Apple unveiled its first mixed reality headset, called the Vision Pro, in California on Monday. The glasses show either a virtual reality (VR) or a fusion of the virtual and real world, called Augmented Reality, AR. It costs from 3500 dollars, works autonomously without a smartphone, but requires an external battery pack connected by cable. The combined AR/VR glasses should not only appeal to gamers, but should also be suitable for virtual meetings and many new services. Apple says it’s the most important announcement ever made, an all-new platform and a “revolutionary new product.” The glasses are, in the words of Tim Cook, “the beginning of a journey for a new approach to personal technology.”
Virtual reality and augmented reality have been a big topic for years. Many companies already supply similar computer glasses, and now Apple is taking a first step in this direction. VR glasses create a completely artificial world. AR glasses, on the other hand, enrich the real world with artificial elements, they are superimposed on reality, so your own environment remains visible.
The now introduced headset made of aluminium, carbon fiber and curved, laminated glass looks like a futuristic ski goggle. The design is based on the Airpod Max headphones. The front is a display so the eyes and facial expression of the glasses wearer are visible when you set that up. Vision Pro is equipped with numerous camera modules, also for taking photos and videos, and high-resolution micro-OLED displays. It delivers 23 million pixels for both eyes and at least 4K for each eye. No other information, such as brightness, was given.
Switching from VR to AR, i.e. from a completely virtual view to one that includes the real environment, is done with the digital crown on the glasses. Then the outside image is let through. The Apple Watch also has a digital crown. The Vision Pro also dispenses with the usual controllers that are held in the hand and used to control applications. Rather, Apple relies on a control that evaluates the eye and hand movements as well as the voice. For example, you fix your eyes on a virtual app and start it by pressing your thumb and forefinger together, a kind of virtual mouse click. Siri, microphones, loudspeakers as well as IR and lidar sensors are also on board. At the beginning of the coming year, the glasses will initially only be available in America. Due to the slim design, it is not possible to wear additional conventional glasses while using the headset. The Vision Pro uses Zeiss lenses that are used to compensate for their wearer’s vision limitations.
The Vision Pro uses an M2 chip from the Apple computers, plus an R1 chip that takes photos from 12 cameras and five microphones. The external battery provides power for a runtime of around two hours. The weight was not communicated.
The headset gets its own operating system, it’s called Vision OS. A number of well-known Apple apps are running right from the start, including Facetime video telephony, which the headset takes to a new level.