June 6, 2023

Apple Vision Pro

During WWDC 2023 keynote, Apple presented its brand new device in an entirely new market for the company — the AR-headset called “Apple Vision Pro”. That presentation was the most mind-blowing for me since so long ago and at some moments even gave me goosebumps. In this article I'll try to explain why I am so excited about Vision Pro.

Vision Pro will be an AR-headset. The company is focusing on mixing virtual environment with the real one, yet allowing you to submerge into the pure virtuality. I was very happy to see Apple's implementation of AR for several reasons:

  1. Apple is already leading at wearable electronics market with their AirPods and Apple Watches, they've created the most advanced technologies in space tracking, 3D audio, biometric scanning (TouchID and FaceID), field-of-view scanning, etc. They are fully capable not just to enter XR market, but also to become a leader in it.
  2. AR implementation of Apple is not through transparent glass (hi HoloLens), but through cameras and displays, which means, fully-VR experience will still be possible in Vision Pro. Seeing some of tech specs of Vision Pro, I have no doubts they will nail it: more than 4K displays per eye, see-through with no visible pixels, glass Zeiss lenses, advanced eye tracking for precise cursor positioning, iris scanning for security, hand gestures recognition, hand tracking, spacial audio, virtual avatars that don't suck, casting 4K screen from your Mac, the power of the M2 chip…
  3. Apple is entering a completely new market for them. That means, it's a very important step, and they will do everything to attract developers' attention to the platform. With the power of third-party software, Apple will give the whole industry a kick-start for a new, this time real VR era. And who knows, maybe even metaverse.

When I've first seen Vision Pro during the keynote, I noticed the uncanny-valley effect of these funny and goofy faces visible through the headset. But the next second I realised the headset is not transparent, but it's an external display that shows your face to other people around you. And it actually does it not that bad because it almost convinces you Vision Pro is transparent. Apple decided to create an illusion of transparency. The AR experience is already transparent for you, but how to make it transparent for others, too? People around you need to see your face. They idea is so simple yet brilliant! You can quickly communicate your colleagues and family without taking Vision Pro off your head.

If I remember it correctly, VR headsets were born in 80s or so, much earlier than most people think. The problem was (besides graphics performance) the high costs of manufacturing. Making glass lenses for headsets was expensive af. Coming up with an idea of using flat plastic Fresnel lenses, the Oculus company gave a kick-start to the whole industry. After that, it became possible for different manufacturers to create more and more cheap headsets.

Now, Apple is collaborating with Zeiss to make glass lenses again. Meaning, those lenses will have much better physical qualities than plastic Fresnel or pancake ones, beautifully distorting crazy high-resolution displays of Vision Pro with unprecedent optical precision.

As said during the keynote, Apple already revolutionized markets before. They made graphical interfaces a common thing for masses and introduced the “mouse” to us with the first Macintosh, invented snappy and responsive capacitive Click Wheel in iPods, mind-blowing multi-touch gestures in iPhones (remember how in awe people were during the presentation of 2007 when Steve Jobs zoomed-in a photo with two fingers?), created the best and the fastest biometric scanners (TouchID and then FaceID). They are saying now that they are about to amaze us again with Vision Pro's natural gesture tracking and virtual interface interactions. And this time I believe them.

High-resolution see-through AR system will allow you to work in VR and stay in your real environment at the same time. There will be no problem anymore to use literally any keyboard, mouse, or trackpad while casting pro-grade software from your Mac into your Vision Pro. It will replace any of your monitor setups which for me personally sounds just amazing.

Some people are laughing at Vision Pro's external battery and its capacity. Yes, it's just 2 hours, but it should be enough to watch most of movies, play a game, or hop on a FaceTime with your friends or colleagues. The move with making the battery external is clever because it allowed Apple to make the headset lighter. It means, after you come back home, your can plug in a cord and wear it for even more hours on your head with less fatigue. I guess that's why Vision Pro doesn't have an additional strap on top. It's so lightweight it doesn't need it.

These are my first impressions of Vision Pro. We are going to learn more about the headset in coming months and many new details will be revealed soon, but for me personally, it's already impressive enough to pay the high (starting) price of 3,5 grands.

I think, after this year's WWDC keynote I regained my geeky love for gadgets and technology. What an exciting time to be alive!