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Apple makes AR its own with Vision Pro

Tim Cook coins “spatial computing” as Apple’s term for mixed reality as it sets the agenda for augmented reality headsets., writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

Apple has not only unveiled the Vision Pro augmented reality (AR) headset, but has also set the agenda for mixed reality – the combination of AR and virtual reality (VR).

As many had anticipated, CEO Tim Cook coined Apple’s own term for the technology category: spatial computing.

“Just as the Mac introduced us to personal computing, and iPhone introduced us to mobile computing, Apple Vision Pro introduces us to spatial computing,” he said. “Built upon decades of Apple innovation, “Vision Pro is years ahead and unlike anything created before — with a revolutionary new input system and thousands of groundbreaking innovations. It unlocks incredible experiences for our users and exciting new opportunities for our developers.”

The Apple Vision Pro is described as a “spatial computer that seamlessly blends digital content with the physical world, while allowing users to stay present and connected to others”.

In effect, it is an AR headset that allows one to overlay digital content – from text, images and video to menu systems and applications – over the real world. There have been many iterations, including Microsoft’s HoloLens, which was launched to great acclaim in 2016 but failed to address numerous limitations. The Vision Pro appears to have leapfrogged anything produced by Microsoft and other rivals.

One of the keys to its likely success is the first AR operating system, VisionOS.

Apple says: “Vision Pro creates an infinite canvas for apps that scales beyond the boundaries of a traditional display and introduces a fully three-dimensional user interface controlled by the most natural and intuitive inputs possible — a user’s eyes, hands, and voice. Featuring visionOS, the world’s first spatial operating system, Vision Pro lets users interact with digital content in a way that feels like it is physically present in their space. The breakthrough design of Vision Pro features an ultra-high-resolution display system that packs 23 million pixels across two displays, and custom Apple silicon in a unique dual-chip design to ensure every experience feels like it’s taking place in front of the user’s eyes in real time.

Mike Rockwell, vice president of Apple’s technology development group, says that the device required invention across nearly every facet of the system.

“Through a tight integration of hardware and software, we designed a standalone spatial computer in a compact wearable form factor that is the most advanced personal electronics device ever,” he said.

Of course, Apple’s public relations hype machine was running at full throttle through the live-streamed virtual launch event. As usual in an Apple launch, every device was the most powerful ever in its category, as if it had made previous new flagship products less powerful than their predecessors.

The legendary Steve Jobs “reality distortion field” – which blocks out doubt and creates a halo effect over any product – was in full display, as one speaker after another spoke in breathless tones about Apple’s new lineup.

Was it Apple’s most significant product launch of the past decade, as it has been positioned? That will depend on the uptake in the coming year. Chances are the cost will stifle initial sales: it will only arrive next year, at a starting price of $3,499 (around R68,000 in South African money), about the price of three new 15-inch MacBook Air laptops.

But, because it addresses so many limitations of previous AR devices, it will almost certainly lead the field from a technology point of view. If Apple applies the iPhone strategy of introducing multiple models at different price points, and brings down the entry level significantly, it will also lead in market share.

Apple yesterday also unveiled a new 15-inch MacBook Air with its M2 processor, Mac Studio with M2 Max and M2 Ultra, and Mac Pro with M2 Ultra, and previewed iOS 17, iPadOS 17, macOS Sonoma, and watchOS 10.

Here is a brief summary of the key features of each product:

New 15-inch MacBook Air with M2

  • 15.6-inch Liquid Retina display with 500 nits brightness
  • M2 chip with 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine
  • Up to 24GB of unified memory
  • Up to 2TB of SSD storage
  • MagSafe charging
  • 1080p FaceTime HD camera
  • Four speakers with force-cancelling woofers
  • Up to 18 hours of battery life
  • Starts at $1,299

Mac Studio with M2 Max and M2 Ultra

  • Compact and powerful desktop computer
  • M2 Max chip with 10-core CPU, 32-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine
  • M2 Ultra chip with 20-core CPU, 48-core GPU, and 32-core Neural Engine
  • Up to 64GB of unified memory
  • Up to 8TB of SSD storage
  • Two Thunderbolt 4 ports, two USB-A ports, HDMI port, SDXC card slot, and Gigabit Ethernet port
  • Starts at $1,999

Mac Pro with M2 Ultra

  • Most powerful Mac ever made
  • M2 Ultra chip with 20-core CPU, 48-core GPU, and 32-core Neural Engine
  • Up to 128GB of unified memory
  • Up to 1TB of SSD storage
  • Four Thunderbolt 4 ports, two HDMI ports, two USB-A ports, SDXC card slot, and 10Gb Ethernet port
  • Starts at $6,999

iOS 17

  • New lock screen with widgets and personalisation options
  • New Live Activities feature for staying up-to-date on sports, music, and more
  • New Messages features for better communication
  • New Photos features for organising and editing photos
  • New Health features for tracking fitness and health data
  • Available now for iPhone 8 and later

iPadOS 17

  • New Stage Manager feature for multitasking on iPad
  • New Collaboration features for working with others on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations
  • New Live Text feature for copying and pasting text from photos
  • New Translate feature for translating text in real time
  • Available now for iPad Pro, iPad Air, and iPad (5th generation) and later

macOS Sonoma

  • New Stage Manager feature for multitasking on Mac
  • New Collaboration features for working with others on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations
  • New Live Text feature for copying and pasting text from photos
  • New Translate feature for translating text in real time
  • Available now for MacBook Pro (2017 and later), MacBook Air (2018 and later), iMac (2017 and later), Mac mini (2018 and later), and Mac Pro (2019 and later)

watchOS 10

  • New Mindfulness app for tracking your meditation and relaxation habits
  • New Fitness+ features for working out with friends and family
  • New Sleep stages feature for tracking your sleep quality
  • New Heart Health features for tracking your heart rate and rhythm
  • Available now for Apple Watch Series 4 and later

Apple provided the following information on the Vision Pro:

Extraordinary New Experiences

Apple Vision Pro brings a new dimension to powerful, personal computing by changing the way users interact with their favourite apps, capture and relive memories, enjoy stunning TV shows and movies, and connect with others in FaceTime.

An infinite canvas for apps at work and at home: visionOS features a three-dimensional interface that frees apps from the boundaries of a display so they can appear side by side at any scale. Apple Vision Pro enables users to be even more productive, with infinite screen real estate, access to their favourite apps, and all-new ways to multitask. And with support for Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad, users can set up the perfect workspace or bring the powerful capabilities of their Mac into Vision Pro wirelessly, creating an enormous, private, and portable 4K display with incredibly crisp text.

Engaging entertainment experiences: With two ultra-high-resolution displays, Apple Vision Pro can transform any space into a personal movie theatre with a screen that feels 100 feet wide and an advanced Spatial Audio system. Users can watch movies and TV shows, or enjoy stunning three-dimensional movies. Apple Immersive Video offers 180-degree high-resolution recordings with Spatial Audio, and users can access an exciting lineup of immersive videos that transport them to entirely new places.

Spatial computing makes new types of games possible with titles that can span a spectrum of immersion and bring gamers into all-new worlds. Users can also play over 100 Apple Arcade games on a screen as large as they want, with incredible immersive audio and support for popular game controllers.

Immersive Environments: With Environments, a user’s world can grow beyond the dimensions of a physical room with dynamic, beautiful landscapes that can help them focus or reduce clutter in busy spaces. A twist of the Digital Crown lets a user control how present or immersed they are in an environment.

Memories come alive: Featuring Apple’s first three-dimensional camera, Apple Vision Pro lets users capture, relive, and immerse themselves in favourite memories with Spatial Audio. Every spatial photo and video transports users back to a moment in time, like a celebration with friends or a special family gathering. Users can access their entire photo library on iCloud, and view their photos and videos at a life-size scale with brilliant colour and spectacular detail. Every Panorama shot on iPhone expands and wraps around the user, creating the sensation they are standing right where it was taken.

FaceTime becomes spatial: With Apple Vision Pro, FaceTime calls take advantage of the room around the user, with everyone on the call reflected in life-size tiles, as well as Spatial Audio, so it sounds as if participants are speaking right from where they are positioned. Users wearing Vision Pro during a FaceTime call are reflected as a Persona — a digital representation of themselves created using Apple’s most advanced machine learning techniques — which reflects face and hand movements in real time. Users can do things together like watch a movie, browse photos, or collaborate on a presentation.

Even more app experiences: Apple Vision Pro has an all-new App Store where users can discover apps and content from developers, and access hundreds of thousands of familiar iPhone and iPad® apps that run great and automatically work with the new input system for Vision Pro. Apple’s developer community can go even further and take advantage of the powerful and unique capabilities of Vision Pro and visionOS to design brand-new app experiences, and reimagine existing ones for spatial computing.

A Revolutionary Operating System and User Interface

Built on the foundation of decades of engineering innovation in macOS, iOS, and iPadOS, visionOS was designed from the ground up to support the low-latency requirements of spatial computing. The result is a revolutionary operating system that delivers powerful spatial experiences that can take advantage of the space around the user, unlocking new opportunities at work and at home.

visionOS features a brand-new three-dimensional interface that makes digital content look and feel present in a user’s physical world. By responding dynamically to natural light and casting shadows, it helps the user understand scale and distance. To enable user navigation and interaction with spatial content, Apple Vision Pro introduces an entirely new input system controlled by a person’s eyes, hands, and voice. Users can browse through apps by simply looking at them, tapping their fingers to select, flicking their wrist to scroll, or using voice to dictate.

Apple Vision Pro also features EyeSight, an extraordinary innovation that helps users stay connected with those around them. When a person approaches someone wearing Vision Pro, the device feels transparent — letting the user see them while also displaying the user’s eyes. When a user is immersed in an environment or using an app, EyeSight gives visual cues to others about what the user is focused on.

Breakthrough Design

Apple Vision Pro builds on Apple innovation and experience designing high-performance products like Mac, iPhone, and wearables like Apple Watch, culminating in the most advanced personal electronics device ever. To achieve ambitious goals for performance, mobility, and wearability, Apple utilised the most advanced materials possible.

Apple Vision Pro has an astonishing amount of technology in a compact design. A singular piece of three-dimensionally formed and laminated glass is polished to create an optical surface that acts as a lens for the wide array of cameras and sensors needed to blend the physical world with digital content. The glass flows into the custom aluminium alloy frame that gently curves around the user’s face, while the modular system allows for a tailored fit to accommodate a wide range of people. The Light Seal is made of a soft textile, and comes in a range of shapes and sizes, flexing to conform to a user’s face for a precise fit. Flexible straps ensure audio remains close to the user’s ears, while a Head Band — available in multiple sizes — is three-dimensionally knitted as a single piece to provide cushioning, breathability, and stretch. The band is secured with a simple mechanism, making it easy to change to another size or style of band.

Unrivaled Innovation in Hardware

Apple Vision Pro is designed to deliver phenomenal compute performance in a compact wearable form factor. Featuring a breakthrough ultra-high-resolution display system built on top of an Apple silicon chip, Vision Pro uses micro-OLED technology to pack 23 million pixels into two displays, each the size of a postage stamp, with wide color and high dynamic range. This technological breakthrough, combined with custom catadioptric lenses that enable incredible sharpness and clarity, delivers jaw-dropping experiences. Users with vision correction needs will use ZEISS Optical Inserts to ensure visual fidelity and eye tracking accuracy.

An advanced Spatial Audio system is core to the Apple Vision Pro experience, creating the feeling that sounds are coming from the environment around the user and matching the sound to the space. Two individually amplified drivers inside each audio pod deliver Personalised Spatial Audio based on the user’s own head and ear geometry.

In addition to creating a breakthrough display and advanced audio experiences, the high-performance eye tracking system in Apple Vision Pro uses high-speed cameras and a ring of LEDs that project invisible light patterns onto the user’s eyes for responsive, intuitive input.

These groundbreaking innovations are powered by Apple silicon in a unique dual-chip design. M2 delivers unparalleled standalone performance, while the brand-new R1 chip processes input from 12 cameras, five sensors, and six microphones to ensure that content feels like it is appearing right in front of the user’s eyes, in real time. R1 streams new images to the displays within 12 milliseconds — 8x faster than the blink of an eye. Apple Vision Pro is designed for all-day use when plugged in, and up to two hours of use with its external, high-performance battery.

Industry-Leading Privacy and Security

Apple Vision Pro is built on a strong foundation of privacy and security, and keeps users in control of their data.

Optic ID is a new secure authentication system that analyses a user’s iris under various invisible LED light exposures, and then compares it to the enrolled Optic ID data that is protected by the Secure Enclave to instantly unlock Apple Vision Pro. A user’s Optic ID data is fully encrypted, is not accessible to apps, and never leaves their device, meaning it is not stored on Apple servers.

Where a user looks stays private while navigating Apple Vision Pro, and eye tracking information is not shared with Apple, third-party apps, or websites. Additionally, data from the camera and other sensors is processed at the system level, so individual apps do not need to see a user’s surroundings to enable spatial experiences. EyeSight also includes a visual indicator that makes it clear to others when a user is capturing a spatial photo or video.

Pricing and Availability

Apple Vision Pro starts at $3,499 (U.S.), and will be available early next year on and at Apple Store locations in the U.S., with more countries coming later next year. Customers will be able to learn about, experience, and personalise their fit for Vision Pro at Apple Store locations. For more information about Vision Pro, visit

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