Apple has announced the availability of its visionOS software development kit (SDK), enabling third-party developers to start creating content for the Vision Pro, Apple's first spatial computer headset. The SDK is available at least half a year before the headset officially goes on sale in the U.S., priced at $3,500. The company is banking on developer interest to help drive excitement around the system, which was met with a lukewarm reception when it was unveiled at WWDC earlier this month.
The Apple Vision Pro, announced at the 2023 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), is a mixed-reality headset set to launch in early 2024. It is Apple's first major product since the Apple Watch in 2015. Apple describes the Vision Pro as a “spatial computer,” integrating digital media with the real world. The standalone device runs visionOS, an iOS derivative designed for extended reality software.
Developer Labs Launching Next Month
To further support developers, Apple will open developer labs in Cupertino, London, Munich, Shanghai, Singapore, and Tokyo next month. These labs will provide developers with hands-on experience to test their apps on Apple Vision Pro hardware and get support from Apple engineers. Development teams can also apply for developer kits to help them quickly build, iterate, and test right on Apple Vision Pro.
New Tools and Technologies
The visionOS SDK allows developers to utilize the unique capabilities of Vision Pro and visionOS to design brand-new app experiences across a variety of categories including productivity, design, gaming, and more. Developers can build new experiences that take advantage of the features of Apple Vision Pro by using the same foundational frameworks they already know from other Apple platforms, including technologies like Xcode, SwiftUI, RealityKit, ARKit, and TestFlight.
Developers who have previewed the visionOS SDK and APIs are excited for the potential of the platform and how it will enable them to create all-new app experiences for their users, says Apple. For instance, Jan Herzhoff, Elsevier Health's president, stated that with Apple Vision Pro, Complete HeartX will help prepare medical students for clinical practice by using hyper-realistic 3D models and animations that help them understand and visualize medical issues. Similarly, Karim Morsy, Algoriddim's CEO, mentioned that the djay app on Apple Vision Pro puts a fully featured DJ system right at a user's fingertips, transforming the user's surroundings with stunning environments that automatically react to their mix.
Vision Pro Hardware and Software Features
The Vision Pro features a laminated glass display, an aluminum frame, and an adjustable headband. It includes two micro-OLED displays, an iris scanner named Optic ID, and a speaker inside the headband. The device runs visionOS, navigated via finger tracking, eye tracking, and speech recognition. Apps are displayed in floating windows that can be arranged in 3D space.
The Vision Pro's unveiling received mixed reactions, mainly due to its high price. However, Apple is reportedly developing a cheaper and second-generation model with a faster processor, indicating a commitment to the future of spatial computing.
Microsoft Brings Word, Excel and Teams to Vision Pro
Microsoft has announced that it will bring some of its popular productivity apps, including Word, Excel, and Teams, to the Apple Vision Pro AR headset. These apps will leverage the Vision Pro's features such as hand tracking, eye tracking, and voice input, enabling users to create and edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations and collaborate and communicate with others in mixed reality. The apps will be available for download from the App Store when the Vision Pro launches in early 2024. Despite having its own HoloLens 2 headset, a direct competitor to the Vision Pro, Microsoft seems to understand that allowing Office apps on the Vision Pro has more benefits for the company than making the apps exclusive to HoloLens.
Trademark Issue with Huawei
Apple may face a potential trademark conflict with Chinese tech giant Huawei over the name “Vision Pro”. Huawei filed for the trademark of “Vision Pro” in China in 2019, covering categories including “head-mounted display devices”, “virtual reality glasses”, “augmented reality glasses”, and “mixed reality glasses”. If Huawei enforces its trademark rights in China, Apple may need to rebrand its headset or face legal challenges. So far it remains unclear whether Huawei plans to release a device under the “Vision Pro” name or if it is holding onto the trademark for future use.