Apple has announced an augmented reality headset called the Apple Vision Pro that seamlessly blends the real and digital worlds. “This is the first Apple product that you’re not looking at, but looking through,” CEO Tim Cook said of the device. The device has a separate battery and is controlled by eyes, hands and voice. Its price will start at $3,499 and sales will begin early next year, starting in the US market and ending in other countries at the end of the year.
The Vision Pro is marketed primarily as an AR device, but it can switch between augmented and full virtual reality using the Digital Crown.
The device doesn’t have a controller, and you scroll through rows of app icons in an operating system called visionOS just by looking at them. You can tap to select and swipe to scroll, you can also give voice commands, and Apple says “hundreds of thousands of familiar iPhone and iPad apps” will automatically work this way. In addition, the headset supports Bluetooth accessories, including the Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad, and allows you to connect a Mac for use inside the headset. Downward-facing cameras can capture your hands even when they are on your lap.
The headset has a glass front and an aluminum frame that carries 5 sensors, 12 cameras, 6 microphones, a 4K display for each eye, and a computer that appears to be cooled by a fan. The headset’s mask (which Apple calls the Light Seal) and strap (which Apple calls the Head Band) are both fabric-lined and modular. Apple claims they can adjust to different face shapes and head sizes. The head band has a ribbed structure and fits close to the back of the head, and you can change the straps in different sizes and styles.
Zeiss has created special optical inserts that are magnetically attached to lenses for people who wear glasses. The headset has an external battery that lasts up to two hours and can be connected with a “flexible braided cable” so that it fits in your pocket, or you can plug it into external power and use the device all day long. Apple promises that the display will be unprecedentedly clear and will be able to transmit video in 4K format.
The system uses the M2 chip as the basis, but it also uses a new chip called R1 to process all the data from the sensors and cameras. The R1 chip accepts data from all sensors built into the headset for accurate head and hand tracking, as well as real-time 3D map and eye tracking. The dedicated chip was designed specifically for the complex task of processing sensor data in real time. The company claims it can process sensor data in 12 milliseconds — eight times faster than the blink of an eye — and says it will greatly reduce motion sickness that is common with many other AR/VR systems. Apple claims that the use of all this data obtained through computer vision and sensors,
Apple also promises that you will not be isolated from the people around you either. The headset will mirror your eyes using a system called EyeSight, and if you’re in full VR, a glowing screen will obscure them to show you’re not available. It also creates a digital “personality” – essentially a hyper-realistic avatar – by scanning your face. The device uses pass-through video, allowing you to see the real world in full color, but you can project 3D objects into real space.
The typeface has been in development for many years and has reportedly gone through several iterations as well as years of delays in release. It is set to be a signature addition to Apple’s product line designed by CEO Tim Cook and has received praise from industry insiders despite entering a market that has yet to take off. Its main competitor is likely to be Meta, which has enjoyed relative success with its gaming-focused Quest 2 and 3 headsets and has received more mixed reviews for its general-purpose Quest Pro headset.
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