What Is the New Apple Vision Pro?

During the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2023 on Monday, Apple finally unveiled its highly anticipated headset, now officially named the Vision Pro. This device has been the subject of rumors and leaks since 2017, making its official debut a momentous occasion. The Vision Pro is designed to support both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications, offering users a versatile and immersive experience. The conference was held at Apple Corporate headquarters in Cupertino, California where Apple’s Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook introduced the futuristic product, saying:

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I believe augmented reality is a profound technology. So, today I’m excited to announce an entirely new AR platform with an entirely new product.

The Vision Pro is a standalone headset with an innovative design that eliminates the need for a dedicated controller. Instead, it utilizes a combination of external and internal sensors and cameras, enabling users to interact with the device through voice inputs and hand/eye gestures. Apple plans for users to navigate the interface relying exclusively on eyesight, verbal commands, and hand gestures.

In his presentation, Cook described the concept of the technology, saying it:

Augments reality by seamlessly blending the real world with the digital world. The entire interface looks and feels truly present in your room, they have dimension, respond dynamically to light and even cast shadows to help you understand scale and distance. It’s easy to make apps any scale -even larger than life- and you can place apps exactly where you want them anywhere in your space. It feels natural like moving real objects.

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While apps appear in the room with you, the interface also responds to your body’s motions. Apple’s presentation explained this experience further, saying:

Every graphical element has a sense of vitality, simply tap your fingers together to select, and gently flick to scroll. The combination of hands and eyes together truly feels like magic. With Vision Pro, you can look at a search field, and just start dictating. 

A new FaceTime user experience is being presented as well. Apple described it by saying:

FaceTime becomes spatial taking advantage of the room around you. Within FaceTime, you can share apps with others and use them together with SharePlay.

But wait, there’s more. Vision Pro is also Apple’s first 3-D camera. Apple Vision Pro features an ultra-high-resolution display system that packs 23 million pixels, more than a 4K TV for each eye, across two panels each about the size of a postage stamp. Vision Pro debuts the brand-new R1 chip for a virtually lag-free, real-time view of the world.

The Apple Vision Pro experience is enhanced by an advanced Spatial Audio system that immerses users in their surroundings, making the sound appear as if it originates from the environment and perfectly matches the space.

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Apple has introduced Optic ID, an authentication system designed to ensure secure access to the Apple Vision Pro. Optic ID analyzes the user’s iris using invisible LED light exposures and compares it to the encrypted Optic ID data stored in the Secure Enclave. This process allows for instant unlocking of the Apple Vision Pro while keeping the user’s data protected. Importantly, the Optic ID data remains fully encrypted and is never accessible to apps or stored on Apple servers.

User privacy was addressed by Apple, revealing that when using the Apple Vision Pro, the user’s gaze remains private. Eye tracking information is not shared with Apple, third-party apps, or websites. Simply put, where you look, and what you look at remains private. Additionally, data captured by the device’s camera and other sensors is processed at the system level, eliminating the need for individual apps to access the user’s surroundings to generate spatial experiences.

To provide transparency, EyeSight, a feature of the Apple Vision Pro that utilizes the headset’s curved exterior display, allows others to observe the facial expressions of individuals wearing the device. EyeSight includes a visual indicator that demonstrates when the user is capturing a spatial photo or video. This allows others to be aware of the user’s actions and promotes a sense of privacy and consent. 

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Apple Vision Pro starts at $3,499, more than triple the top-line price for Meta’s Oculus (now called Meta Quest), and will be available early next year on Apple’s website and at Apple Stores in the U.S., with more countries following later in 2024.

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