What Is Apple’s New Mixed Reality Headset?

If there’s one thing Apple can be consistently relied upon to do, it’s innovate in the world of hardware. The company is well-known for its forward-thinking devices that offer a simple, intuitive user experience, wrapped up in an appealing shell that looks great to both tech nerds and fashionistas alike. Whether it’s the iPhone, the iPad, or even the MacBook, Apple knows how to make devices that turn heads.

Another device appears to have been added to that lineup with the advent of the Vision Pro, a sleek new mixed-reality headset that Apple unveiled during WWDC 2023. As soon as it was revealed, there were murmurs both praising Apple’s genius and expressing scepticism that the device could ever take off. What is the Vision Pro, though, and should you buy one? Here’s our rundown of Apple’s new device.

What exactly is the Apple Vision Pro?

Apple describes the Vision Pro as a “revolutionary spatial computer” that blends augmented reality and virtual reality together. Rather than a classic VR headset, it doesn’t create entirely virtual worlds (although it’s probably capable of doing that as well); rather, it superimposes digital elements onto the real world around you, thus allowing you to interact with them as though they were right in front of you.

According to the BBC’s Zoe Kleinman, the Vision Pro is “like your phone but right in front of you”; it lets you watch videos, view photo galleries, and read online content within a virtual environment, making it more like a mixed reality iPhone than a traditional gaming headset. Apple doesn’t seem to be pitching the device at gamers, either; it’s aiming more at a casual demographic than a specific set of users.

How much will the Apple Vision Pro cost?

Here we come to what is potentially the first major sticking point of the Vision Pro: its price. Apple is asking an eye-watering $3,499 for the Vision Pro, which works out at around £2,800 (although, naturally, Apple will probably add extra to that cost, so don’t expect the Vision Pro to cost less than £3,000 when it comes out in the UK). 

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You don’t need us to tell you that $3,499 is a heck of a lot of money, and it might sound prohibitive to you, especially if you’re not already a member of the Apple faithful. Bear in mind, though, that many people will pay top dollar for MacBooks and iPhones with top-of-the-range specs, and if you’re already in the market for Apple products, this could well be the device that sells you on the mixed reality revolution.

What are the Apple Vision Pro’s specs?

So, how does the Vision Pro compare to other VR headsets on the market? Well, if you’re wondering that, then you might already be thinking in the wrong terms. On paper, iPhones, MacBooks, and other Apple devices often don’t seem to have comparably powerful hardware to Android or Windows devices, but that’s not how Apple works. 

By designing its own software for its devices, Apple knows exactly what kind of hardware it’s working with, so its machines are often far more powerful than you might expect from their raw numbers. Nevertheless, here are some of the specs for the Apple Vision Pro.

  • Apple M2 chip. The M2 is Apple’s secret weapon; it powers both MacBooks and iPads, and now, it’ll power the Vision Pro as well. The SoC (System on a Chip) is a pretty powerful piece of kit, so you can expect the Vision Pro to easily keep up with some of the most up-to-date VR headsets on the market (although it’s seemingly not geared for gaming, so you might want to hang onto your Valve Index for that purpose).
  • New R1 chip. In order to reduce the customary motion sickness that VR often induces, Apple has designed the new R1 chip, which the Vision Pro will include. It’s also intended to aid in head and hand tracking, as well as eye-tracking and more. 
  • Dual micro-OLED displays. Apple says that the dual displays in the Vision Pro will feature more pixels than a 4K TV, so the display should be pretty darn sharp.
  • Spatial Audio speakers. Naturally, the Vision Pro also includes speakers that are designed to blend with real-world audio, so you won’t miss anything coming from outside the headset. This is very much a device intended to augment reality rather than to replace it.
  • Customisable immersion levels. If you don’t want everything on the Vision Pro to take over your, well, vision, then you can use the Digital Crown located on the top of the headset to adjust how objects and elements appear within the headset’s environment. 
  • External battery. One of the ways that Apple has kept the weight of the Vision Pro down is to include an external battery, which provides up to 2 hours’ worth of use on a single charge. If you keep the device plugged in – which Apple seems to want you to do – then you can use it all day without needing to worry about recharging.
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When is the Apple Vision Pro being released?

Everything you’ve heard about regarding the Apple Vision Pro very much relates to a product that’s still in active development. We’re not expecting to see the Vision Pro launch until early 2024, so any of the specs you’ve seen could change between now and then. It’s unlikely, since Apple will want to drum up enthusiasm for its device and won’t want to suddenly change things people are looking forward to, but keep an eye out for more information as we near the Vision Pro’s release.

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