In early June, the time had finally come: after years of speculation, Apple unveiled the Apple Vision Pro, the tech giant’s first spatial computer, at WWDC23. At the presentation, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook spoke of “a new era for computing,” while Mike Rockwell, Apple’s vice president of the Technology Development Group, called the Apple Vision Pro “the most advanced personal electronics device ever” (source: Apple).
Promising words, but what can the Apple Vision Pro really do? What are its technical specifications and when will the Apple Vision Pro be launched? Let’s take a closer look at the latest innovation from Apple.
Overview and hardware
Personal computing, mobile computing, spatial computing – the Apple Vision Pro is the third major innovation from the Californian technology company after the Mac and iPhone. Visually implemented as a wearable mixed reality headset, the Apple Vision Pro represents a standalone spatial computer that connects digital content to the physical world without isolating the user from their environment (the Apple Vision Pro is not intended to be classified as a VR or AR device).
What does that mean exactly? Apple Vision Pro creates an infinite canvas for apps that integrates seamlessly into the room without being limited by a display. The three-dimensional user interface is controlled by eye movements, hand gestures and voice commands.
Apple Vision Pro: hardware (source: Apple)
Let’s take a look at the hardware. The Apple Vision Pro basically consists of four components:
The central element of the Apple Vision Pro is a continuous piece of three-dimensionally formed, laminated glass that flows into a slightly curved aluminum alloy frame. This glass acts as a lens and contains all the internal hardware of the Apple Vision Pro, including all sensors, cameras and chips.
On the left side of the frame is a shutter button for taking photos and videos in 3D, and on the right side is the Digital Crown. Clicking on it opens the home screen; by turning it, the user can adjust the degree of immersion, and thus decide for themselves how much they want to immerse themselves in the virtual world.
The light seal
Lens and frame are connected with a light seal made of a soft textile that keeps unwanted light away from the eyes. It can be bent to adjust the fit and is available in a range of shapes and sizes.
The headband is made of three-dimensionally knitted fabric and has a light gray color with orange highlights. It provides cushioning, is breathable, stretchy and also available in multiple sizes.
To reduce the weight of the Apple Vision Pro, the battery is not integrated into the headset, but can be connected to it via a woven cable, similar to a powerbank. It fits easily into the pocket of a jacket or pants.
Overall, the Apple Vision Pro has a modular design so that the ideal-fitting model can be put together for every head and face shape.
Apple Vision Pro trailer: design
Display: Micro OLED technology and EyeSight
The Apple Vision Pro uses two ultra-high-resolution, micro-OLED displays in the size of a postage stamp, each with 23 million pixels per display. That’s a higher number of pixels than a 4K TV has – per eye. In addition, there are special catadioptric lenses that are supposed to ensure outstanding image sharpness. With these technical features, the Apple Vision Pro literally transforms any place into a home theater with a screen that feels 30 meters wide.
Glasses cannot be worn under the Apple Vision Pro, but users with vision correction needs can use ZEISS optical inserts that are magnetically attached to the inside of the display. The lenses have to be purchased separately.
EyeSight was developed so that users can better interact with other people while using the Apple Vision Pro: This innovative feature makes the device appear transparent as soon as someone approaches. Users can see the person, while at the same time the eyes of the user are visible. However, these are not the actual eyes, but rather a realistic projection in the lens.
Apple Vision Pro: EyeSight (source: Apple)
Cameras und eye tracking
Two main cameras, four downward-facing cameras, two infrared cameras, two side cameras, two TrueDepth cameras and five sensors – they are all integrated into the glass lens and continuously capture the user’s surroundings as well as their hand or eye movements, even in low light.
The two main cameras are Apple’s first 3D cameras. They are located on the bottom front and allow taking photos as well as videos with a larger depth of field. LiDAR scanner and true-depth cameras create 3D maps in real time, among other things.
In addition, there is the high-performance eye tracking system: It uses high-speed IR cameras and a ring of LEDs that project invisible light patterns onto the user’s eyes. This enables responsive, intuitive input, making additional hardware to control the Apple Vision Pro obsolete.
Speaking of control: No controllers or the like are needed for the Apple Vision Pro. The three-dimensional user interface is controlled intuitively by the user’s eyes, hands and voice. For example, the hand does not have to be raised to select certain things with the fingers – it can simply remain in the lap or at the sides of the user’s body.
Spatial audio und audio ray tracing
The Apple Vision Pro has an extremely advanced spatial audio system that provides a more intense sound experience. For this purpose, the user’s ears are scanned in advance (HRTF = Head-Related Transfer Function) to customize the spatial audio to the individual head and ear shape (this option has already been available since iOS 16). Two individually amplified drivers inside each audio pod, which are located in the immediate vicinity of the user’s ears, generate this personalized 3D audio and transfer it directly.
Furthermore, the Apple Vision Pro has audio ray tracing: This function uses sensors that detect materials and objects in the room to then give the impression that the sound comes directly from the surrounding environment.
Apple Vision Pro trailer: audio
Operating system: visionOS
The first spatial computer consequently also uses the first spatial operating system: visionOS features a three-dimensional user interface that appears as if it were physically present in the room. Visually, it resembles a mixture of iPhone, iPad and Mac screen, but at the same time it is something completely new.
Apple Vision Pro: visionOS (source: Apple)
The boundaries of a display are removed so that apps of any size can be displayed side by side in the space around the user – multitasking is redefined here. A connection with Magic Keyboard, Magic Trackpad or a Mac itself is also possible. In this case, the Apple Vision Pro becomes a very large, private and portable 4K display.
Apple Vision Pro: operating system (source: Apple)
The visionOS user interface responds dynamically to natural light and casts shadows to help the user understand scale and distance. Interaction itself happens via eyes, hands and voice, as mentioned earlier: Users can browse through apps by simply looking at them, select apps by tapping their fingers together, scroll by flicking their wrist, and dictate with their voice.
Processor, RAM and storage
For a smooth user experience, the Apple Vision Pro features a dual-chip design: the M2 chip provides standalone power to allow the device to operate independently, while the R1 chip provides a lag-free content experience. Heat generated by the processors is dissipated as the Apple Vision Pro draws air up the bottom of the headset and vents it out at the top.
The newly introduced R1 chip processes input from twelve cameras, five sensors, and six microphones, ensuring that content feels as if it is appearing in real time. New images are streamed to the displays within twelve milliseconds, eight times faster than the blink of an eye.
Unfortunately, there is no detailed information about the working memory and internal storage. Notebookcheck assumes that 12 GB of RAM and 512 GB of flash storage will be installed, but Apple has not officially confirmed anything in this regard yet.
Apple Vision Pro trailer: processor
If the Apple Vision Pro is connected to the mains (via USB-C adapter), it can be used all day. Apple also offers an external battery that is connected to the headset via cable, similar to a power bank. The runtime is approximately up to two hours.
The connection seems to be a kind of MagSafe cable, but Apple has not confirmed anything yet.
Weight and dimensions
An exact weight specification as well as the dimensions of the Apple Vision Pro have not been published yet. Nilay Patel, editor-in-chief of The Verge, could already test the headset and estimates the weight to be a bit less than one pound.
Some testers stated that the Apple Vision Pro was not as light as they thought and felt a bit out of balance due to the uneven weight distribution, with the main components at the front of the face. During demos, an additional headband was used, which extends over the head and should provide better support and comfort.
Privacy and security
Eye tracking, spatial audio – with so much sensitive data, the question arises how the Apple Vision Pro is set in terms of privacy and security. As it turns out, very well: The data collected during eye tracking, for example, is stored locally and not shared with Apple, third-party apps or websites.
The data recorded by the microphones, cameras and sensors is processed at system level, so individual apps do not have to check the user’s environment themselves. EyeSight, on the other hand, has a visual indicator that shows when users take a photo or video.
With Optic ID, a new authentication method is introduced that analyzes the iris of the user with various invisible LED light images, compares it with the Optic ID data protected by the Secure Enclave, and then unlocks the Apple Vision Pro. Optic ID user data is fully encrypted and remains internal to the device, so it is not stored on Apple servers. The data is not accessible to apps.
Price and release date
The price of the Apple Vision Pro starts at $3,499 (according to an early “Bill of Materials” analysis, production costs are estimated at around $1,500). How much the Apple Vision Pro will be priced in euros remains to be seen.
When the Apple Vision Pro will be available for purchase has also not yet been determined exactly. The headset is expected to be available in the US from spring 2024, with other countries coming later in the year. Apple sells the Apple Vision Pro exclusively directly via apple.com and in Apple Stores.
A hefty price that will make it difficult to get the Apple Vision Pro to a broad mass of people. But as Mark Gurman writes in his Power On newsletter, Apple is apparently already working on a cheaper model, which will probably be called Apple Vision or Apple Vision One. Since the cameras and sensors, the dual-chip design, and the two OLED displays are the most expensive components of the headset, cuts could be made in these elements, for example, to lower the price.
Apple Vision Pro – specs at a glance
Singular piece of 3D formed glass that acts as a lens, aluminum alloy frame, light seal, 3D knitted headband
Shutter button for photo/video recording
Digital Crown for immersion control
2x micro-OLED display with 23 million pixels each, pixel width 7.5 microns
Insertable ZEISS lenses for wearers of glasses
12 cameras, 5 sensors
Spatial audio (HRTF)
Audio ray tracing
|Eyes, hands, voice
M2 chip for standalone performance
R1 chip for a lag-free, real-time experience of content
|2 hours with external battery, otherwise mains operation
|Spring 2024 in the U.S., later that year in other countries
|3,499 US dollars, price in euros not yet announced
Apple Vision Pro Test – what are the first reactions?
Some testers have already had the opportunity to try out the Apple Vision Pro. Overall, all participants of the Apple Vision Pro demo are enthusiastic. “I think this is the first device where the word “magical” actually fits the most,” sums up web video producer Alexander Böhm on his YouTube channel AlexiBexi. One of the reasons why is that users don’t even realize that they are interacting with a technical device.
Nilay Patel from The Verge is also mostly positive about the Apple Vision Pro, but notes that wearing the headset makes you feel oddly lonely. He wonders how you can, for example, watch a movie together or collaborate with people who are in the room and connected via FaceTime at the same time.
Interesting thoughts that will certainly be joined by more as soon as the Apple Vision Pro is officially available on the market. In any case, Apple’s first spatial computer is promising – especially with regard to the possibilities that arise for remote service and use in industry.