Vision Pro is “Apple’s first 3D camera” and it’s a wearable
Apple had its big keynote for 2023, and amongst all of the usual updates to the company’s computers, smartphones, tablets and watches, we saw something new. Apple Vision Pro. It’s an augmented-reality platform. Essentially, it’s a whole computer built into a headset. Based on the Apple M2 chip – along with a new R1 chip – it turns your environment into your workspace for what Apple calls spatial computing.
But what’s particularly interesting about the Vision Pro announcement is that it was described as “Apple’s first 3D camera”. It’s so much more than that, though. It runs its own operating system visionOS, that Apple says includes the same frameworks as iOS and iPadOS. This means you can use your smartphone and tablet apps right on the headset natively.
Apple Keynote June 2023
Engadget posted a cut-down version of the keynote, removing all of the nonsense to leave the actual information. Still, it’s 23 minutes long. If you’re interested in hearing all of Apple’s announcements, then go ahead and watch from the beginning. But for Vision Pro, you’ll want to scrub to 16:58.
Apple Vision Pro contains an array of cameras
The Apple Vision Pro actually contains ten different cameras, of various sorts, along with a LiDAR scanner. Only two of the cameras form the main 3D camera system. The rest are for Vision Pro’s augmented reality features that track the wearer and their surroundings. As well as the two main cameras, there are a pair of side cameras, two pair of downward-facing cameras, and two which make up the TrueDepth camera.
Here’s Apple’s more polished introduction video for the Apple Vision Pro and the Apple visionOS spatial operating system. It covers everything the system offers, from the operating system, including features like FaceTime and covering topics such as entertainment and workflow, to the technology embedded in the system. Technology that includes displays with 16x the resolution of the sharpest iPhone screens to provide the maximum detail when viewing – a big downfall of many VR and FPV headsets available today.
3D Photos and Video
The photos and videos segment starts at 1:35 in the video below, which is the final presentation video for Vision Pro. It covers several unique points of the system. The first is the ability to view your panoramic images on a large scale as if you were once again standing in front of that wide vista. Panoramics wrap around the viewer to give a sense that is impossible with a traditional monitor.
At the 2-minute mark, we start to learn about its 3D capabilities for both capturing and playing back content. The Vision Pro can be worn to capture whatever’s going on around you in 3D with what Apple describes as “remarkable depth”. It then lets you play them back whenever you want and relive the experience in full 3D. This is all thanks to Apple’s new R1 chip, which works hand-in-hand with its M2 processor.
I’ve been a fan of 3D cameras for a long time, especially those in the computer market. I’ve reviewed several of them here on DIYP, including the Weeview SID and Kandao QooCam EGO. The latter of the two is probably the one that I’ve felt came closest to really engaging the user in a way that would popularise 3D content creation. Now, though, I don’t think either of them come close to what Apple’s offering here.
Not cheap, though
Of course, they don’t come with quite the price tag that the Apple Vision Pro does, which starts at $3,499. But then, they don’t offer anywhere near the same level of capability outside of 3D content creation, either. I can’t see anybody buying the Vision Pro just to make 3D photo and video content. However, I do think that those who are buying the Vision Pro for other reasons may be the driving force behind popularising 3D content.
I’m more excited about what that potential popularity boost for 3D content will do for the world at large than for Vision Pro itself. It should result in a lot more 3D content support coming to Apple’s mobile platforms from third-party developers. It will also potentially result in more companies producing 3D hardware that can be viewed easily on the platform.
As well as the Weeview SID and Kandao QooCam EGO mentioned above, there’s also the now-discontinued Insta360 EVO. People have been begging for a replacement model for years. Insta360 hasn’t shown any hints of one coming, but this might now change their mind – especially as Apple and Insta360 already have a history together. There’s also a plethora of higher-end 360-degree 3D cameras out there with technology that might start reaching lower budgets as competition increases.
One thing I am curious about, given that Vision Pro contains the Apple M2 chip, is how well it runs apps like DaVinci Resolve or Final Cut Pro for iPad. If Resolve will run on this – and Apple suggests that it does – I’m interested to see how well. If it can run it as well as the current model iPad Pros and the interface isn’t too awkward, that could be a fun way to edit. And you’d be able to edit anywhere without having to deal with laptops and external displays.
You’d probably look a bit weird wearing these while editing on the train, though.
Apple Vision Pro will start at $3,499 and is expected to become available in early 2024.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.