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Vision Pro isn’t even out but you can already test the spatial computer experience

Published Jun 22nd, 2023 6:50AM EDT
A person using Vision Pro while walking around in a room.

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Apple unveiled the Vision Pro mixed reality headset at WWDC 2023 a few weeks ago, describing it as a spatial computer rather than an augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) device. The Vision Pro and visionOS presentation took almost half of the keynote, which signals the importance of spatial computing for Apple. And that’s why I want to buy the Vision Pro the first chance I get, to get onboard spatial computing as fast as possible.

But the Vision Pro has a high entry point. At $3,499, it won’t be for everyone, especially those people who think the headset is an overpriced VR device. The good news is that you can try Vision Pro right now, well before you buy it. I’m only talking about the software experience, of course. Apple has released the first visionOS beta, and you can run it already on your regular computer if you’re a developer.

The visionOS 1.0 Developer Beta dropped alongside the visionOS SDK that developers will use to create apps for the Vision Pro headset or adapt current programs. You will need Xcode 15 beta 2 to access the early software.

This isn’t a full Vision Pro experience, as you don’t get to test the actual hardware. I’d want to know how well it fits, how heavy the Vision Pro is, and whether it gets hot. More importantly, I want to know whether the Vision Pro would induce nausea, which would be a big reason to avoid buying it. However, there’s no way to test the headset. And developers will only get units at some point next month.

Meanwhile, various people booted the visionOS beta inside Xcode, giving us a look at what the operating system looks and what it’ll feel like. We’ve seen some of the visionOS experience during Apple’s carefully planned announcement. The visionOS beta will provide additional details. For example, this might be the sound you hear when Vision Pro boots up: 

The Vision Pro will have a home screen with various apps featuring circular icons. Circular folders will hold multiple apps, just like on iPhone and iPad. Siri is also present inside visionOS, and I suspect it’ll get additional powers.

As you can see in these images from Ian Zelbo, visionOS lets you run multiple apps side-by-side and features a full virtual keyboard. You can move those windows around your reality to ensure the real-life objects or people you want to see remain in full view.

The visionOS beta gives us a look at various apps, like the system settings, Apple Maps, and Freeform.

Dan Miller’s quick video above shows how app windows behave when you move them around. When you bring a window to the foreground, the others will be dimmed, so it’s always clear which app is active. You can open other apps and close them to move them out of view.

Vision Pro apps will also match the current environment and time of day. We will move away from the light/dark modes available on iPhone, iPad, and Mac to something that matches the lighting and colors of your environment. Paul Hudson’s video below shows what visionOS will look like depending on its surroundings.

Twitter user Lascorbe gives us an idea of how you navigate the visionOS interface. Apps have a bottom bar that lets you move them as we’ve seen in other clips. You’ll use your hands to perform the movement, likely after selecting the bar with your eyes.

Pointing to the corner of a window will let you resize it. That’s a demo that Apple showed at WWDC.

Touching another app with the window you’re moving will dim that app. Lascorbe also notes there’s a button to hide the rest of the apps.

After Apple released the visionOS Developer Beta and SDK, some developers posted their first app versions for visionOS.

Here’s what Flighty might look like on Vision Pro:

Here’s Planny on visionOS “without any changes:”

And this is the Task App which will be “beautiful” on Vision Pro:

Finally, here’s a super simple AR game for visionOS that will have you use your hands to form hearts that can shoot some love at angry clouds:

If you’re a developer, you can download and play with visionOS right now.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.