The Beginning of the Spatial Computing Era with Apple Vision Pro

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We are entering the world of what used to look like science fiction—a future where spatial computing and enhanced realities allow us to interact with the outside world in brand-new and revolutionary ways. What was considered impossible just a few years ago will now become a reality.

Considering the most recent developments in mixed reality (MR) technology, it is indisputable that we are at the beginning of a new era. One of the most notable breakthroughs among these developments is the Apple Vision Pro. What does it mean for the future of the industry? How will it change the way we live our lives? Is it a threat or an opportunity for the market?

An Introduction to Spatial Computing

Before we delve into the details of the Apple Vision Pro, let’s begin with the definition of “spatial computing”. Although the phrase lacks a single, globally acknowledged originator or creator, Simon Greenwold is a significant individual linked to the early debates and conceptualisations of spatial computing. In his 2003 MIT Master’s thesis, “Spatial Computing,” he explored the idea in relation to developing a computing environment that is deeply entwined with the physical space and defined it as: ‘spatial computing is human interaction with a machine in which the machine retains and manipulates referents to real objects and spaces. It is an essential component for making our machines fuller partners in our work and play’.

Nowadays, as scientists and engineers investigate the fusion of computing and physical space, the meaning has changed over time and spatial computing has evolved to become an umbrella term for many emerging technologies. Academicians, researchers, and business executives have broadened its definition to reflect the development of technologies like mixed reality, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR). It’s a team effort that showcases contributions from computer science, engineering, design, and other fields.

Key Technologies of Spatial Computing:

  • Augmented Reality – adding digital data on top of the physical world to improve one’s awareness of their surroundings.
  • Virtual Reality the process of creating a fully digital world that users may interact with to give the impression that it is real.
  • Mixed Reality merging real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualisations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time.
  • Sensor Fusion – integrating data from several sensors (including GPS, LiDAR, radar, and cameras) to enhance a system’s awareness of its surroundings.
  • Computer Vision – computer vision is the process of using cameras and other sensors to interpret and comprehend the visual environment so that computers can recognise faces, objects, and movements.
  • 3D Modelling – making or utilising virtual models of three-dimensional areas and objects. Find out more about 3D models here.

New Era of Mixed Reality

Changes in the industry are inevitable and the new era of mixed reality is already here. With the advent of gestures, voice commands, and movements, spatial computing revolutionises the way we engage with digital material, replacing conventional input devices like keyboards and touchscreens with more organic and intuitive modes. Because of its ability to provide more immersive experiences, boost productivity, and offer new methods for visualising and interacting with complex data, this technology has a substantial impact on a number of industries, including manufacturing, education, healthcare, entertainment, and urban planning.

What is the Apple Vision Pro?

Apple Vision Pro was recently released in the U.S. and UK markets and soon will be available in other countries, including those in Europe. It has drawn media attention due to its futuristic features and style, even though it is not the first headset to incorporate mixed reality technologies. Other AR and MR headsets are already available on the market, with the goal of offering customers immersive and interactive experiences, from businesses such as Google, Meta, and Microsoft. However, the design, functionality, and integration of Apple’s smartphone with its ecosystem of hardware, software, and services makes it undoubtedly the most sophisticated and ambitious.

The mixed reality glasses are Apple’s first 3D camera that features visionOS, the world’s first partial system, creating a new way of experiencing the world. On top of the most intuitive way to control the headset (by the user’s eyes, hands and voice), the device has a generative AI assistant that functions similarly to ChatGPT and is capable of creating anything the user can dream of. How does it work in practice? With generative AI it can create anything the user imagines, from a new house to a new car, a painting or a poem, or even a whole city based only on its preferences and explanations. However, there are many concerns involved – from whether it will accurately reflect reality to how or if it will work in real life.

How Could Apple Vision Pro Enhance Work and Life?

Before we move to the challenges and issues involved with the newest MR advances from Apple, this technology brings a number of advantages to both personal and professional lives. Have a look at the few ways it could change day-to-day living:

Enhancements in Work

Apple’s newest headset can make a huge difference in how we work, with new ways of visualisation as the design employs 3D modelling for real-time creation and modifications. As Apple highlights on its page, ‘Apple Vision Pro brings 3D objects to life. You can pull a 3D object out of an app and look at it from every angle, as if it’s right in front of you’. 

The glasses simply enhance teamwork and efficiency in remote work by creating a virtual conference experience that makes participants feel as though they are in the same room. ‘With Keynote on Apple Vision Pro, you can feel like you’re in a Conference Room or Theater as you rehearse your presentation. Plus, let multiple people present so the whole team can share, and add a live video feed to let your audience see your Persona while you’re speaking’. 

Additionally, like most VR glasses, Apple Vision Pro improves learning through immersive simulations that allow hands-on practice in a risk-free setting, like virtual surgeries for medical students or mechanical repairs. For companies, it gives the ability to examine intricate datasets in three dimensions, which facilitates the identification of patterns, trends, and outliers and enhances decision-making.

Enhancements in Personal Lives

The most popular use of AR glasses is for entertainment purposes. Such glasses increase engagement and enjoyment by providing previously unheard-of levels of immersive entertainment, such as 3D video games, concerts, and movies.

Another important aspect is social interactions. Some people dispute whether such devices can make us more connected or distant. But Apple allows virtual experiences with friends and family, making it feel as though they are physically together, regardless of actual distance. On top of that, you can make virtual visits to global destinations from home through the glasses, making travel more accessible and providing educational insights into different cultures and environments.

Other benefits include improved personal productivity through customisable virtual workspaces with numerous virtual screens and settings made to reduce distractions and increase focus and productivity. It also provides immersive fitness and wellness programmes that use captivating digital worlds to promote healthier lifestyles. These programmes range from guided virtual exercises to meditation. On the Apple Vision Pro’s main page, you can find information about how apps can fully expand into your area during a Mindfulness session, for example, where you can create a quiet moment of calm.

The creation of content and apps that make the most of the device’s features will be necessary to fully realise these advantages, as will resolving privacy, accessibility, and health-related issues.

Ethical and Social Implications

The new reality will require people to work together and share information in new ways, and that could lead to new risks. Although this is just the beginning, it is possible to predict that the technology will be used in the workplace, education, and other social settings.

As can be seen in the promotional video for Apple Vision Pro, the headset is designed to give users a sense of being present in the world but with an access to what they already have in their smartphones. Vision Pro offers the same entertainment, such as taking photos and videos, watching movies, listening to music and making FaceTime calls but in a new dimension than what we are used to.

Vision Pro vs Metaverse

The concerns are how we will manage to be present in so many places virtually and in person at the same time, and how we will maintain our social interactions. It seems like we are going to be attached to screens even more than before. This can lead to an increased sense of isolation and other negative social effects. This is reflected in most of the campaign videos, where the person using the product is on their own. This was noticed by Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, which is creating its own vision of a metaverse that is supposed to be social. 

Our vision for the metaverse and presence is fundamentally social. It’s about people interacting in new ways and feeling closer in new ways. Our device is also about being active and doing things. By contrast, every demo that they showed was a person sitting on a couch by themself. I mean, that could be the vision of the future of computing, but it’s not the one that I want.

– Mark Zuckerberg for the Verge

However, whether Zuckerberg’s idea of a metaverse will happen and what will be the consequences of it is still unknown.

Virtual Reality Concerns

The main challenges are focused on privacy and security of sensitive and private content. This involves taking into account user engagement, content, and the overall impact on society. We already live in some kind of Truman Show where there is someone who observes what we do, what we search for and adjusts the algorithm to capture users’ attention even more. 

According to a Pew Research Centre report, nearly half of teenagers said they were online “almost constantly” (compared to 24% almost ten years ago), and 95% of them owned smartphones. Hence, the big concern is if it will be the same with the glasses, since how will we be able to resist the need to constantly be up-to-date and not feeling like we are missing something when we take off the headset, if we even take it off at all?

“Regular use of electronics like laptops, televisions, and cellphones can have a negative impact on mental health. For example, it can exacerbate anxiety and stress and lead to a variety of sleep problems in both adults and children.”

Nakshine V S, Thute P, Khatib M, et al. (October 08, 2022) Increased Screen Time as a Cause of Declining Physical, Psychological Health, and Sleep Patterns: A Literary Review. Cureus 14(10): e30051. 

The emergence of novel technology such as the Apple Vision Pro has prompted ethical and regulatory debates, especially with regard to augmented and virtual reality. Currently, it is too early to predict what impact the Vision Pro and any other VR glasses will have on society. Therefore, in-depth regulations should be put in place to protect users as soon as possible.

Apple Vision Pro Design

Another aspect of the Apple Vision Pro is its design. For many people it is a key factor in deciding whether to buy the device or not. It seems like not everyone is happy with how the pair looks and feels. Most recent comparisons to call out are Neo in Matrix, ski goggles or sizeable sci-fi goggles. However, it is the first product of its kind and who knows if in the future it will be not possible to customise the design perhaps with more stylish and more compact frames, like popular sunglasses brands such as Ray-Ban and Oakley.

Conclusion

Undoubtedly, the Apple Vision Pro is a remarkable revolution bringing many benefits to how we function day-to-day and how we work. In the workplace, it improves remote collaboration and enables businesses to undertake complex tasks with ease. For downtime, it boosts the quality of listening to music, games or films and allows the ability to visit many places in the world right from the sofa. In terms of the dangers, it is still unknown what the exact impact will be, but already police have caught an Apple Vision Pro owner who was wearing the glasses while driving a Tesla car. This brings other questions, whether it is legal to wear an Apple Vision Pro while driving, who is in control, a machine or a human, who takes the responsibility… and so on. 

Clearly, the innovation is impressive, but the question is if the advantages it offers are strong enough to beat the challenges it brings. 

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