Apple Unveils the Vision Pro AR Headset and VisionOS: What You Need to Know

Apple Unveils the Vision Pro AR Headset and VisionOS: What You Need to Know

Apple has officially unveiled the Vision Pro, its highly anticipated augmented reality (AR) headset, during the annual WWDC 2023 conference. This remarkable product represents one of Apple's most ambitious endeavors, having been in development for several years and incorporating cutting-edge technology that justifies its high price.

However, the announcement was not solely focused on hardware. Alongside the Vision Pro, Apple also introduced a completely new operating system called visionOS, accompanied by a range of applications that will be available at launch for use on both the OS and the Vision Pro.

The Vision Pro boasts an eye-catching design reminiscent of high-end ski goggles. It features a continuous front panel with a tinted lens, concealing an integrated fan responsible for cooling the internal electronics. The headset includes a replaceable band at the back, allowing users to customize their experience, as well as a dial for adjusting the headset's tightness. Notably, Apple collaborated with Zeiss to develop magnetic lenses specifically designed for prescription wearers.

Differing from some other AR headsets, the Vision Pro's battery pack is not integrated within the device itself. Instead, a wire connects the headset to a separate battery pack that offers up to two hours of usage. Alternatively, users have the option to connect the headset directly to a power source for extended experiences.

The power-hungry displays are presumed to be responsible for the battery drain. The Vision Pro is equipped with two displays, one for each eye, boasting a combined total of 23 million pixels. A custom 3D lens ensures that the user interface remains consistently visible, while features like HDR (high dynamic range) and "wide color" provide an enhanced visual experience.

Internally, the Vision Pro incorporates an array of sensors. Infrared (IR) cameras track the user's eyes, while exterior cameras on the chassis monitor hand movements. Additionally, lidar sensors enable real-time object detection, tracking their positions within the headset's surroundings.

All of these sensors, totaling 23 in number, including a dozen cameras, five sensors, and six microphones, contribute to the R1 chip developed by Apple. The R1 chip is designed to eliminate lag and enables the streaming of images to the Vision Pro's display at a speed "eight times faster than the blink of an eye," as stated by Apple. One notable feature enabled by the R1 chip is EyeSight, which projects a live feed of the user's eyes onto the external display, giving the headset a transparent appearance, at least in pre recorded videos.

Driving the Vision Pro is visionOS, which Apple describes as the "first operating system designed from the ground up for spatial computing." While visionOS shares some architectural similarities with macOS and iOS, it includes a real-time subsystem specifically tailored for processing interactive visuals on the Vision Pro.

The three-dimensional interface of visionOS liberates apps from the confines of traditional displays, allowing them to appear side by side at various scales. The user interface dynamically responds to changes in natural light, utilizing shadows to convey depth and distance.

At the time of its launch, visionOS will feature various apps, including Unity apps, which will run natively on the Vision Pro. Prominent developers such as Adobe (Lightroom) and Microsoft (Office) have already confirmed their participation. Additionally, there will be medical software for visualizing anatomical models and engineering apps for visualizing physical phenomena, like airflow, on real-world objects.

To enhance the user experience further, Apple will introduce a new app store dedicated to the Vision Pro, offering a wide range of apps. Additionally, over 100 Apple Arcade games will be available to play on visionOS right from the start.

One notable inclusion in visionOS is FaceTime, a popular iOS app that will make the transition to the new operating system. Using the Vision Pro, FaceTime will create a 3D avatar of the user's face based on scans. Other video conferencing platforms like Teams, Webex, and Zoom will also support 3D avatars.

Exciting as it may be, the Vision Pro won't be available until early next year, according to Apple. However, for customers interested in purchasing the headset, Apple will provide personalized fitting and demonstrations through appointments at their stores. Given its hefty price tag of $3,499, this exclusive treatment certainly seems justified.

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