Skip to main content

The Vision Pro SDK has arrived. Here’s what it’s revealed so far

We’ve already learned quite a bit about the Vision Pro since Apple’s WWDC event, but many details are still unknown.

Now that the software developers kit (SDK) is available, coders are digging in and uncovering more about Apple’s first mixed-reality headset. Here are some of the best finds so far.

Limited VR range

Apple

A surprising fact revealed in the visionOS SDK is what seems to be an arbitrary limitation of movement while using VR. When you turn the dial to enter a fully immersive space that obscures your surroundings, you’re restricted to a 3-by-3 meter area. When seated, as shown above, that’s not a problem. However, if you are playing a game, you might want to walk around to explore.

Hans O. Karlsson’s tweet about this discovery shocked some people, who felt it was unnecessarily restrictive. Others praised Apple’s limitation.

I just learned that Apple has crippled VR so that it stops when you move more than 1,5 meters. So Apple VR is for coach potatoes. No real volumetric video possible then outside the coach zone. No table tennis, nothing that makes you move outside a small box. Super bummer. 😕

— Hans O. Karlsson 🇯🇵🇺🇦🇸🇪 (@VRmaninJapan) June 22, 2023

In more familiar terms, that’s a 10-by-10-foot space, which is more than enough for most VR games. Still, it’s strange to place a hard limit on the area. Meta’s Quest 2 games can span a large area with no hard limits.

Apple is very safety conscious, and if the Vision Pro senses an object or person entering your space, it reveals your surroundings. You’ll begin to see the real world as you near the edges of the 3-by-3 meter maximum range also.

When using a mixed-reality view, you can move freely without losing partial immersion. If people get close enough, the Vision Pro will show your eyes, and you’ll see them.

There’s a ‘travel mode’

Apple Vision Pro is being used on an airplane.
Apple

At the WWDC keynote, Apple briefly showed a person using their Vision Pro on an airplane. Afterward, there was some speculation about how that would work since a plane is in motion, potentially confusing the headset’s inertial sensors. Apple planned for this, and there’s a “travel mode” that MacRumors found.

One of the messages implies you will get a reminder when the Vision Pro senses that you’re on a plane: “Turn on Travel Mode when you’re on an airplane to continue using your ‌Apple Vision Pro‌.”

You also need to”Remain stationary in Travel Mode” and “Some awareness features will be off,” including a reduction in gaze accuracy. Apple’s visionOS SDK also notes that “Your representation is unavailable while Travel Mode is on.”

These seem to be reasonable limitations given the challenging environment. Meta and HTC have recently researched using VR headsets in vehicles, suggesting this might be commonplace on long trips.

Visual search

Apple Vision Pro provides virtual screens for your Mac.
Apple

Perhaps one of the greatest features to be left out of Apple’s Vision Pro announcement was Visual Search. The headset’s cameras can scan your room and help you identify objects and read text.

According to MacRumors, this will allow the Vision Pro to provide live translation, copy and paste text from the real world into a document, and open links that appear in print.

The Vision Pro can also identify objects using the same machine vision techniques Apple developed for your iPhone. In fact, it’s clear that many of the iPhone’s intriguing but non-essential features, like LiDAR and hand detection, were primarily developed for Apple’s secret research leading up to the Vision Pro.

Apple has really raised the bar for VR and AR headsets, setting the stage for the AR glasses of the future.

What is the visionOS SDK?

A developer points to a Mac screen while a Vision Pro rests on the desk.
Apple

The visionOS SDK runs on a Mac computer and works with Apple’s Xcode development environment to provide all of the code and details a developer needs to update their iPhone or iPad app to work with the Vision Pro.

It also includes a simulator that creates a window that approximates what a Vision Pro user will see. It isn’t as accurate as owning the headset, and interaction is limited. Serious developers will need to invest in a Vision Pro.

While it’s great that Apple released the SDK so soon, developers will still be scrambling to get apps ready in time for the Vision Pro’s launch in early 2024.

Alan Truly
Alan is a Computing Writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. A tech-enthusiast since his youth, Alan stays current on what is…
MacBook Pro OLED: Here’s everything we know so far
Halo running on a MacBook Pro.

While many of Apple’s laptop rivals have embraced OLED screens, Apple has stuck firmly with mini-LED in its MacBook Pro -- and the results have been spectacular. As we said when we reviewed the M3 Max MacBook Pro, it has the best display out of any laptop, bar none.

Yet, there whispers that Apple is working on something even better: its own brand of OLED display that could take the MacBook Pro to the next level. It’s still early days, and there are all sorts of different rumors flying about, but it seems that something big is definitely in the works.

Read more
5 headsets you should buy instead of the Vision Pro
Apple Vision Pro

The Vision Pro is a great piece of technology that's built specifically to fit into Apple’s ecosystem, but there are plenty of other great VR headsets to choose from. Many cost less while offering similar experiences. A few even challenge Apple head-on, matching and exceeding the Vision Pro's advanced technology.

Here are five headsets you should buy instead of the Vision Pro and why you might like them better than Apple's spatial computer.
Meta Quest 3

Read more
The Vision Pro is already in trouble. Here’s how Apple can turn the tide
A man wears an Apple Vision Pro headset.

Apple’s Vision Pro headset lit the world on fire when it was announced at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June 2023, and again when it launched in February of this year. But in the months since, it’s apparently been losing steam, with sales down and people staying away from in-store demonstrations. That doesn’t bode well for Apple’s “next big thing.”

The key question, though, is whether this an actual problem for Apple. And if so, what can the company do about it?
In free fall?
If you read Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman’s latest Power On newsletter, you’ll see some concerning reporting, at least from Apple’s perspective. Citing staff at Apple’s retail stores, Gurman claims that “Demand for [Vision Pro] demos is way down. People who do book appointments often don’t show up.”

Read more