Everything We Know about Apple's $3,499 Vision Pro
Introducing the Apple Vision Pro! Who would have thought back then that the graphics-dancing Apple 2 demo, "Apple Vision," would be used to name a futuristic HMD? (Yours truly shakes his head.) But there we have it, folks—the most technologically advanced commercial AR/VR device today.
So first, to know more about the Vision Pro, let's look at what it can do. It's AR and VR, so it takes a switch at the top of the headset to move back and forth between them. When in VR, the visor goes opaque. In AR, the visor displays an image of your eyes, so the person(s) in the same room knows when you are looking at them. Ohhh Grandma, what big eyes you have!
The Vision Pro comes loaded with several AR and VR apps that you can use the same way you can use the same or similar apps on a computer or mobile device. In AR, the information is projected on an overlaying screen on top of your real-world environment. Don't be fooled, however, because the HMD catches the current video image of your surroundings plus the projected AR info and displays it to you. The HMD is a VR device (no see-through glass visor), so everything you see is via the OLED displays. In VR, it acts just as such—an environment-isolating VR HMD. Probably everything you can do with your iPhone or iPad, you can do with the Vision Pro. Watch movies, gaming events, video conferences (FaceTime), work on apps, and do anything you might do in the office with your PC or Mac. However, as the HMD is new, more apps will have to be developed in time.
As an HMD, the Vision Pro allows you to watch 3D movies and videos, where you can turn 360° for a roundabout view. Movies can be projected via super widescreen, and get this, aside from Apple TV, you've got the chance to watch all those wonderful shows on Disney+! (Smile) hehehe... Also, for the sentimental at heart, one can record images and videos of loved ones that one can always watch in a far later future, like your sweet little daughter who in the future would be 100 pounds heavier than you. Sigh... such wonderful memories! Speaking of weight, Apple has decided to separate the internal battery from the HMD to lighten it for those who intend to keep it on for a bit longer. The Vision Pro uses a separate rechargeable portable tethered battery pack that can be carried in the pocket of the user. The one drawback is that it currently only carries a max charge lasting around two hours.
Apple's HMD operates differently from current-day HMDs, primarily not using controllers to interface with the apps and mixed environments. The Vision Pro detects a combination of tracked eye and hand movements to execute commands and takes them as input into how a controller or keyboard performs. Just look at an icon; the Vision Pro highlights it for you. Reach out with your fingers, and click it goes. The secret is in the bunch of sensors that can be found on the HMD.
To begin with, it uses two micro-OLED displays running at 4K pixels each for extra crisp graphic resolution. These displays use three-element lenses connected to built-in eye-tracking LEDs and cameras. The headset has 12 cameras and several sensors, including IR illuminators, side cameras, and downward cameras.
Sensors include a LIDAR scanner, a depth sensor, and several microphones. These keep track of your eye and hand movements and display data, information, and graphics in response to them. The system also uses optical identification that scans the iris of your eyes using infrared and cameras for authentication purposes. Also, it has its own custom-made "Spatial" audio system built into the head strap. Advanced electronics-wise, the entire system uses two Apple proprietary processor chips. The M2 chip, essentially a MAC chip, runs the Apple Vision OS, executes commands and programs, and provides the graphics and audio output. The R1 chip handles the input data from the sensors, cameras, and microphones.
However, at the current time, despite the intuitive interface of the Vision Pro, most of the applications that are available for use are currently geared towards professional and data processing use. Game developers will take some time to create VR/AR games that can use the advanced interface and output that Apple's HMD provides. Controllers play a big part in VR gaming, and although the potential to be able to grasp an object with your own hands (via the HMD's trackers), the lack of tactile feedback would be an issue to contend with. Some form of VR gloves would have to be developed to take the place of the controllers currently at hand.
Sadly, the price of the initial version of the Vision Pro places it out of the reach of almost 99.9% of the human race, so Apple is taking steps to address this reality by starting the development of two cheaper versions to follow. One is priced as much as the high-end iPhone models, and another is priced more affordable, like the lower-end iPhones. Hopefully, they get this going for the AR/VR-using public's sake. Regardless, the rich will always be able to fork out the cash for the initial model. For us gaming pundits hanging by the sidelines, let's wait and see.