Apple Vision Pro: release date, features, price

Apple Vision Pro: release date, features, price

Apple's much-anticipated mixed reality headset has been the subject of much speculation and rumor. As expected the Apple Vision Pro headset was announced at WWDC 2023 and it is very impressive. In this article we will show you everything you need to know about this revolutionary piece of tech.

About Vision Pro: Apple's first spatial computer

More than virtual reality, we are indeed talking about mixed reality, as Mark Gurman, guest of the iWeek podcast The Apple Week (episode 135 of May 4, 2023) explained very well: "The two main realities are reality virtual and augmented reality. Virtual reality is the one in which we are completely locked up. These are screens only. Augmented reality is what we see through transparent glasses, a bit like Google Glass. With information projected superimposed on what we see naturally. Mixed reality is primarily VR at its core, but with an integrated augmented reality mode. I call it false augmented reality because instead of using your eyes directly, through transparent glasses, you use cameras, which reproduce what is in front of you and this is what characterises mixed reality , this possibility of switching from VR to AR, at any time".

This mixed reality mode is controlled using a wheel with a design almost identical to that of the digital crown of the Apple Watch. Located on the right of the upper edge of the mask, this wheel therefore makes it possible either to isolate oneself completely from the outside world, or to display inside the headset, therefore in front of the eyes of its user, the image captured by the external cameras of the headset. By pushing the dial all the way in, it's as if the mask becomes transparent.

How does the Vision Pro work?

Located at the front face of the headset, facing outward, are a series of cameras that continuously capture the surrounding environment. The captured footage is then displayed on the screens in front of your eyes, allowing you to see the room you are in. This innovative feature enables you to move around confidently without the fear of colliding with furniture or obstacles.

To further enhance spatial awareness, the cameras are complemented by a lidar sensor and depth sensors. These advanced technologies enable the mask to precisely calculate the position of objects, furniture, and walls in your surroundings. As a result, virtual objects displayed on the screens in front of your eyes can be seamlessly integrated and superimposed onto the real-world environment. For instance, when viewing an application window, it may appear to float in the air above your coffee table, casting shadows on it. This integration allows virtual objects to interact convincingly with the real objects in the room, creating a truly immersive mixed reality experience.

© Apple

Inside the mask are two micro-OLED screens strategically positioned in front of your eyes. Despite their compact size, each screen boasts an exceptional pixel density surpassing that of a 4K display, which typically has a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, totaling just over 8 million pixels. Apple emphasizes that this pixel density is the minimum requirement to ensure superior visual quality, ensuring that individual pixels are indistinguishable at the viewing distance and enabling comfortable text reading. To put this into perspective, Apple highlights that the area occupied by a single pixel on an iPhone can accommodate 64 pixels on the mask's screens. This level of pixel density far surpasses what other competing VR headsets currently offer. Additionally, for those who wear glasses, Apple has partnered with the renowned brand Zeiss to provide magnetic optical inserts that can be effortlessly attached to the inside of the mask, allowing for customised visual adjustments to accommodate various eyesight needs.

© Apple

What will the Vision Pro be used for?

Just like in the realm of smartphones, Apple is not the pioneer in unveiling a VR/AR headset. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has been offering its Meta Quest headsets for several years, providing users with access to its metaverse—a virtual 3D universe. However, it must be acknowledged that Meta's offerings have yet to truly captivate users. In contrast, Apple dedicated a substantial portion of the Keynote to describing numerous compelling use cases for their headset. Will this be enough to convince potential buyers? Only time will tell. One thing that we can be of sure of though, is when Apple enters a market, it doesn't do so lightly.

Upon its release early next year, the Vision Pro will seamlessly integrate with hundreds of thousands of apps available through Apple's well-established App Store. Equipped with its integrated M2 processor, the mask has the capability to directly run almost all iPhone and iPad applications. This means that you can position the app windows wherever you desire in your environment, free from the limitations of a physical screen in front of you or a secondary screen connected to your MacBook. The space around you becomes your canvas, offering boundless possibilities for arranging app windows according to your preferences.

© Apple

Among the various applications mentioned by Apple, FaceTime conversations are also highlighted. It's easy to understand that you will see the live video feed of your friends directly in front of your eyes. However, what will they see? Inside the headset, there are cameras positioned towards your eyes, but they are not used to replicate your actual face, as that would be technically challenging. During the Keynote, Apple briefly demonstrated that when you initially set up the headset, you will be prompted to hold it in your hands and position the front of the mask in front of you. This step allows the cameras and depth sensors to create a 3D representation of your face. Subsequently, this animated avatar of yourself will be transmitted to your correspondents, giving an eerily lifelike representation of your presence. It's an interesting prospect, and we eagerly anticipate seeing how well it performs and whether the outcome is convincing.

It's worth noting that the same 3D representation of your face, which is hidden by the mask, will be displayed on the screen located on the front of the mask when you interact with a person physically present in the same room as you. Using the external cameras, you will be able to see the person in real-time, and they will have the opportunity to communicate with you naturally, without having to address an expressionless mask. Although this interaction may feel peculiar, especially initially, it adds an intriguing dimension to the mixed reality experience.

© Apple

After all these interactions, you can simply sink into your sofa and indulge in a movie session that will transport you as if you were actually in a cinema, or even more immersed, inside the film itself. Once again, the headset will astound by simulating an expansive cinema screen right before your eyes. You'll be able to relish in the immersive experience while being accompanied by sound emanating from the integrated speakers within the headband. However, there is one notable distinction from a conventional movie theater – you'll have the entire space to yourself, devoid of any other moviegoers. This unique aspect grants you the freedom to immerse yourself completely in the cinematic experience without any distractions.

Which processor is in the Vision Pro?

With this headset, you have the freedom to explore anywhere without the need for cumbersome wires or connections. It is designed to be self-contained, eliminating the necessity for it to be tethered to a computer or smartphone. Inside the headset, all the computational power required to drive the display and perform complex 3D calculations for an immersive virtual or mixed reality experience is integrated. The Vision Pro leverages two processors to accomplish this. Firstly, an M2 processor, identical to the ones found in Macs or iPads, handles the execution of applications. Additionally, a cutting-edge processor called R1 is responsible for coordinating all operations, ensuring minimal latency between the camera-captured images and their display in front of your eyes. Apple has stated that the maximum latency will be approximately 12 ms, which is short enough to mitigate the potentially discomforting effects often associated with VR headset usage.

© Apple

What is the Vision Pro battery life?

The Vision Pro operates using a compact, portable battery that provides approximately 2 hours of autonomy. Admittedly, this may seem relatively short, especially when considering longer movie sessions that typically exceed 2 hours. However, there could potentially be a mechanism in place to enable hot-swapping of the battery. This means that you would have the ability to replace the battery pack while using the headset, ensuring a seamless transition without interrupting your activity. 

How to control the Vision Pro?

Apple's Vision Pro takes a unique approach by eliminating the need for external controllers, enabling users to interact directly using hand gestures and eye movements. The external cameras are designed to capture precise movements of the user's hands and fingers, empowering them to manipulate virtual objects, type on a virtual keyboard, and navigate menus by pointing and pressing. This represents a departure from the Meta Quest, which relies on two joysticks for similar interactions.

It's worth highlighting that Apple's focus appears to extend beyond virtual reality, embracing mixed reality experiences. By freeing up your hands, you can manipulate real-life objects within your surroundings, which are seamlessly captured by the external cameras. Additionally, Apple has announced compatibility with your MacBook Pro and other Apple devices, allowing you to connect and interact with them while using the headset. This integration expands your MacBook screen into an immersive canvas that stretches out in front of your eyes, enhancing your overall experience.

When is the release date of the Vision Pro?

The highly anticipated Vision Pro mask from Apple will be released February 2nd 2024, in the US. Pre orders begin on the 19th January. Initially, it will only be available in the American market, with plans to expand to other countries at a later stage. It is evident that Apple is still refining its strategy for this new market and navigating the challenges associated with manufacturing such advanced technologies. The cutting-edge nature of the technologies involved contributes to the complexities.

According to an analyst from Morgan Stanley, production is expected to commence by the end of October next year, with mass production anticipated in December. However, it is important to note that the production volume is unlikely to reach the scale of tens of millions of iPhones produced each quarter, at least initially. The intricate nature of the Vision Pro and the incorporation of state-of-the-art components contribute to the slower production timeline. 

How much will the Vision Pro cost?

The Apple Vision Pro is set to carry a price tag of $3,500, positioning it as a highly expensive piece of technology. Initially, it will be targeted towards professionals, and it may take some time before the cost becomes more affordable for everyday users, similar to the evolution of mobile phones. However, the hefty price tag can be attributed to the inclusion of advanced technologies within the headset. The incorporation of such sophisticated features justifies the extensive seven to eight years of development invested by Apple.

The future release of next-generation models, as indicated by Mark Gurman, is expected to occur no earlier than the end of 2025. These subsequent models are likely to retain their high-end status, with an entry-level variant arriving later at a price point that could be at least $1,000 more affordable. It is worth noting that the initial headset is built upon components comparable to those found in Mac devices, while the more affordable version may utilise components akin to those found in iPhones. This shift in component selection could contribute to a more accessible price range.

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