Apple recently unveiled its first-ever headset designed for mixed reality (MR), the Apple Vision Pro. The device is meant to provide users with a seamless VR and augmented reality (AR) experience, combining advanced technologies like eye-tracking and hand gestures. The company has encouraged applications for 3D designs, gaming, and entertainment, with some developers expressing excitement about the headset’s potential.
The Vision Pro interface is intuitive, with external cameras used to detect hand movements, obviating the need for hand controllers, while internal eye-tracking cameras locate users’ eyes, allowing the device to predict which app to open or close. The system seems ideal for home use, with a virtual dock of Apple apps hovering in front the user, while still allowing them to see their real-life surroundings. Users interact with the apps by performing hand gestures, grabbing or swiping items that pop up on the headset.
But its real power is in MR. As it identifies objects or people in the physical world, it allows you to control and augment them in the digital world. The headset’s internal camera produces a hyper-realistic digital twin of a user’s face, which could make FaceTime calls quite realistic, though in our experience, they still feel disembodied. As users move around to interact with objects in the real world, the headset recognizes the objects’ three-dimensional forms and augments them in real-time to simulate a more immersive experience.
Vision Pro truly shines in the entertainment category and, by all accounts, seem to have pulled it off. One could watch a movie like Avatar 2 in 3D and feel like you’re right there where the action is, or stomp around in the Jurassic era as dinosaurs hover in the background, as in a new series from Jon Favreau that featured these giants in a highly-engaging spectacle. Apple has enticed Hollywood directors and app makers to build similar experiences, which shows just how poised the tech giant is in this space.
At the same time, the device has taken Apple into a different category of products in one crucial way: It doesn’t disappear. In fact, it does the opposite, with a design that shields users’ eyes, a crucial part of the lived human experience. It requires a suspension of disbelief and a sacrifice of autonomy. Simply put, the essence of computing is all about creating a personal space where one can work and play. And this “me” space expands if the computer is portable, taking the form of a bubble that travels with users wherever they go. After using the Vision Pro for a few hours, however, some users will wonder what it means to compute, but also what it means to be in the real world.
Ultimately, the Apple Vision Pro is a powerful new way of experiencing mixed reality. At $3,500, it will appeal mostly to developers and gadget lovers with some disposable income to burn. As technologies continue to evolve, devices like this will become more mainstream. But Apple has taken this new category to an entirely new level, with a mixed reality headset that is both sophisticated and intuitive.