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The biggest advantage of the Vision Pro isn’t Apple’s hardware

Apple used the Vision Pro’s $3,499 price tag to give the headset every advantage over the competition. It has dual 4K displays, runs on one of the best laptop chips in the industry, and comes with advanced eye and hand tracking technologies. But it also has one advantage that can’t be bought: Apple’s developer ecosystem. Perhaps the biggest benefit of the headset is the ability for iPhone and iPad developers to easily plug their existing apps into the device operating system using familiar tools and frameworks.

The system already stands in stark contrast to headsets from Meta, Valve, PlayStation and HTC, which mostly rely on apps and games created in Unity or OpenXR to power their virtual and augmented reality experiences. While some competitors like the Meta Quest have major apps like Microsoft Office, Xbox and Netflix, offers beyond that are limited. In the years that Meta’s headset has been out, the Meta Quest Store has only released about 400 games and apps. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a sign that there’s a serious lack of content optimized for VR.

However, unlike other headset ecosystems, Apple promises hundreds of thousands of apps on day one, a feat it’s able to pull off thanks to work on other platforms. Apple will automatically convert iPad and iPhone apps into “a single scalable 2D window” that works on the Apple Vision Pro — with no developer work required unless they want to make changes. And for the developers looking to create something new for the headset, Apple is making it easy for those already familiar with the ecosystem to create apps for visionOS, the new mixed reality operating system.

“visionOS is not that different from iPadOS with ARKit”

“visionOS isn’t that different from iPadOS with ARKit, the augmented reality kit that developers have had access to for a few years now,” Maximiliano Firtman, a longtime mobile and web developer, tells me. The edge. “iOS and iPadOS developers can use their classic UIKit apps, Unity apps, or their more recent SwiftUI apps for visionOS.”

The frameworks developers can use to build apps for iOS and iPadOS – SwiftUI, RealityKit, ARKit – are all “extended for spatial computing”. says apple, enabling developers to create immersive AR and VR experiences for the Vision Pro. They can also build their apps using the tools already available to developers, including Xcode and Unity, as well as Apple’s upcoming Reality Composer Pro which allows developers to “preview and prepare 3D content” for visionOS apps.

Firtman adds that while the visionOS software development kit isn’t out yet, web developers can still “use WebXR for immersive web apps and web experiences with Safari on visionOS…since most of the knowledge needed to create apps is already there .”

This means that, in addition to Apple’s native apps, we’re likely to see a lot of of the iOS and iPadOS apps make their way to the Vision Pro at launch.

For developers who take the plunge, Apple encourages them to expand what their apps can do. A simple port can display an app on the Vision Pro as a “window”, creating a floating version in mixed reality. Apps with 3D elements can present content as a ‘volume’ that adds depth and is visible from all angles. More immersive apps can build a “Space” that can cover a user’s entire view.

“Apple wants to offer apps that take advantage of the new Volume and Space app paradigms,” said Steve Moser, an iOS developer and editor-in-chief of The Tape Drive., tells The edge. “I imagine developers will want to quickly recompile their existing iOS and iPadOS apps for visionOS so that they are on the visionOS AppStore on day one and potentially have a chance to be recommended by Apple.”

This is good news for Apple, which wants to prime its App Store with services that make its headset useful. But the approach falls short in one area where Apple’s competitors are strong: gaming. When the device comes out early next year, Apple says it will house more than 100 games from its Arcade service, which is a nice touch, but most of these games aren’t built specifically for VR. That makes a pretty big difference, as users can just as easily use their iPhone or iPad to play an Arcade game, rather than putting on an entire headset to play. Angry Birds reloaded or Run Temple.

After all, people buy the Valve Index or the Meta Quest 2 to access libraries of VR-only games like Defeat Saber And Half-life: Alyx. A lack of serious VR titles threatens to put the Vision Pro in the same position as the Mac – a device primarily for productivity, not a hub for gaming. While Apple is trying to persuade game developers to put their titles on macOS with a new porting tool, the fact is that most developers don’t prioritize Mac as a platform because the most gamers use Windows, and until now Apple hasn’t exactly made it easy to port games from other operating systems. (We’ll have to see how well these newly ported games actually perform.)

“They’re obviously not focused on the current VR ecosystem and game developers like me, but that could be the right move in the end.”

While Apple’s headset may not immediately have some of the immersive experiences that come with playing VR games like Arizona sunshine And Knife and sorcery, probably won’t make or break the success of the headset. “They seem to hit all the points that Meta was looking for [the] last few years, namely overall UX,” Blair Renaud, VR game developer and the director of IrisVR, tells me. The edge. “They are obviously not focused on the current VR ecosystem and game developers like me, but that could be the right move in the end. To move the industry forward, we need all of the things I mentioned, not just incremental hardware improvements.

Apple’s slow, cautious approach to VR is reflected in the device itself. Instead of presenting you with a somewhat jarring and unfamiliar user interface that overwhelms your reality, the Vision Pro comes with a series of recognizable apps on top of your real environment thanks to video pass-through. Of course there is the option to turn on full VR using the digital crown, but Apple mainly left this application for watching movies or playing back videos. You don’t have to worry about getting used to controllers either, as you can navigate the device using just your eyes and hands.

Based on first impressions of the Vision Pro, the technology is clearly there to succeed. But like most devices out there, it’s the apps that make it. Fortunately for Apple, it’s easier to build on a foundation that’s already been laid, rather than build one from scratch.

Shreya has been with australiabusinessblog.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider australiabusinessblog.com, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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