Apple delivered a lot of big announcements at its WWDC 2023 keynote, including new Mac devices, new features on iOS 17, and improvements to other platforms such as WatchOS and tvOS. However, it was the Cupertino-based company’s traditional ‘one more thing’ that truly got the assembled crowd to sit up and take notice. The Apple Vision Pro, the company’s first mixed reality headset, was almost impossible to wrap my head around, and it’s safe to say that everyone in the audience at Apple Park was similarly amazed.
Of course, the Vision Pro is far from launch; it’s expected to go on sale in the US in early 2024 for $3,499 (approximately Rs. 2,88,700). It’s naturally a lot more expensive than practically every other mixed reality headset in the market right now, but if it lives up to the expectations set by the keynote, it’ll be worth it for early adopters.
Apple Vision Pro: so, so advanced
The media in attendance at Apple Park were wowed by pretty much every feature of the Apple Vision Pro when announced during the keynote. Of particular note is EyeSight, a feature which uses camera sensors around the device to detect when someone is in the room with the wearer, allowing a look at the wearer’s eyes. This makes the Vision Pro unlike other similar headsets where the wearer is fully cut off from the world.
Instead, the focus is firmly on allowing you to be as present in the real world, as you want to be in the virtual world. The headset will also let you adjust your surroundings, and promises to work seamlessly with Mac and iOS devices and apps. You can, therefore, use this for productivity and creating an augmented workspace, just as much as you’d want to watch movies, play games, or jump onto AR-powered FaceTime calls.
Apple Vision Pro: a ski mask with a computer built in
The specifications of the Vision Pro are impressive, with dual Micro OLED displays for clear visibility, the M2 chip for power, and multiple cameras, sensors, and microphones to work with hand gestures and voice for controls. You can also use a keyboard and mouse for some productivity functions. For biometric authentication, the Vision Pro uses Optic ID to scan your retina and let you log in. All of this works with VisionOS, a new platform being developed for Apple’s new ‘spatial computing’ device.
Up close, the Apple Vision Pro is quite as beautiful as the renders in the keynote. It’s smaller than most other VR and mixed reality headsets, despite all the hardware and capabilities packed in. While the media wasn’t allowed to try it on, it did look like the kind of product only Apple could build, with classic Apple design cues all around. The padding and headband textures are a lot like that of the AirPods Max, as is the digital crown on the top, and the whole thing looks like it will be comfortable enough to wear for hours at a time.
When plugged in, the Vision Pro can be used all day, while the battery pack will let you run the headset for two hours at a time. Power is delivered through a MagSafe-like connector, while the battery pack can slip into your backpack or pocket, which looked nice and compact.
The outer side of the headset even had some trippy visuals flowing on the preview units on display. There’s no built-in sound on the Vision Pro; you’ll need AirPods for that, and it will work with Spatial Audio to virtualise where the sound is coming from based on what’s on the screen. There’s also talk of 3D support, with Disney coming on board as an early partner to support Disney+ on the Vision Pro from day one.
Apple Vision Pro: final thoughts
The concepts, technologies, and thought process that have gone into the Vision Pro makes this quite possibly the most exciting hardware product to look out for in the coming year. Although this isn’t a finished product just yet (even the display units were strictly off limits), Apple promises to deliver the Vision Pro in early 2024 in the US, followed by other markets later on. Promises have been made, and expectations are high.