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After experiencing a comprehensive 30-minute demonstration of Apple’s latest offering, the Apple Vision Pro, We are convinced that it represents a significant leap forward in the capabilities and execution of XR, or mixed reality. However, it is important to clarify that we are not asserting that the device fulfills all of Apple’s promises or introduces a completely new paradigm in computing, as these claims can only be validated once the product is officially released and thoroughly tested.

Having used almost every major VR headset and AR device since Oculus DK1 in 2013, including the latest generations of Quest and Vive headsets, we have explored numerous XR experiences and witnessed attempts to find the elusive “killer app” that would resonate with a wider audience. While there have been noteworthy successes in the realms of social interaction, storytelling, and gaming, such as Gorilla Tag, VRChat, and Cosmonius, and emotionally captivating first-person experiences from Sundance filmmakers, none of them possess the advantages that Apple brings to the table with the Apple Vision Pro.

Apple’s unparalleled advantage lies in its vast collection of over 5,000 patents filed in recent years and its abundant pool of talent and capital. Every aspect of the Apple Vision Pro demonstrates Apple-level ambition, with no compromises made and a clear dedication to cutting-edge engineering.

The hardware of the Apple Vision Pro is exceptional, featuring a remarkable 24 million pixels across the two panels, surpassing the resolution of most consumer headsets by orders of magnitude. The optics are superior, the headband is comfortable and easily adjustable, and there is a top strap for weight relief. While Apple is still refining the light seal options that will be shipped with the device, the default one provided during the demonstration was comfortable. They also plan to offer a variety of sizes and shapes to accommodate different facial structures. The power connector design is clever, utilizing internal pin-type power linkages with an external twist lock.

For users with vision differences, Apple offers a magnetic solution for certain optical adjustments. Additionally, the onboarding experience includes automatic eye-relief calibration that precisely aligns the lenses with the center of your eyes, eliminating the need for manual adjustments.

The main frame and glass piece of the Apple Vision Pro are aesthetically pleasing, although they are notably substantial in size. It is worth noting that two common barriers in VR experiences are motion sickness caused by latency and the sense of isolation that occurs during extended sessions. Apple has addressed both of these challenges head-on. The R1 chip, working alongside the M2 chip, boasts a system-wide polling rate of 12ms, ensuring smooth and judder-free performance. While a slight motion blur effect was present in the passthrough mode, it did not prove distracting. The windows rendered crisply and moved with snappiness.

Apple’s ability to mitigate these issues stems from the inclusion of entirely new and original hardware solutions. Every aspect of the Apple Vision Pro is packed with novel ideas, technologies, and implementations. However, this level of innovation comes at a cost, with the device expected to be priced at $3,500, positioning it as a high-end product for power users and early adopters.

Here’s what Apple has accomplished with the Apple Vision Pro that sets it apart from other headsets:

  • Near-perfect eye tracking and gesture control: Hand gestures are accurately detected anywhere around the headset, even when resting on your lap or on furniture. Apple employs high-resolution cameras dedicated to the bottom of the device to track hand movements. Additionally, an eye-tracking array ensures precise highlighting of objects after calibration, and simple finger taps enable seamless interaction.
  • Passthrough capability: The real-time 4K view of the surrounding environment, including people in close proximity, is crucial for comfortable and extended VR or AR use. Apple’s implementation of passthrough helps alleviate discomfort caused by the inability to see one’s surroundings for an extended period. Furthermore, an innovative “breakthrough” mechanism automatically passes a person approaching you through your content, with the external eyes on the device providing contextual cues for those outside.
  • Readable text: The high resolution of the Apple Vision Pro allows for clear and legible text at all sizes and distances within the virtual space. This feature is crucial for positioning the device as a comprehensive computing platform.

During the brief time with the headset, several surprising moments stood out. Apart from the display’s sharpness and the interface’s responsiveness, the attention to detail throughout the suite of samples was commendable.

The “Personas Play” feature, which generates a digital avatar based on a scan of your face using the Vision Pro headset, exceeded my expectations. While not flawless, the avatar convincingly captures skin tension and muscle movements. Machine learning models utilize facial expressions to interpolate a wide range of contortions. Interactions with a live person during a call felt natural and far from creepy.

The display quality is exceptionally crisp, with the ability to showcase intricate textures even in close proximity.

The Apple Vision Pro excels in displaying 3D movies, making them a visually captivating experience. Additionally, the device allows users to capture 3D photos and videos directly, although we did not personally test this feature.

Setting up the Apple Vision Pro is a smooth and straightforward process, typically taking only a few minutes, aligning with Apple’s user-friendly reputation.

The output of the interface and various applications is of such high quality that Apple utilized them directly in their keynote presentation. The interface features a vibrant and bold design that seamlessly interacts with other windows, casts shadows, and reacts to lighting conditions.

While we hesitate to make sweeping claims about the Apple Vision Pro’s potential to revolutionize spatial computing, it is undeniably a remarkably well-crafted XR headset. It represents the epitome of what an XR device should be. We now eagerly await the progress that developers and Apple will make in the coming months, as well as the public’s response to this cutting-edge offering.