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Impressions of Apple Vision Pro: A Promising Start for Apple, with Reservations

We don’t have the opportunity to try the Apple Vision Pro headset for ourselves, but there are some notable points that caught out attention and should intrigue you as well.

Firstly, while initial reactions from those who had hands-on experience with the Apple Vision Pro appear positive, it’s important to keep in mind that marketing videos and keynotes represent Apple’s desired outcome and may not necessarily reflect the actual accomplishments. However, the inclusion of dual 4K microOLEDS, providing approximately 32 pixels per degree (PPD), seems plausible and would offer exceptional visual quality for a portable VR/AR headset.

For context, the Oculus/Meta Quest 2 currently delivers 17.6 PPD, so the visual clarity of the Apple Vision Pro would be roughly double that of the Quest 2. This level of display quality can only be achieved with a modified Apple Silicon M2 chipset, no-latency foveated rendering facilitated by embedded eye tracking, and a dedicated R1 chip dedicated to tracking and spatial mapping.

Design and Features The final design closely resembles the latest 3D renders circulating in rumors, such as the one by Marcus Kane. The lens stack of the Apple Vision Pro adopts a pancake technology similar to that found in skiing goggles. The rumor of a detachable battery was also accurate, with a dangling wire serving as the connection. This indicates that Apple envisions the primary usage of the headset to be in home and office settings rather than on the go. It is reasonable to expect multiple third-party battery packs that offer longer usage times, as well as accessories allowing the battery to be attached to the back of the Apple Vision Pro.

Naming Surprise Although the Apple Vision Pro trademark was filed years ago and was mentioned in previous rumors, many, including myself, anticipated the name to be Apple Reality Pro. The choice of “Vision” is intriguing, as it doesn’t align with established terminology in the immersive technology industry. This suggests that Apple aims to differentiate itself from existing players. Only time will tell whether this strategy will work in their favor or hinder their progress.

Outpacing Meta Meta RealityLabs’ Passthrough Development

During the keynote, we couldn’t help but chuckle when EyeSight was introduced. The reason behind my amusement is that reverse, neural, or two-way passthrough (referred to by various names) has been in development at Meta’s RealityLabs for years and was publicly disclosed in a research paper in mid-2022. In essence, Apple’s Vision Pro implements the same idea of an outward-facing display showing the wearer’s eyes in real-time. However, Apple achieves this by scanning your face topology, skin tone, and other characteristics using an iPhone, rather than relying on inward-facing cameras.

Interestingly, Meta deemed the implementation of reverse passthrough too costly. Hence, Apple’s decision to include this feature signifies their long-term strategy of removing as many barriers as possible to foster widespread adoption of immersive technologies. Undoubtedly, EyeSight adds a few more Benjamin Franklins to the price.

Additionally, Apple took a subtle jab at Meta’s avatars during the FaceTime demonstration with Apple Vision Pro, showcasing a 3D-rendered mirror of the user’s face instead of an animated cartoon. This approach aligns with Meta’s RealityLabs’ work in 2020 on Modular Codec Avatars.

Capturing Live Memories

Apple has always prioritized human interaction over technology, and the Apple Vision Pro aims to capture moments in real-time 3D using its LiDAR spatial sensor, true depth optical cameras, and infrared (IR) sensors, creating a unique way to relive memories. It’s an impressive feature, although personally, I can’t envision myself filming my child’s birthday from a headset while facing questions about my parental presence.

Not Designed for Gaming

In line with Apple’s usual approach, the Vision Pro is not intended for gaming, primarily due to the absence of dedicated controllers. As rumored, the Apple Vision Pro will be controlled solely through natural gestures (finger pinches) and gaze control (where you look). While this user experience is excellent for various use cases, it may not translate well to gaming. Imagine playing a shooter game by simply looking and pinching. Instead, we can expect casual mixed reality games like Puzzling Places, rather than a sequel to Half-Life: Alyx.

Productivity at Its Peak

The Apple Vision Pro’s true strength lies in productivity. For instance, if you’re immersed in Apple’s ecosystem and using a MacBook, wearing the Vision Pro allows you to mirror and enlarge your Macbook’s content in real-time—an impressive feature that enhances productivity.

Resonating with Meta Quest Pro

Interestingly, when the Meta Quest Pro was released last fall, reviewers noted a significant disconnect between price and usability. Apple’s renowned brand aside, we anticipate that the Apple Vision Pro may face similar scrutiny, especially since the Meta Quest Pro is priced $2,500 lower than the $3,499 price tag of the Vision Pro.

Overall, Apple seems to have adopted a strategy similar to Meta’s approach with the Quest Pro. They’ve invested heavily in research and development, resulting in a high price point, targeting affluent Apple fans and select enterprises to recoup costs over the product’s lifespan. Meanwhile, they continue to cultivate the Apple ecosystem internally. This may dissuade smaller to medium-sized developers from investing design and coding hours, given the limited adoption potential, despite the half-year announcement-to-release timeframe. However, it positions Apple to refine their offering and introduce a lower-priced mixed reality headset in the future, competing with the likes of the Meta Quest Pro and HTC Vive XR Elite in terms of price and features.

A Visionary Beginning for Apple

The Apple Vision Pro is not the original iPhone, but it is undeniably impressive and represents one of Apple’s most exciting new products in recent times. The “Pro” branding and the steep $3,499 price tag indicate that it is not intended for mass adoption. Similar to the Apple Pro Display, it targets affluent Apple enthusiasts and enterprises involved in design and development.

Nonetheless, like the Meta Quest Pro, the futuristic technologies featured in the Apple Vision Pro will likely be refined and incorporated into a more affordable successor (as rumors and leaks suggest). Apple’s commitment to humanizing the inherently isolating nature of virtual reality is nothing short of visionary, making the Apple Vision Pro a fitting start to this endeavor.

Featured image was taken from Apple.

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