Apple introduces Vision Pro as a spatial computer. What does that mean?

Apple introduces Vision Pro as a spatial computer. What does that mean?

The Dawn of a New Era: Apple’s Vision Pro and the Rise of the Spatial Computer

Apple Vision Pro

When Apple introduced the Vision Pro, it didn’t describe it as just another headset, but as a “spatial computer.” While similar devices from companies like Microsoft, Meta, and Magic Leap are often referred to as extended reality (XR), virtual reality (VR), or augmented reality (AR) devices, Apple chose a more intriguing term: spatial computing. Apple CEO Tim Cook hailed it as “the beginning of a new era for computing.” But what exactly does spatial computing mean, and why is it considered revolutionary?

Unveiling the Concept of the Spatial Computer

Apple Vision Pro

Spatial computing, as defined in a 2003 MIT graduate thesis by Simon Greenwold, is the concept of human interaction with a machine that retains and manipulates references to real objects and spaces. The fundamental objective of spatial computing is to combine the real and the computed, envisioning devices with sensing and processing capabilities.

In its current form, a spatial computer is a head-mounted display equipped with cameras, microphones, and sensors that provide information to the processor for analysis and presentation. It allows the computer to be aware of its environment, surpassing traditional towers and laptops that can capture the outside world to some extent but still rely on our interpretation. With spatial computers, we gain assistance with reality, building upon the foundation laid by smartphones. Now, we can ask questions like “How far is that?” or “What kind of flower is that?” and receive instant answers.

Looking ahead, spatial computers are slated to replace every screen, printer, computer, tablet, phone, and watch. They will facilitate seamless connections with others, replicating their presence in the same room, regardless of distance. Spatial computers will simplify both professional and personal tasks, transforming our everyday lives. The Apple Vision Pro is merely a beginning step towards this future.

Bridging the Gap between the Real and the Virtual

Apple Vision Pro

As a spatial computer, the Vision Pro interacts with the real world. By utilizing lidar and color cameras, it enhances our experience by incorporating virtual screens, surround sound, and even three-dimensional objects into our surroundings. When we move or turn, the Vision Pro adjusts the displayed image accordingly, seamlessly integrating computer-generated elements as if they were physically present in the room.

While iPhones also feature augmented reality capabilities, the Vision Pro takes it a step further by filling our view with multiple browser screens, a large TV screen, and even friends or coworkers in a group chat. In some instances, it can create immersive, themed environments that wrap around us. Although similar capabilities exist in other VR headsets like Meta’s Quest Pro, Apple’s implementation offers more precision and accuracy.

High-end augmented reality headsets such as Microsoft HoloLens 2 and Magic Leap 2 incorporate depth mapping hardware, allowing virtual objects to interact with the environment. However, their limited field of view detracts from immersion, serving as constant reminders that what we see is not entirely real, much like looking at AR effects through a smartphone.

The Vision Pro: The Beginning of an Exciting Journey

Minority Report

While Apple’s Vision Pro shows tremendous potential, its premium price tag makes it inaccessible for most consumers, and its true capabilities remain somewhat elusive. The Vision Pro may not be the ultimate spatial computer, but it serves as a crucial starting point for the AR future that has captivated our imaginations in science fiction movies for years.

The Vision Pro, though bulkier than the translucent computer interfaces in “Minority Report” or Tony Stark’s intuitive Jarvis, is revolutionary in its own right. It boasts advanced spatial tracking, finger gesture recognition, and proximity detection, thanks to its powerful processors. However, Apple’s initial unveiling barely scratched the surface of what this device can achieve, avoiding any mention of the metaverse or VR gaming.

As Meta learned from their experience, overhyping can be a costly mistake in the VR industry. Therefore, it is only a matter of time before we discover that the Vision Pro serves as Apple’s foundation for an augmented and virtual layer overlaying reality. When that moment arrives, the Vision Pro will move closer to realizing the full potential of the spatial computers of the future.

With the dawn of the Vision Pro and the rise of spatial computing, we find ourselves at the forefront of a new era. The merging of the real and the virtual holds immense promise, transforming the way we interact with technology and shaping the world around us. As we step into this exciting journey, the Vision Pro serves as our initial glimpse into the boundless possibilities that lie ahead.