Apple Made a VR Headset, but Won’t Admit it

    Apple CEO Tim Cook’s choice of words as he was preparing to unveil the company’s Vision Pro headset was striking. “Today, I am excited to announce a new AR platform and a revolutionary product.”

    What’s that? He did not say “virtual” or “VR,” which could have helped position the headset and new software against Meta’s headsets. Cook announced that Apple would be launching a new platform for augmented reality before we knew what the Vision Pro looked like, could do or cost. This set us up to expect a device which enhances and does not obscure our surroundings.

    Apple’s Vision Pro, visionOS pitches were all about augmented realities. However, the device is a VR headset. Many of the Apple claimed it could do have been seen before in VR. Apps can be displayed in floating windows. Video on giant screens 3D movies and experiences. Like Meta’s Quest headsets the Vision Pro has a computer right in front your eyes.

    Apple’s distaste for VR is a reflection of the company’s different pitch on how we should use these devices. Apple wants virtual computers to be a part of your real world, while Meta wants you live inside the computer that’s on your face.

    • Apple did not show any connected virtual worlds like those found in HTML’s metaverse, and avoided the concept of the metaverse altogether.
    • Meta’s Horizon Workrooms are VR-focused spaces for work, while Apple’s version of collaborating with a VR headset is basically an upgraded Zoom call.
    • Apple has avoided turning its Memji avatars cartoony VR characters. Instead, Apple wants to you talk to others with an accurate digital version of yourself which is scanned into headset.
    • Apple has so far only shown games you can play using a standard gamepad. As of yet, there are no VR games that look like Beat Saber.

    Alan Dye, Apple’s VP of Human Interface Design, explained that the company is avoiding other VR tropes. “You’re never alone with your headset,” Dye said. It’s possible to simulate eye-contact with the Vision Pro’s EyeSight, which allows you to see the eyes on the outer screen of the Vision Pro. If I’m wearing Meta’s Quest 2 anyone in the room with me cannot look me directly in the eyes unless I remove the headset.

    Apple’s Vision Pro allows you to move between total immersion and a digital crown. However, the outer screen of the headset can display an animation when the user is fully immersed. This could be an external cue for anyone trying to grab your attention. If I was wearing the Quest 2 someone near me might have to shout.

    “Spatial computer”

    Apple’s release on the Vision Pro does not use the words “virtual” or “VR” nor even “headset.” Instead, it calls the device a spatial computer. It also leaves room for the future of this technology, which looks nothing like a heavy VR headset.

    It’s not surprising that Apple didn’t brand the Vision Pro as virtual reality. Cook has been praising AR since years . AR is not yet at the level it needs to reach to make something like those rumored AR sunglasses, which may be very far off.

    For now, the Vision Pro is primarily VR. Apple has almost certainly plans for something entirely different in the future. For now, to get a glimpse of Apple’s future you will need to wear a VR headset.

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