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Apple’s Vision Pro Headsets and The Future of Spatial Computing

  • June 26, 2023

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All eyes were on Apple for the recent launch of its much-anticipated Vision Pro headset, and Apple gave the media, consumers, competitors, industry watchers – everyone – a lot to talk about!

As with previous Apple device introductions (iPod, iPhone, iPad – all were historic in their own right), the new Vision Pro is an engineering marvel in multiple dimensions. The impossibly sophisticated technology that’s been carefully integrated within the Apple Vision Pro is seriously impressive. Its capabilities – too numerous to detail here – are a testament to Apple’s innovation in, what it calls, spatial computing.

WHAT IS SPATIAL COMPUTING?

In Apple’s own words: “Just as the Mac introduced us to personal computing, and iPhone introduced us to mobile computing, Apple Vision Pro introduces us to spatial computing. [The Apple Vision Pro] seamlessly blends digital content with the physical world…[it] lets users interact with digital content in a way that feels like it is physically present in their space.”

In practical terms, spatial computing enables an immersive computing and entertainment experience displayed on the screen in front of the users eyes, complemented with a spatial audio capability for positioning-aware sound (speech controls are also included). An endless array of App Store apps and content will become available in the months and years ahead to support richly interactive and seamlessly blended AR/MR experiences. 

Interestingly, Apple never mentioned “VR” or “virtual reality” anywhere in its Vision Pro press release or news event – it’s understood that despite the VR-ish look and feel of the maiden Vision Pro, Apple has its sights carefully trained on the future of augmented reality (AR). Many already feel that AR smart glasses and headsets are the sweet spot for XR, and future editions of Apple’s Vision Pro will surely grow iteratively lighter, sleeker and less power hungry.

In the meantime, the design constraints Apple’s engineering team encountered in creating the Vision Pro were/are all too familiar to competing AR/VR device makers like Meta, Microsoft and others. Vision Pro uptime is currently limited to two hours per charge, and users must also wear a wired, discrete battery pack for mobile use. 

Power efficiency remains the elusive holy grail for AR/VR device manufacturers, and technology innovations that preserve battery life will no doubt be warmly embraced for future products. At the short-range connectivity layer, advanced technologies like SPARK UWB hold the potential to help future wearable AR/VR devices dramatically reduce power consumption as well as battery size and weight.  

The concept of spatial computing itself is likely to evolve as technologies like UWB are introduced into future generations of AR/VR glasses and headsets. The gesture controls currently onboard Apple’s Vision Pro are reliant on outward facing cameras that recognize users’ hand and finger motions – provided they’re in the camera’s line of sight.  These cameras are both costly and inefficient in power usage.

Spatial computing, fully realized, could one day allow 360 degree, real time position sensing for tomorrow’s wearable sensors and controls. In this paradigm, the action will no longer be confined to what’s in front of us – the action can be all around us, moving unfettered as our limbs, hands and fingers naturally move. SPARK UWB, with its high data throughput, low latency, low power and positioning is very well suited to enable real time synchronization and control capabilities to make this vision a reality. 

APPLE MOVES MARKETS

The first edition of Apple’s Vision Pro spatial computing devices is noteworthy both in terms of the capabilities enabled and the signal Apple is sending to the market with the device’s introduction. Apple is fully committed to AR, and Vison Pro “1.0” is just the beginning. 

Apple had to start somewhere, and the Vision Pro is an amazing start. What does the future look like for the Vison Pro? In the words of one market watcher: “They know that the technology is going to get more compact, sleeker, and eventually they will be able to make a super sexy pair of glasses. I have no doubt. It’s going to be maybe two or three years away, maybe more than that, but they’ll get there.”

The SPARK Microsystems team salutes the Apple team for all that they’ve achieved with the Vision Pro – and all that can be achieved in AR, MR, XR innovation in the future.

For more information about SPARK’s innovations in AR/XR technology applications, we invite you to visit our Applications page.