Apple’s first augmented reality headset is coming early next year. Called Vision Pro, it’s a wearable computer with a large glass front, two high-quality micro OLED displays, 12 cameras, and five sensors that allows you to see apps overlaid on real-world environments.

Among other things, it allows you to make calls, watch videos, or use apps and games. And unlike most other VR headsets, it doesn’t require a set of external controllers: Apple says you can interact with Vision Pro using your hands, voice, and eyes… assuming you can afford it. Prices start at $3,499.

Apple says it’s worth the price because the headset is like a big-screen TV, a laptop, and a high-quality camera all rolled into one. But I seriously doubt we’re at the point where anybody is going to replace any of those gadgets with this thing, which makes Vision Pro a product that only developers and/or die-hard enthusiasts with money to burn can love.

But… if it takes off, it could be the beginning of an entirely new product category for Apple, and we could see more affordable versions in the future.

Here’s what we know about Vision Pro so far.

The software experience is similar to what you’d see on an iPhone or iPad: there’s a home screen with a grid of apps. But instead of viewing it on a 2D surface, it’s overlaid as a 3 dimensional view in front of your eyes.

The user interface responds to your eyes. But you can also use your fingers for gestures. For example, you can tap two fingers together to select, and flick your fingers to scroll. There is a digital crown that you use for some actions, including bringing up the home screen.

Apple says you can also use Bluetooth accessories like Apple keyboards or Macs. And you can use Vision Pro as a sort of external display for other Apple devices like a Mac computer: just look at your Mac and the screen will show up on a large, resizable virtual window in front of your eyes.

Not only does the display allow you to see the world around you, but the headset also allows other people to see your eyes. Apple is introducing a feature it calls EyeSight that uses the exterior glass as a display to show your eyes when other people are detected nearby, allowing for more natural conversations without the need to remove your headset (as long as you don’t look like you’re wearing a face computer while you talk).

When you’re interacting with apps and people cannot see your eyes, the display shows more of a blurry graphic. And if you’re using immersive apps that block out the real world entirely, those color lights take up more space and shine more brightly.

As expected, Vision Pro looks pretty comfortable compared with other headsets… but that’s at least partially because the battery isn’t in the headset itself. Instead there’s a wire that runs to an external battery pack that you can keep in your pocket.

But… that battery? It only offers up to 2 hours of battery life. I have to wonder if Apple is going to sell extra batteries that you can swap out, or higher-capacity batteries for folks that actually want to watch a full movie before their headset runs out of juice.

Also as expected? Part of the appeal is that Vision Pro taps into existing Apple apps and services like Facetime. Not only can you use it for voice and video calls with people who are calling from a phone, tablet, or computer, but spatial audio means that if you position on person’s window to your left and another’s to your right, you’ll hear them as if they’re speaking from those locations.

That audio comes courtesy of speakers built into the sides. They don’t actually cover your ears, which will allow you to hear the world around you – the idea of this headset is mixed reality, not virtual reality, after all.

Vision Pro’s 3D cameras aren’t just used to situate the user interface in real space. You can also use it to capture 3D “spatial video” using the camera and mic system and share them with other users.

While Vision Pro is an augmented reality headset rather than virtual reality, it does allow you to darken the environment for a distraction-free environment while watching movies or TV shows (including 3D movies) or playing games. Or you can use “environments” to watch videos in a virtual theater or other spaces.

Apple says the headset’s displays are made from two micro OLED displays with 23 million pixels across both. The displays are incredibly pixel-dense, with 64 pixels crammed into the space of a single iPhone pixel, allowing Apple to higher-than-4K image quality in a tiny space. It also supports high dynamic range (HDR) color.

The company also partnered with Zeiss to allow users with prescription glasses to get prescription lenses that can be inserted.

Vision Pro’s primary processor is an Apple M2 processor, but there also a new chip called R1 that handles processing of data from the cameras and sensors, including 12 cameras, six microphones, and five other sensors.

And while Vision pro runs versions of many of the same apps you can use on an iPhone or iPad, Apple developed a new operating system called visionOS that it says provides the tools for “spatial computing” with a new way to interact with 2D apps on a 3D interface, and support for new types of 3D and augmented reality applications.

Another new feature debuting with Vision Pro is a new security feature called Optic ID that uses iris scanning for logins, mobile payments, and other features without the need for fingerprint recognition or a scan of your full face.

press release

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  1. Does anyone know the field-of-view for this device? -the usual measure for comparing displays which claim a massive screen

  2. I remember how appalled people were at the idea of having to sign into a Facebook account to use the Quest 2. Apple will require you to scan your eyes and provide a 3D image of your body in order to use this device. Watch the doe eyed masses swipe their credit cards and pay hand over first for this Black Mirror concept come to life.

    1. LOL. That is definitely a very dystopian vision of the future. I don’t necessarily disagree with you that this is the future, but for now? No. Not going to happen. Not yet. A “digital ID” for the future or you can’t get online? It’s coming. Just not yet.

      1. Try Sam Altman’s Worldcoin for that…although we all know just how much Apple likes a walled garden cough, prison, cough

  3. Do all of you mind if I go off on a tangent for a moment and not talk about the product in question? Just a thought I had earlier when I first read this article….

    Anyone notice how in all the screenshots of the VR headset, the woman is smiling when she’s wearing it, like she’s having a good time using it? It’s extremely deceptive and every advertising company uses that tactic. If they don’t smile the person seeing it might percieve they don’t enjoy the product, so they make sure they always look like they’re having a good time with it. It’s dishonest and it’s extremely deceptive and not always accurate to how the product might be in real life. Just saying. This jumped out at me when I was reading this article. Apple and Intel are masters at marketing, so beware the deception.

    1. Well, they always do that. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an ad for any product by anyone that shows someone using whatever they’re selling but not smiling while using it, unless they’re trying to sell it as more cool than it is fun or good tasting. Just gets more obvious when whatever they’re selling isn’t obviously delivering an improvement.
      Someone showed me a video ad for the thing. It showed someone wearing the headset while on a video call. It just made me wonder what the person on the other end, not wearing the headset, sees, but instead of being weirded out, of course it’s all smiles.

      1. Exactly my point. It’s an attempt to manipulate people. Subtle and harmless as it may be percieved, it’s still deceptive. I just wanted to raise conscious awareness of it.

        If a product or company is so good as they claim, let them stand on their own merits. No need to try to manipulate people to believe your narrative.

        That’s all.

        It’s just another reason I dislike corpos. So much propaganda comes from them. People think it’s harmless but they are trying to manipulate people. It’s disgusting.

        1. It’s marketing, nothing better or worse about it; models posing as consumers enjoying their device/the technology.

          On the flip side, it’s worth noting how the reel shows people sitting/standing alone in closed spaces while using the device – it’s not meant for public spaces obviously, but it outlines the personal tech/lifestyle nature of the product, ie. a gadget for the rich & bored as this merely respins existing tech habits.

      2. I since found out that what the other person sees is basically a CGI avatar of you that relies on neural networks to guess as to what it should be doing.
        I sorta think that seeing something that’s supposed to be a guy you know but looks fake would undermine trust a bit, particularly if you’ve been worrying about AI lately.

  4. Brad: displays are micro OLED in this device, no micro LED. Although both are much better than LCD, there is a big difference between OLED (micro size or normal size) and micro LED.

  5. As someone who suffered from motion sickness when I was a kid if I rode in the back seat, I might be one of the small percentage of the population that would get sick if I put in a VR headset. I’ve never had the pleasure myself of trying one personally. It was always on the bucket list of wanting to try it at some point, and it never happened.

    As someone else said in another forum, “what problem are they trying to solve with this headset?”, I kind of agree. Perhaps this will be the breakout that VR needs, to have backing from a corporation like Apple, and maybe it will finally be the year of the VR headset?

    Not that I’m particularly interested myself any more in this tech, but, at $3,500 I believe they will sell regardless.

    Best of luck in this latest venture, Apple. Perhaps yours might succeed.

  6. A $3500 M2 Mac that can’t natively run Mac apps? We will see how well the Mac streaming actually works.

      1. Wouldn’t do much good unless you put in the work to create the software needed to use it, and I’m not certain we could expect a quality experience from an open source project.

        1. OpenXR is such an example, as is the Unreal gaming engine (at least, the source is available on Github).

          There’s also a business-oriented headset being developed specifically to run Linux.

          I imagine Phosh / Phoc could be adapted for the purpose too.

  7. Apple sure has to be in the long game for this to work. Considering one device per person, it’d be incredibly expensive for any family to be able to dive in. How long until a product this level can be under $1000? More than five years for sure.

    Apple’s other products in a new category were never this unobtainable.

  8. I think this approach is physically and psychologically too imposing to become a replacement for a tv, laptop or camera.

    1. Well, they announced it at the developer conference for a reason. They’re kind of hoping people will come up with stuff for you to do with it. If the use of a new item of technology is initially optional, it does not necessarily remain optional.
      This video has some ideas.

  9. “so other people nearby might be able to hear what you’re listening to”: I bought Bose glasses with sound and, while you can hear music/sound from glasses and sound around you, no one can hear music/sound from glasses because sound is proyected directly to your ears and it would bee too much low to other point. It functions very good. It coukd be Apple use a similar system.

  10. That retinal scanning “security” mechanism…is it going to work in partnership with Sam Altman’s Worldcoin “solution” for a global techno-financial moat?

  11. It might be the best implementation of augmented reality yet, they may have somehow solved touch controls with no tactile feedback somehow, and it might have access to actual productivity applications, but I still feel like this would be hard to make catch on, even if they sold it for half as much. Then again, I thought airpods were ugly when they launched and yet they destroyed wired headphones.
    But I don’t want to go around with ski goggles on my face surrounded by images of people who don’t really exist (those “imaginary friends” they mentioned) controlled by a ridiculously environmentally unfriendly AI machine swarm. And I don’t want to pay $3500 or even $1500 for the privilege of doing so. Plus the cell phone you still have to carry because even though they could fit a cellular modem into the thing, they didn’t, and apple doesn’t let you cheat and use their cellular watch as a hotspot.
    To make matters worse, it’s a proprietary battery; you can’t just use generic USB power packs.
    Can they make this fashionable? I really don’t know. All I know is this is the first time in a long time I’ve seen an apple event and not felt any kind of insecurity for not wanting to buy what they were selling.

    1. Yeah, I saw a lot of comments on social media during the live stream that this is the perfect product announcement for… 2020/2021.

      It looks like a device designed for a world where people don’t leave the house. And it’d be amazing if we were all working virtually and not traveling to visit friends and family.

      But I don’t see much of a use case for taking this outside the home. And inside the home it feels like all AR/VR headsets: a device you use when you don’t want to interact with anyone else living in your home. It’s unlikely to offer the same communal experience as a big-screen TV anytime soon.

      Maybe it’ll appeal to solo gamers?

      Otherwise it’s likely to find the same limited niches in professional settings as Hololens and Google Glass.

      In terms of the consumer market, it may be a better Meta Quest, but is it 7X the price better?

      1. It will probably be combined with some level of Apple Business Manager remote provisioning plan

      2. This isn’t really competing with the Quest. It is more in the style of the Quest Pro, which was $1500 at release. With the eye tracking, finger tracking and an M2 processor, this is more for the professional segment and is one powerful system.

        I think Apple decided to toss everything they could into the goggles and see if there is a market for a professional AR system. Maybe there is. I doubt they listened to the lower cost users, like the Quest 2, in designing this. I’d bet they looked at what people used from the Google Glass, Quest Pro, Vive Pro and Index, then added in a few power features for what people expected. Now they can sit back and see if there is a market.

        That being said, I can’t figure out a use that justifies the $3500 price tag, but I only live in my world, with my uses and my needs. There may be enough people that see this as something they can use in their world though.

    2. “and yet they destroyed wired headphones.”
      Haha are you serious? AirPods sound like absolute junk compared to even a $50 pair of IEMs from Amazon. They could never compete with a pair worth the same price and are pretty much toys next to over ear cans from Audio-Technica or Audeze.

      1. I mean everyone I’ve seen in public has quit using wired headphones. They don’t usually use airpod brand airpods, but they still don’t use wired headphones.