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Apple Proclaims the "Era of Spatial Computing" Is Here with the High-Tech High-Price Vision Pro

Compatible with iPhone and iPad apps, "Immersive Video," and usable as a virtual display for a Mac, the Vision Pro launches in February.

Apple has announced "the era of spatial computing" through the upcoming launch of its Apple Vision Pro mixed reality headset — with pre-orders opening on Friday, January 19th.

"The era of spatial computing has arrived," claims Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive officer, of the company's latest wearable launch and its first entry into the virtual, augmented, and mixed reality (VR, AR, and MR) market. "Apple Vision Pro is the most advanced consumer electronics device ever created. Its revolutionary and magical user interface will redefine how we connect, create, and explore."

Apple claims "spatial computing" is here, thanks to the launch of its Vision Pro headset. (📹: Apple)

Apple is keen for users to see the Vision Pro as a "spatial computer," powered by a one-two punch of Apple's in-house M2 and R1 chips and with 12 cameras, five sensors, and six microphones, rather than a simple headset. Running the company's in-house visionOS software stack, the Vision Pro creates a three-dimensional user interface controlled by the wearer's eye movements, hand gestures, and voice.

Videos can be displayed on a free-floating virtual canvas with the real world visible around the user, or the real world sent away in favor of virtual "Environments" — which can be faded in and out by twisting the "Digital Crown" control.

Interestingly, not everything on the Vision Pro will be new — nor built for augmented reality. The company is making much of visionOS' support for iOS and iPadOS apps, which will "automatically work" with the 3D user interface and new input system. The 4k-format micro-OLED displays, one for each eye, will also support existing streaming services with High Dynamic Range (HDR) content — and Apple's own Immersive Video format, offering 180-degree three-dimensional footage with spatial audio.

The device can be used in augmented or full virtual reality modes, though the bulk of its apps are two-dimensional iPhone and iPad applications. (📹: Vision Pro)

One unusual feature of the headset requires that you hold it rather than wear it: the front-facing sensor system can be used to scan the user to create a "Persona" — a digital avatar which mimics the wearer's facial movements, for use during FaceTime calls. Should someone approach in the real world, meanwhile, a front panel display shows a rendering of the wearer's eyes through a system the company calls "EyeSight" — making the headset appear translucent.

All this, however, comes at a serious cost: Apple is opening pre-orders for the Vision Pro on January 19, ahead of shipping on February 2nd, at an eye-watering $3,499 for a base model with 256GB of storage, two bands, a light seal with two cushions, and an off-headset battery connected via a tether cable to reduce the headset's weight; those who require corrective lenses can pay an additional $99 for reader lens inserts or $149 for prescription inserts from lens maker ZEISS.

More information is available on the Apple website.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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