California: Apple Inc unveiled its latest innovation, the Vision Pro headset, in an attempt to dominate the nascent headset market currently led by Meta Platforms Inc. Priced at $3,499, this premium-tier device is not yet suitable for the mass market, as it requires a setup session with Apple staff and a consultation with a vision specialist to ensure proper fit and functionality. Despite its hefty price tag, Apple aims to bring down costs as the technology advances.
The Vision Pro headset boasts a unique “digital crown,” similar to the Apple Watch, allowing users to seamlessly transition between the real world and the virtual realm with a simple tap or turn. Users can walk around a room, immerse themselves in a 3D film, or even witness virtual objects interact with the physical world, such as a butterfly landing on their outstretched hand. However, during a demonstration, the device experienced a glitch, highlighting the need for further refinement.
Welcome to the era of spatial computing with Apple Vision Pro. You’ve never seen anything like this before! pic.twitter.com/PEIxKNpXBs
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) June 5, 2023
Noteworthy features of the Vision Pro include the ability to maintain awareness of the real world and other individuals. By default, the device presents the outside world in vivid colour, even when fully immersed in virtual content. Using exterior cameras, the headset detects approaching people, causing them to materialize within the virtual environment.
Hollywood is expected to show interest in the Vision Pro, as Apple showcased immersive videos shot with specialized proprietary cameras that allow viewers to step inside and explore. These captivating experiences can evoke a strong sense of place, such as the feeling of being on a precipice with a tightrope walker, creating an unsettling yet thrilling urge to look down into the depths below. However, the device’s realistic display can also reveal mundane details that appear out of place in polished productions, like a plastic water bottle incongruously placed on a piano during a recording session.
Apple has primarily targeted the business sector with the Vision Pro, highlighting its multitasking capabilities and the ability to use multiple apps simultaneously, akin to multiple high-resolution displays. The device also enables two users to collaborate and manipulate three-dimensional virtual objects during a conference call. These features hold potential for corporate use, where the headset’s cost would be justified as a business expense rather than a personal purchase.
While demonstrating video calls on the Vision Pro, Apple showcased a FaceTime conversation between two users wearing the headset. The technology projects an image of the caller using complex algorithms and data from the headset’s eye-tracking and hand-tracking systems. However, this results in a subtly uncanny effect, known as the “uncanny valley,” where faces resembling humans but not quite can evoke a sense of unease among users.