The Future of Software Development for the Apple Vision Pro

Guest Blogger

Jonathan Baker

New Horizons

First announced back in June of 2023, the Apple Vision Pro has been generating buzz amongst developers and consumers alike. Having shipped earlier this February, users have had a couple weeks to test it out and initial reviews have been largely positive so far. Being Apple’s first completely new product line in several years, many developers have been excited to get under the hood and begin creating all-new apps and experiences for the ecosystem.

What is Apple Vision Pro?

While some form of wearable computer headsets have been around for just over a decade, this is Apple’s first foray into the space. The Apple Vision Pro is an augmented reality headset that seeks to enhance the user’s daily lives by overlaying apps and data on top of whatever they are looking at. 

Apple’s push for augmented reality is nothing new; developers have had access to augmented reality tools in iOS, and the higher-end iPhones and iPads have come equipped with lidar depth scanners since the model 12 released back in 2020. The Vision Pro is Apple’s first attempt at combining all those ideas and technologies into a wearable computer that reacts to and enhances your surroundings. 

The headset has a wide range of functionality, allowing the user to do anything from watching movies in 4K HDR, working in Excel or Slack, navigating with a GPS-assisted Apple Maps overlay, or even mirroring your Mac’s display so you can see a huge monitor floating in virtual space. It fits seamlessly into Apple’s ecosystem, working with Safari, Mail, Maps, FaceTime, Keynote, Notes, Mindfulness, and more. 

The headset is controlled by a groundbreaking gesture system that is lightyears beyond anything a competitor has out on the market. An eye-tracking system keeps tabs on which app you are looking at, and simply tapping your thumb and pointer finger together controls and interacts with that app. Essentially, your eyes become the mouse and your fingers become the button so there's no need to reach out and try to ‘touch’ the app. 

Cameras on the outside of the headset need to see your hands in order for it to work, but it has a surprisingly wide range of view. Whether your hands are resting in your lap, held out in front of you, or are propped up on a table, the Vision Pro seems to have no issues keeping track of your gestures.

The Future of Apple Vision Pro and it’s Software Development Potential

Creating apps for the Vision Pro is done through Apple’s all-new visionOS, which itself is actually based on iPadOS although it’s gone through some heavy customization in regards to latency and vision in order for it to handle spatial computing. Being able to build upon the iPadOS instead of creating an entirely new operating system from scratch gives Apple an incredible head start against their competitors. It has taken several years for Meta to build out the features of their Android-based Quest OS, and the app store is still primarily populated by games. The Vision Pro ships with the full suite of mature iPadOS features and the majority of the massive iPad app library. 

Apple didn’t cut any corners when creating this headset, which is reflected in the staggeringly high $3,500 price tag. In a way, the steep price point is actually a great way to ensure the headset gets put into the hands of exactly the people Apple wants. The average person isn't going to spend $3,500 unless they have a ton of money to burn or are invested in Apple products professionally or emotionally. 

That being said, the Vision Pro is a device that will help bridge the gap between the virtual reality headsets of today, and the augmented reality headsets of tomorrow. The first generation Vision Pro lays a foundation for developers to understand Apple’s goals with spatial computing and prepares them for what Apple has in store for the future. In that sense, the Vision Pro is as much of a developer device as it is a consumer device. It might not be a mass-market device yet, but this is the perfect time to get in the door early and learn the ropes before future generations of the Vision Pro become more affordable and available. 

Looking to the future, it is likely the release of the Vision Pro will energize the AR/VR headset market and spark a sorely needed upswing in competition in the space. There is also Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference coming up in June, where chances are high we will see them make some big moves regarding the device’s future. We can’t predict the future, but chances are high that Apple will continue to leverage their own exclusive content in order to drive sales and increase market saturation. It wouldn’t be too shocking to see some exclusive partnerships in the near future. For example, if Apple were to secure the rights to 3D NFL broadcasts, that could be a gamechanger for driving sales. 

One thing we think is key to the continued future success of the Vision Pro is the release of a more AR-focused headset at a considerably cheaper price point. Apple has only a short window of time- two to three years max -before other competitors saturate the market with their devices and the Apple hype wears off. Even if they don’t have it in their hands yet, it is critically important for consumers to know that something a bit more affordable and accessible is coming in the near future.

The reality is that the best, most innovative apps for the Vision Pro probably haven’t even been thought of yet, which is why there is so much consumer uncertainty surrounding the device. Apple’s concept of spatial computing is a vast, untapped market and the potential for the device's future borders on limitless. We think Apple is well aware of this fact, which is what makes the future of the Vision Pro so exciting for developers.

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