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Apple has announced visionOS, the operating system that will power its new Vision Pro headset. Apple says it’s designed from the ground up for spatial computing.
The company revealed the operating system as part of its many announcements at the Worldwide Developers Conference 2023 event. The operating system is focused on displaying digital elements on top of the real world. Apple’s video showed new things like icons and windows floating over real-world spaces. Apple is also relying on eye tracking — the company described how you can look at a search field and just start talking to input text.
Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge
It seems Apple envisions this in part as a productivity device; in one demo, it showed a person looking at things like a Safari window, Messages, and Apple Music window all hovering over a table in the real world. Apple also showed a keyboard hovering in midair, too. And the Vision Pro can also connect to your Mac so you can blow up your Mac’s screen within your headset.
It will also be a powerful entertainment device, apparently. You can make the screen as big as you’d like (Apple demoed this with a clip of Foundation), and you can display the screen on other backgrounds like a cinema environment or in front of Mt. Hood (Apple’s suggestion!). You’ll also be able to watch 3D movies on the device. And Disney is working on content for the device, which could be a major way for people to get on board with actually using it to watch shows and movies — Disney Plus will be available on day one, Disney CEO Bob Iger said during the show.
Apple Vision Pro will play games, too, and support game controllers; Apple showed somebody using the device with a PS5 DualSense headset. Over 100 Apple Arcade titles will be available to play on “day one,” Apple said during its keynote.
The Vision Pro can also display your eyes on the outside of the headset — a feature Apple calls “EyeSight.”
It will have a brand-new App Store where people can download Vision Pro apps and compatible iPhone and iPad apps, Apple said.
The launch of a new operating system marks a big moment for Apple — and for developers. With Apple releasing this new headset, we’ll almost certainly see a rush of developers making apps that try and take advantage of the new platform in hopes of becoming the next stratospheric hit. Apple has already been particularly interested in augmented reality, but as my colleague Adi Robertson wrote, augmented reality needs an iPhone moment.
That said, other augmented reality platforms haven’t yet hit critical mass. And we’ll have to wait to see if Apple’s new reality operating system can avoid turning into the next watchOS, which has gradually lost some major apps over time, like Microsoft Authenticator, Uber, and Instagram.
Apple is almost certainly hoping its new OS someday becomes an iOS-level juggernaut. Now that the company has finally revealed what the platform is capable of, the race is on for Apple and developers to try and make the next big thing. Though we’ll be waiting awhile until we see just how big it might be; Apple says the headset won’t be available until early next year.