Vision Pro: Apple’s Approach to Fully Immersive VR
The Unique Blend of Virtual Reality and Passthrough AR
In the world of virtual reality (VR), Apple is often seen as a company that is distant from the technology. However, with the introduction of Vision Pro, it is clear that Apple’s approach is far more nuanced and forward-thinking than initially perceived.
Vision Pro is a powerful VR headset that aims to seamlessly blend virtual imagery into the real world. Unlike other VR headsets, Apple has taken a different path by making the default mode feel as little like being in VR as possible. This concept, known as ‘passthrough AR’ or ‘mixed reality’, is a unique approach that showcases Apple’s vision for VR.
The Power of Passthrough AR
Apple’s goal with Vision Pro is not to take over your reality entirely, but rather to enhance it in specific moments. The headset is designed to create a fluid experience where virtual elements seamlessly meld into the real world. For example, floating UI panels appear subtly transparent, allowing the real world to peek through, while the system estimates the room’s lighting to cast highlights and shadows on the panels, making them appear truly immersive.
While passthrough AR is the default mode, Apple has not disregarded the immersive capabilities of VR. The company showcased the headset’s ability to deliver fully immersive VR experiences during a hands-on demo. To facilitate easy transitions between passthrough AR and immersive VR, Apple introduced the ‘digital crown’ dial on the top of the headset.
Apple’s Reverse Approach to VR
Contrary to popular belief, Apple is not shying away from fully immersive VR experiences. Instead, the company is approaching VR in a unique way. Unlike other headsets where VR takes center stage, Apple treats VR as the most focused presentation of content on Vision Pro. In other words, VR is like a ‘full-screen’ mode for the headset, where users can immerse themselves in a specific piece of media and eliminate distractions.
Apple draws parallels to how we use full-screen mode on computers and phones. While most apps work seamlessly alongside each other, there are specific instances where a focus on one application is desired, such as watching a movie or playing a game. Similarly, Apple believes that fully immersive VR should be an intentional choice, rather than a default setting.
The Two-Way Street of the Dial
Some speculated that the ‘digital crown’ dial on Vision Pro is intended to quickly escape from immersive VR experiences. However, Apple sees the dial as a two-way street, both an ‘enter full-screen’ and ‘exit full-screen’ button. Just like media apps, Vision Pro allows users to go full-screen when they want to fully immerse themselves and exit full-screen when they want to return to a more interactive experience.
The Future of VR: A Balanced Composition
Apple’s approach to Vision Pro is a glimpse into the future of VR. The company understands that users don’t always want their apps to be full-screen and immersive. Most applications can work seamlessly alongside each other, providing familiar patterns and shared interface language. However, when users desire a ‘full-screen’ experience, they can give permission to an app to take over completely and block out distractions.
Apple’s approach to fully immersive VR on Vision Pro is likely to become the norm across the industry. The company recognizes that people don’t always want constant immersion and offers a balanced composition where fully immersive VR is an intentional choice rather than the default.
With Vision Pro, Apple has not only redefined the boundaries of VR but also set the stage for the future of the technology. By seamlessly integrating the virtual world with the real world, Apple creates an experience that is both immersive and natural.