Apple is finally entering the realm of augmented reality (AR) glasses after a series of delays. The tech giant recently unveiled the Apple Vision Pro, an AR headset designed to seamlessly blend the real and digital worlds. Apple CEO Tim Cook described it as the first Apple product that you look through rather than at. Resembling a pair of ski goggles, the device features a separate battery pack and can be controlled through eye movements, hand gestures, and voice commands. Priced at $3,499, it is set to launch in the early months of next year, initially in the United States with plans to expand to other countries later on.
While primarily positioned as an AR device, the Vision Pro can switch between augmented and full virtual reality using a dial. The headset operates without a physical controller, allowing users to navigate through rows of app icons using their gaze in a dedicated operating system called visionOS. Selections can be made with taps and scrolling is achieved through flicks. Additionally, the headset supports Bluetooth accessories such as the Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad, and users can connect their Mac computers for use within the headset. With downward-facing cameras, the device can accurately track hand movements even when they are positioned low on the body.
The Apple Vision Pro boasts a glass front and an aluminum frame, incorporating five sensors, 12 cameras, and a 4K display for each eye. It is equipped with a cooling fan to maintain optimal performance. The headset includes a cloth-lined mask called the “Light Seal” and a modular strap known as the “Head Band,” which can flexibly adjust to various face shapes and head sizes. The ribbed Head Band fits around the back of the head, and users have the option to swap different sizes and styles of bands. Zeiss has developed custom optical inserts that magnetically attach to the lenses to accommodate users who wear glasses. An external battery powers the device for up to two hours and can be connected via a flexible woven cable for convenient portability or plugged into an external power source for extended use. Apple promises an exceptionally sharp display capable of delivering 4K video quality.
The system features Apple’s M2 chip and introduces a new chip called the R1. Despite the immersive nature of the headset, Apple assures users that they won’t be isolated from their surroundings. The EyeSight system displays the wearer’s eyes, and when in full virtual reality mode, a glowing screen obscures the eyes to indicate unavailability. The device also creates a digital persona by scanning the user’s face, resulting in a hyperrealistic avatar representation. Through passthrough video technology, users can observe the real world in full color while projecting 3D objects into their physical environment, even pulling objects from messages into reality.
The Apple Vision Pro offers spatial audio capabilities for enhanced remote communication, enabling users to arrange FaceTime participants as video tiles around the virtual room. Additionally, the headset features a 3D camera that captures and allows users to “relive” 180-degree videos from their virtual experiences. Apple highlights TV and Arcade content for the headset, including premium offerings from Disney.
The development of the Vision Pro has encountered multiple iterations and significant delays over the years. As CEO Tim Cook’s notable contribution to Apple’s product lineup, the device has garnered praise from industry insiders, despite entering a market that has yet to fully take off. Its primary competitor is expected to be Meta (formerly Facebook Reality Labs), known for its successful gaming-focused Quest 2 headset, although the reception to its general-purpose Quest Pro has been more mixed.