A New Reality: Unveiling the Apple Vision Pro

By Anne Ahola Ward Anne Ahola Ward has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on February 2, 2024

Apple has made a big splash with its new mixed-reality headset. The Apple Vision Pro represents the tech giant’s first foray into a whole new product category since introducing the Apple Watch in 2015. And when Apple makes big moves, the world tends to pay attention. 

Even with its hefty price tag of $3,499+, the Vision Pro reportedly sold out during its first preorder weekend. Will it live up to the hype and set a new standard for immersive experiences? What can it do, and what sets it apart? Let’s check it out.

Redefining Immersion with Design and Performance

Described by CEO Tim Cook as “the first device you look through and not at,” the Apple Vision Pro immediately stands out due to its unique visor design. When you’re wearing the headset, other people can see your eyes “through” the front of the visor. 

But of course, as with all VR headsets, the visor is fully opaque. What other people are seeing is a digitized version of your eyes on a front-facing lenticular display with such low latency that movements are essentially in real-time. 

Apple Vision Pro
Image credit: Apple

Then, because the Vision Pro allows you to see the space around you – and gives you the option to always see the people near you via Breakthrough mode even when you’re immersed in a VR environment – it can provide what other headsets don’t: the illusion of eye contact. 

The Vision Pro headset thus breaks the social isolation that so far has been almost inherent to virtual reality itself. You can see the environment and the environment can see you. That deserves some appreciation. 

Another standout feature is the Vision Pro’s sheer compute power. Its unique dual-chip design incorporates the powerful M2 chip, a processor that’s also used in Mac desktops and notebooks. Other consumer-grade VR headsets, like Meta’s Quest 3, use mobile-class processors with less compute power. 

Apple Vision Pro headset
Image credit: Apple

The Vision Pro also contains Apple’s new R1 chip, which processes input from 12 cameras, five sensors, and six microphones. Crystal-clear visuals are rendered through two micro-OLED displays (one for each eye!) with a combined resolution of 23 megapixels at a smooth 90 frames per second. The 3D camera for capturing photos and video is pretty impressive, too.

So when Apple bills the Vision Pro as a revolutionary spatial computer, perhaps that’s not much of an exaggeration. Its computing power, graphics, and deeply immersive user experience combine to provide an unprecedented opportunity for in-depth work and play. 

Navigating the Vision Pro Experience

When you first put on the Apple Vision Pro, you’ll spend a couple of minutes on setup for fit and tracking. Navigation is done through eye tracking and hand gestures, with no need for controllers. All you have to do is look directly at something – a menu button, an option in a list, the corner of a photo – and it’ll be highlighted so you can tap your finger and thumb together to click, or pinch and drag, zoom in and out, and flick to scroll.

Apple Vision Pro headset
Image Credit: Apple

 

Apple Watch users will already be familiar with the Digital Crown, a rotating dial that you can spin and push. The Vision Pro has one on the top right edge of the visor. You press it to go to the Home View or spin it to adjust settings like the volume of ambient sounds or the immersion level of an Environment. 

Inside with the Apple Vision Pro
Image credit: Apple

Voice commands via Siri make it easy to quickly launch apps like Apple TV or Safari. Then you can place apps and windows anywhere in your real-world environment that you’re viewing through the headset – even on the ceiling. You can also instantly mirror your MacBook screen to the Vision Pro using Sidecar. 

The following are a few other highlights of the Apple Vision Pro that you’ll discover as you explore the device:

  • The Vision Pro delivers surround sound through personalized Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking and audio ray tracing, which analyzes the acoustic properties of the space you’re in so that sounds feel like they’re coming from your surroundings. The sound is emitted from dual-driver audio pods that sit on the headset just above your ears. This means that whatever you’re listening to is also audible to people around you – but you can always connect with AirPods instead. 

Breakthrough mode on the Apple Vision Pro (Image credit: Apple)

  • You can immerse yourself in various Vision Pro Environments for a 360-degree experience in a scenic locale of your choice. Plus, in Breakthrough mode, you can choose to have people in your vicinity appear as a digital overlay inside the headset, so you’re only ever as cut off from the world as you want to be. 

FaceTime call Persona demo in Apple Vision Pro (Image credit: Apple)

  • FaceTime calls can be expanded to take over the whole room around you, and you’ll see the person you’re talking to almost as if they’re right in front of you. Calls from Mac users will appear like a regular video call, but when other Vision Pro users call you, they’ll appear as a “Persona,” or an avatar that uses the person’s eyes and preset facial features as a simulated presence inside the headset. Verdict? Some are saying it’s a little creepy, but your mileage may vary.

In Perspective: Weighing the Cons

The Apple Vision Pro uses a new operating system that Apple is calling visionOS – its first spatial computing OS. Most iPad-based apps will be usable on the headset by default, while some companies like Disney are creating apps designed specifically for the Vision Pro and its capabilities.

Not everyone seems to be on board, however. Netflix is one of the big holdouts, opting out of allowing its iPad-based app to be used on the Vision Pro at all. Users will have to access the streaming platform via the Safari browser instead. YouTube and Spotify seem to have opted out at this time as well.

Another negative? The virtual keyboard isn’t very easy to use. You have to look at each key individually to highlight it and then pinch your fingers to type – or poke the virtual keyboard with your finger, hunt-and-peck style. Not great.

And possibly the most critical downside: the Vision Pro, by all accounts, is heavy. Pretty much every tech journalist who demoed the headset noted its weight, with feedback ranging from it being noticeable to downright uncomfortable. It also comes with an external battery pack since the headset can only run for 2-2.5 hours at a time without it.

Final Thoughts and Future Potential

Apple is very good at making hardware, perfecting user experience, and getting people to buy in. Whatever the cons of the Vision Pro, it’s certain to bring more users into the mixed-reality fold. And this first iteration of the headset is just that: the first one – with improved versions undoubtedly on the way.

Apple
Image Credit: Apple

The future is still wide open. Apple executive Mike Rockwell remarked that he expects healthcare, training, and education to eventually become key areas for the product. 

So will the Apple Vision Pro end up being an expensive toy, or the start of a new era in computing and mixed reality? Time will tell – but perhaps it’ll be both. 

By Anne Ahola Ward Anne Ahola Ward has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Anne Ahola Ward is a Tech Columnist at Grit Daily. She was dubbed “The Mother of Startups” by CNN, she is an Entrepreneur, Futurist, and published O’Reilly author. Ward is a Silicon Valley tech industry leader who frequently speaks on the topics of privacy, technology trends and social media at conferences and on television.

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