Unveiling the Sights and Sounds: APPLE's VisionOS 2 Leap into the Future

Apple’s announcement at this years’ World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) might not have been a ‘One More Thing’ moment, but it was certainly one more thing for the company with the Midas touch to trot out and take a bow over. Over several days, it has released a raft of updates to VisionOS – the operating system that powers the Vision Pro, Apple’s first shot at a mixed-reality glasses and a head-spinning, overtly priced, deeply flawed piece of genius that few could have expected from the company that has so long ruled over our digital universe. Here is my walkthrough of what Apple made, what’s hot, what’s not, and why every detail matters.

APPLE's VisionOS 2: A Leap or a Stumble?

With Apple’s history to draw from, it was understandable that anticipation was sky-high, especially as Meta’s recent frenzy of updates for its Quest devices seemed to pale in comparison. Out of the gate, Apple has checked off only two items on the top of the 10 features I’d before dearly hoped to see updated. Thankfully, it’s thrown a few curveballs as well, which might make the conversation worthwhile.

Transforming Memories: From 2D to Spatial Brilliance

In what can only be described as a stroke of genius, or maybe just a gimmick, we’ll have to wait and see – Apple unveiled a massive upgrade for photo geeks, leveraging machine learning to convert still, flat images to spatial photos. Those of us who had to endure the eye-stabbing frustration that was the conversion of the Marvel movies to 3D might want to lower our expectations here.

SharePlay in Photos: A Niche Charm

The fact that SharePlay has been incorporated directly into the Photos app speaks to Apple’s desire to provide a shared experience – but how many people are actually going to put on a Vision Pro helmet for that experience? Remembering together, sharing memories et al.

Gesture Control: A Step Towards Intuition

Gesture controls to access Home View and Control Centre should make navigating the Vision Pro’s interface less of a chore and more of a charm. Be that as it may, gesture controls certainly represent progress – and more importantly, it’s further evidence that Apple is tweaking the nitty-gritty details of how we interact with its products.

Mac Virtual Display: Expansive Views Ahead

The improvements made to the Mac virtual display indicate a larger vision of work setups, where a full 360-degree, see-through display could transform the shape of one’s productivity and entertainment spaces. But I haven't given up hope on that window just yet.

Choo-choo Train Mode: On The Right Track?

A whimsical nod to rail passengers, Apple’s VisionOS 2 alerts commuters to ‘train travel mode’ At least, it’s been a more productive version of Apple’s corporate fantasies, as the company apparently takes the different usage scenarios of its user base more seriously.

Doors Open for Developers

There are new APIs to support volumetric user interfaces, applications that require a tabletop, and enterprise apps. The implication seems clear: we’re due for an explosion of apps, developed using the full power of the Vision Pro, that take advantage of the device’s multisensory capabilities.

Partnerships and Third-Party Innovations

The news of a new Canon spatial lens, third-party immersive video workflows and the quiet celebrations over mouse support all represent Apple’s willingness to engage with the larger community and welcome others to its fold. Such partnerships could be the catalyst that the VisionOS needs to truly enrich its ecosystem and help it grow in popularity.

What Does This Mean for APPLE and Vision Pro Users?

Over the course of these revelations and the misses comes a dawning question: are the apps currently available in VisionOS 2 powerful enough to bring the Vision Pro into the wide market, or do they simply hold a place while more long-term updates come out? With more than 2,000 apps specifically built for the Vision Pro and compatibility with almost all existing iPad apps, it’s not an issue of the Vision Pro not having enough digital experiences. Not having spatial versions of Apple’s core apps, and the incomprehensibly absent Find My functionality, are fair questions.

Decoding APPLE: The Brand Behind the Innovation

Underpinning these developments is the company Apple, whose products have consistently pushed outward the limits of technological possibility as well as self-conceit. Ninety per cent design, and 10 per cent function make for an inimitable and desirable combination in Apple, a brand that has cornered the market on stylishness, technological wizardry and – crucially – user-friendliness. Each reiteration of a product and each operating system update is a matter of technology, yes. But just as importantly, it’s a matter of experience, of lifestyle, of a myth. A myth that is held by millions of people to be absolutely desirable and universally enviable.

It is evident that, with each successive iteration of VisionOS 2, Apple’s experience with the Vision Pro is just beginning. Extending into the foreseeable future, the updates in the VisionOS 2 straddle the line between revolutionary and incremental, laying the groundwork for further discussion about what comes next by leaving more questions than answers. When considered in totality, and with each release, one thing is certain: Apple is officially the main architect of the new frontier, in constant pursuit of what’s next in the realm of technology.

In brief, perhaps the new version of Vision OS wasn’t particularly satisfying for every hype and critic, but nevertheless it is very much a milestone in a larger journey, one with significant potential outcomes whether it leads to the Vision Pro becoming part of tech lore, or rather becoming a footnote in a greater narrative. Regardless of which way the Apple winds choose to blow, the ecosystem is always evolving, and whatever it delivers – hits or misses – it will always be a catalyst for enquiry, discussion and sometimes, wonder.

Jun 11, 2024
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