Apple Vision Pro, Apple’s groundbreaking launch in spatial computing, ushers new realities into the world as it becomes available for purchase in the US today (2 February 2024). Imagine turning your living room into a movie theatre that happens to be set within the mountains of Yosemite. What feels like a 100ft screen looms before you, while gentle gusts of wind and the rustling of trees sound in your ears. Imagine being able to relive memories of birthday parties and old holidays, as if you were right there, with true-to-life photos and videos that fool the senses. Choose to shut the world out for a meditation session, set to vibrant 3D visualisations that fill your space and surround you, whether you are at home or on a plane.

Below we explore the Apple Vision Pro and speak exclusively to members of the Apple Design Team about its development and capabilities.

Apple Vision Pro: how it works

Apple Vision Pro

Vision Pro is designed as a modular system. Interchangeable parts, including the Light Seal and head band, deliver a tailored fit. Apple Vision Pro is now available in the US, from $3,499

(Image credit: Dan Winters)

Originally revealed in June 2023, Vision Pro signifies a huge leap, even by Apple’s own standards. A first of its kind, this wearable spatial computer blends the digital with the physical in a way that is frankly unbelievable. Working within the existing framework of its familiar apps and established user interface, Apple turns your surroundings into a three-dimensional navigational display, while making it intuitive to respond to and natural to control. The new visionOS makes digital content look present in the physical world. Every detail of the UX design has been specially created to close the gap between the two realms; app icons mimic Apple’s glass material in the virtual realm, while the display screen subtly casts shadows over furniture or other aspects of the space when the natural light changes. Simply put, it heralds a whole new platform for experiencing technology.

Apple Vision Pro, user in headset browsing apps

The Home View lives right in front of you and is where you find all of your apps. Home consists of Apps, People, and Environments

(Image credit: Apple Design Team)

Where others have failed before, Apple Vision Pro succeeds. It takes its control cues from your eyes, hands and voice, and thanks to 12 cameras, five sensors and six processors embedded into the wearable, users can browse through apps by simply looking at them, tapping their fingers to select, flicking their wrist to scroll, or dictating by voice. Its micro-OLED technology packs 23 million pixels into two displays, each the size of a postage stamp. Custom catadioptric lenses enable sharpness and clarity. A singular piece of curved glass – three-dimensionally formed and laminated – creates an optical surface for viewing that also acts as a lens for the camera and sensor technology needed. All this fits neatly into an aluminium alloy frame that gently curves around the user’s face, and is held comfortably together by a flexible head band, three-dimensionally knitted as a single piece, to provide cushioning, breathability, and stretch.

Apple Design Team on developing Apple Vision Pro

Apple Vision Pro

Vision Pro automatically aligns the advanced optical system to your eyes

(Image credit: Dan Winters)

With no set deadline or pressure to be brought to the market, Apple Vision Pro has been in the works for years. On a recent visit to Apple Park, Alan Dye, Apple’s Vice President of Human Interface Design, and Richard Howarth, Vice President of Industrial Design, sat down together to explain how hardware and software came together in an unprecedented way to make an idea a reality.  

‘For Vision Pro, we understood the idea that this technology of wearing something that could transport you to another place was a very powerful one. And that there were really profound experiences that could come out of it and from changing the users’ context. But we also recognised a lot of the problems that existed with these sorts of technologies, especially around isolation,’ says Dye, while stating that Vision Pro is neither AR nor VR. ‘Once we understood that the product could be used for connection, for bringing people together and helping to enrich their lives, as we do with so many other Apple products, that’s when we got fully immersed in the program and wanted to bring it to life. We got excited about what this could mean as a whole new platform. That’s why we call it spatial computing.’ 

Apple Vision Pro, close-up of app icon

Foundational UI material, glass, Photos app

(Image credit: Apple Design Team)

‘We put a lot of thought into how to make this entirely new platform feel approachable and seamless. To reduce the barriers to putting Vision Pro on, and not feel too techy,’ Howarth adds. ‘Which is why we deliberately designed the soft forms, cushioned knitted fabric bands, a lot of flexible materials and soft textures. So people would not only feel physically comfortable wearing it, but also enjoy wearing it around others too.’

Dye says, ‘We wanted people around you to also feel comfortable with you wearing it, and for you to feel comfortable wearing it around other people. That’s why we spent years designing a set of very natural, comfortable gestures that you can use without waving your hands in the air. That’s also why we developed EyeSight, because we knew more than anything, if we were going to cover your eyes, that takes away much of what is possible when you connect with people. Getting that right was at the core of the concept of the product because we wanted people to retain those connections in their actual world.’

Apple Vision Pro user in headset

Apps can expand fully into your space, like during a Mindfulness session, where you can create a private moment of calm

(Image credit: Apple Design Team)

EyeSight is an innovative feature that turns Vision Pro’s lens transparent when someone approaches its user and eye contact can be made on both sides. When in full immersion mode, Vision Pro’s lens appears opaque. When the user looks at someone in the real world, a small porthole forms in the navigational display so that they can look out without having to take the device off. This one capability of the device alone took years to develop. 

User Experience

Apple Vision Pro virtual landscape

Environments magically transform your surroundings with stunning landscapes, letting apps grow beyond the dimensions of your room, including movies that can feel 100 ft wide over the lake in Mount Hood

(Image credit: Apple Design Team)

Everything in Apple Vision Pro has been purpose-built and it is apparent that only Apple could have achieved such a feat. Over the course of the product’s development, the design team grew and expanded into new disciplines in order to generate the gestures, materials, sounds, visual effects and cinematic environments of the finished product.  


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