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Apple Unveils Vision Pro: A $3,499 Headset That Blends AR and VR like Microsoft’s HoloLens

Apple’s Vision Pro launches to Mainstream AR/VR, but is it really a game-changer or a Microsoft HoloLens clone?

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has finally unveiled its long-awaited mixed reality headset, the Vision Pro, at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2023. The device promises to deliver immersive and interactive experiences that blend the real and virtual worlds, using advanced technology and design.

The Vision Pro is a headset that can switch between augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) modes, depending on the user's preference and the content they are viewing. AR mode allows users to see digital elements overlaid on their real environment, while VR mode blocks out the real world and transports users to a fully virtual one.

The Vision Pro runs on a new operating system called visionOS, which is based on iOS but optimized for mixed reality. Users can access a variety of apps and features on the device, such as games, movies, music, , productivity tools, and more. Users can also browse the web using Safari and access other Apple services such as iCloud, Apple Music, Apple TV+, and Apple Arcade.

The Vision Pro uses two chipsets to power its mixed reality capabilities: an M2 chip and a new R1 chip. The M2 chip is the same one that powers some of the best MacBooks and Macs, and handles the traditional apps and features on the device. The R1 chip is a new co-processor that deals with the mixed-reality and sensor elements, such as tracking the user's head, eyes, hands, and voice.

The device also boasts two impressive micro-OLED displays that deliver more pixels than a 4K TV to each eye, delivering roughly 23 million pixels each. This means that users can enjoy high-resolution and realistic graphics without seeing any pixelation or screen-door effect.

How do you control the Vision Pro?

One of the most unique features of the Vision Pro is its passthrough system that uses cameras on the outside of the goggles to give users a real-time, color feed of their environment. This allows users to switch between AR and VR modes seamlessly, as well as see their own eyes on the outer display of the device. This helps users feel more comfortable and natural while wearing the headset, as well as communicate with others more easily.

The Vision Pro does not use any controllers or buttons to control its visionOS software. Instead, users can use their eyes, hands, and voice to interact with the device. The device uses eye-tracking technology to detect where users are looking and what they are focusing on. Users can also use hand gestures to manipulate digital objects or navigate menus. Users can also use voice commands to launch apps, search for content, or control settings.

The device also supports spatial audio technology that creates realistic and immersive sound effects that match the user's movements and surroundings. Users can also connect wireless headphones or earbuds to the device for a more private listening experience.

How much does the Vision Pro cost and when will it be available?

The Vision Pro is not a cheap device by any means. It starts at $3,499 (around £2,800 / AU$5,300), which is much more expensive than other VR or AR headsets on the market. Users who need prescription lenses will have to pay an additional cost for a custom insert.

The device also comes with an external battery pack that users have to connect to the headset via a cable. The battery pack provides up to two hours of use on a full charge, according to Apple.

Apple has not given a specific release date for the Vision Pro yet, but it has said that it will be available “early next year”. Users who are interested in getting their hands on the device will have to wait until then.

How does the Vision Pro compare to Microsoft HoloLens 2?

The Vision Pro is not the first device to attempt to combine AR and VR into one headset. Other tech giants such as Meta (formerly ), Google, and have also tried their hands at conquering the mixed reality space with devices such as Meta Quest 3 (which launched before the Vision Pro), Google Glass (which is now discontinued), and Microsoft HoloLens (which seems stuck on its second generation). However, none of these devices has achieved mainstream success or adoption yet.

Microsoft's

Vision Pro aims to differentiate itself from its competitors by offering a more premium and polished experience that leverages Apple's ecosystem and design expertise. The device also claims to offer a more natural and intuitive way of controlling mixed reality content without relying on controllers or buttons.

Even so, it does feel that Vision Pro is essentially building on what Microsoft has achieved with HoloLens. There is no doubt that the Vision Pro provides better overall specs and performance than the HoloLens 2. Early hands-on reviews of Apple's headset are positive and name it as comfortable best in class. Although, that is to be expected considering the Vision Pro is simply using newer technology.

The and the Microsoft HoloLens 2 are both mixed reality headsets that can switch between augmented reality and virtual reality modes. However, they have some significant differences in terms of design, specs, features, and price.

Here is a brief comparison of the two devices:

Aspect

Apple Vision Pro

Microsoft HoloLens 2

Release date

Early 2024

November 2019

Price

$3,499

$3,500

Chipset

M2 and R1

Snapdragon 850 and Holographic Processing Unit

Display

Dual micro-OLED with 4K resolution per eye

Single waveguide with 2K resolution per eye

Field of view

Unknown

52 degrees diagonal

Tracking

Eye, hand, and voice tracking

Eye, hand, and voice tracking

Controllers

None

None

Battery life

Up to two hours with external battery pack

Up to three hours with internal battery

Operating system

visionOS

Software compatibility

iOS apps and Apple services

Windows apps and Microsoft services

As you can see, the Vision Pro has some advantages over the HoloLens 2, such as higher resolution displays, a dual-chipset setup, and an external battery pack. However, the HoloLens 2 has some advantages over the Vision Pro, such as a wider field of view, a longer battery life, and a more established software platform.

Both devices are aimed at professional and enterprise users who need advanced mixed reality capabilities for their work or projects. However, they also have different use cases and target markets. The Vision Pro is more focused on entertainment and productivity, while the HoloLens 2 is more focused on industrial and educational applications.

 

At the same time, Apple's product is not really doing anything new. This is not an innovative product in terms of hardware, it is just an improvement. Of course, Apple may be looking to innovate in different ways. Most notable is the obvious goal for Vision Pro to mainstream AR/VR. The company has done similar things in other product lines.

The iPod was not the first mp3/digital music player, but it defined the category. The iPhone was not the first smartphone, but it became the definitive example. And the iPad was not the first tablet, but it became the most popular example. It seems the company is trying to do the same with Vision Pro.

Luke Jones
Luke Jones
Luke has been writing about all things tech for more than five years. He is following Microsoft closely to bring you the latest news about Windows, Office, Azure, Skype, HoloLens and all the rest of their products.

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