and AR apps to the Apple Vision Pro.
The Apple Vision Pro has been a long time coming after R&D issues like heat dispersion caused a delay in the announcement and production complications from COVID, internal direction changes, and supply chain debacles with advanced semiconductors.Allegedly and according to a recent report from the Taiwanese tech news outlet DigiTimes, Apple Vision Pro will use the Taiwanese Pegatron as its manufacturer. Further, production seemingly began in March 2023, producing 750,000 units for early-adopting business customers. It has also been leaked that a select number of app developers already have access to the Apple Vision Pro MR headset, outside of Apple’s internal app teams.
Priced at $3,499, the Apple Vision Pro will not be available in different versions or colors. The reality industry and the broader tech media have been in active discussions, debating this niche price tag. Some argue it’s an attempt to recoup development costs, with Apple likely gaining a high lifetime value from the affluent Apple fans and enterprises purchasing an Apple Vision Pro. However, others criticize the price point as an inflated version of the Meta Quest Pro, arguing its uses don’t justify the high cost.
We stand in the middle, eagerly awaiting to see how the industry adapts to the new terminology Apple is introducing and how the marketing material mirrors the hands-on experience with the mixed reality Apple headset. At the same time, we’re highly enthusiastic about the Apple Vision Pro, and astounded by its level of innovation and visual fidelity. We anticipate its entry will benefit the immersive tech world due to Apple’s ability to humanize the somewhat isolating VR technology and appeal to a wider audience for XR.
The Apple Vision Pro will have three proprietary processors running the device.
Firstly, the impressive Apple Silicon M2 SoC will handle the computing and graphical processing of VisionOS and the apps, boasting 16GB of RAM and an AI processor. Excitingly, this M2 chipset will be the most powerful processing unit ever found on a standalone VR device.
Secondly, a dedicated R1 chip will manage the tracking data and transform it into a seamless mixed reality experience.
Lastly, an H2 chip will provide ultra-low latency audio to paired AirPod headphones when you’re not using the built-in 3D audio speakers.
Thanks to this processing power, the externally swappable battery will offer a runtime of 2 hours.
Combining this trio of chips with the Apple reality operating system and Apple’s MR headset will likely provide a highly optimized, smooth-running, and powerful experience.
To put this into context, other standalone headsets have struggled to deliver impressive specifications due to their limitations on processing and heat issues from a loud cooling fan. The Apple Silicon M2 chip means that the Apple Vision Pro will be far superior in battery usage and processing efficiency.
The Apple Vision Pro boasts two micro-OLED 4K displays, one for each eye, delivering a total resolution of 8K. The micro-OLEDs are manufactured by Sony and the Apple mixed reality headset is said to have a field of view of 120 degrees, which means the pixel density per degree will be 32 PPD per eye, the highest in any standalone headset to date!
The Apple Vision Pro will also use pancake optics technology like that found in the Pico 4, enabling a slimmer and lighter profile. We have heard rumors of Apple (or Meta) acquiring LIMBAK, a Spanish optics manufacturer known for the unique freeform lens of the Lynx R1. This acquisition might suggest the Apple Vision Pro will benefit from LIMBAK’s patented super-pancake optics with super-resolution technology. The super-pancake lens allows for a slimmer design, while the super-resolution technology significantly enhances visual clarity. See the image below from a LIMBAK presentation.
The Apple Vision Pro also uses dynamic foveated rendering from its integrated eye tracking, vastly improving the visual quality of the already crisp 4K resolution per eye.
The Apple Vision Pro is a premium mixed reality headset. This means the headset will be able to act as a virtual reality headset as well as an augmented reality headset or do both simultaneously with a dial of a crown.
Reverse Passthrough Renamed to EyeSight
Apple has renamed the concept of “Reverse Passthrough” to “EyeSight”. This feature, developed by Meta RealityLabs and released in a 2022 research paper, was originally named Neural Passthrough. Regardless of its name, Apple brands it as the more accessible EyeSight. This feature works by mirroring your eye expressions in real-time on an outward-facing OLED on the Vision Pro. This gives the impression that the Apple Vision Pro is an augmented reality headset, when in fact, it is a fully enclosed VR device. Interestingly, while Apple is leveraging EyeSight to attract attention, Meta decided reverse passthrough was too expensive to implement, revealing a divergent path between the two tech giants.
Notably, Apple did the same by using a realistic 3D render of the user’s eyes, not an animated avatar. Again, also was revealed in 2020 that Meta RealityLabs also experimented with what Meta calls Modular Codec Avatars.
In line with Apple’s philosophy of humanizing advanced technology, the Apple Vision Pro innovatively employs its tracking sensor array to 3D map and record immersive memories. However, this raises the question if buyers will opt to isolate themselves – EyeSight or not – during intimate moments to record such memories in 3D.
Spatial Computing vs Metaverse
Interestingly, Apple did not mention the term ‘metaverse’ during its keynote, preferring instead to use ‘spatial computing’. Previous articles have suggested that Apple remains distant from the concept of the metaverse, opting instead for ‘spatial computing’ which appears to have a more practical and grounded approach.
No Controller Navigation
The Apple Vision Pro won’t include controllers. Instead, this mixed reality headset uses high-precision eye and hand tracking along with voice commands to navigate the VisionOS experience. Initial feedback on this feature has been overwhelmingly positive, especially regarding its reliability and precision.
Seamless Productivity Transitions
One of the key utilities of the Apple Vision Pro lies in its seamless integration with the Apple ecosystem. This means users can effortlessly transition their work from their Macbook to the Vision Pro. You can even work in real-time using the Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse via Bluetooth.
Privacy and Security
In terms of privacy and security, Apple is placing significant emphasis on these aspects. Notably, the Apple Vision Pro adheres to the privacy guidelines Apple has introduced for its products in recent years. The integrated eye-tracking technology enables Optic ID, a feature which scans the wearer’s irises, thus preventing unauthorized use of the headset.
Apple is known for its high standards of industrial and minimalist design. This is why the novel design aesthetic of Apple Vision Pro is built from aluminum, glass, synthetic fabric, and carbon fiber. The halo band of the Apple Vision Pro boasts an accordion design that expands to fit the size of the wearer’s head, a creative design element we saw with the PlayStation VR2’s face gasket.
Furthermore, Apple Vision Pro has an external battery, which lightens the headset and results in a more streamlined design. Despite the inconvenience of a dangling cable to the battery pack, the advantage is the ability to easily replace a depleted battery with a fully charged one.
Finally, reports indicate that the weight would land between 300 and 400 grams. But initial reactions with the Apple Vision Pro indicate it to be significantly heavier.
Apple Vision Pro will be experienced through a new and native operating system to the headset called VisionOS.
While the new VisionOS is built on the foundation of iOS, macOS, and iPadOS, the controller-less user experience is designed to be intuitive, using only your eyes, hands, and voice to navigate the mixed reality environment. VisionOS also comes with updated versions of Apple’s existing applications like Photos, Apple TV, Messages, and Mail, and introduces new additions like Mindfulness. We expect major apps like Spotify, Netflix, and Slack to be ported or developed for VisionOS. However, due to the expected low adoption rate associated with the high price point, smaller to medium app developers might not launch their app on this platform.
For comparison, most other VR headsets use a modified variant of Google’s Android operating system, soon to be its own augmented reality OS.
Apple’s mixed reality headset Vision Pro will feature WiFi 6E and the latest Bluetooth 5.3, enabling a fully standalone experience. In particular, users can expect a smooth interaction between the Apple Vision Pro and other Apple products like the iPhone, Apple Watch, Macbook, and iPad.
Jakob Pii is Writer at VR Expert and currently lives in the UK. He started his career in VR gaming in 2015 and has stayed in XR since, from exposure therapy in VR to 360-degree video documentaries. He is fascinated by how emerging technologies change how we live, play and work.