The Future of Spatial Computing

June 13, 2023
4 min read

So, what's the big deal about Apple Vision Pro? Why is it being hailed as a game-changer, and why should you care?

The Basics of Apple Vision Pro

Let's start with the basics. At its core, Apple's Vision Pro is a head-mounted device that provides an interface to spatial computing, a form of computing that uses the physical space around us as a medium for processing and displaying information. It encapsulates augmented, mixed, and virtual reality.

Video screen grab from Apple's Vision Pro WWDC unveiling event

Think of it as a boundless canvas for digital experiences that go well beyond the confines of a typical 2D screen. In simple terms, imagine moving virtual objects around in your living room using your hands and eyes or seeing cooking instructions appearing on your stove and countertop — that's spatial computing.

Under The Hood

The Vision Pro employs twenty-three sensors that feed data into Apple's new R1 chip. Working in unison with the M2 chip, they process the environment's images, video, and audio, blending digital assets and reality in real time. The latency? It's almost unnoticeable; it's eight times faster than the blink of an eye, giving users a virtually lag-free, real-time view of their digitally augmented environment.

Apple Vision Pro's array of sensors

The Vision Pro also incorporates advanced sensors like eye-tracking cameras, TrueDepth hand gesture sensors, and LIDAR scanners. These sensors capture precise user interaction inputs, enhancing control and precision and significantly elevating the user experience.

The payoff? It transforms your real-life environment by seamlessly layering immersive 3D content indistinguishable from reality, enabling you to interact and manipulate digital elements as if they were naturally part of your physical surroundings.

Apple's Vision Pro mixed-reality user interface

Now, you might be thinking, "Okay, that's all well and good, but what does this mean for the future of human-computer interaction?" Here's where things get exciting.

The Future of Interaction

According to a recently released patent, Apple is making a bullish move towards cultivating an expansive spatial computing ecosystem that extends far beyond just the headset. Picture heads-up displays that can turn a car's windshield into an interactive experience, or even, believe it or not, displays fashioned as contact lenses to be worn directly on the eyes.

Non-Apple examples: Volvo/Spectralics AR Windshield HUD (left) | Adidas / Mojo Vision AR contact lens (right)

The patent uncovers a host of novel, cutting-edge sensors. These include biometric trackers capable of registering heart rate, pulse, pupil dilation, breath, temperature, electroencephalogram, and even olfactory cues, as well as inertial measurement units, radar, sonar, and near-field communications.

These sensors, potentially combined with hardware elements like buttons and switches, could even interface directly with neural signals through a brain-computer interface—an emerging technology that allows for direct communication between the brain and an external device.

Brain-Computer Interface by Emotiv

Such advanced inputs provide a much more refined way to register biometric readings, facial tracking, eye movement, hand gestures, and voice commands, giving users an extraordinary range of ways to interact with the augmented reality around them.

Blurring the Boundaries

The scale of innovation that Apple Vision Pro brings to the table is genuinely awe-inspiring. It holds the potential to transform any place into an augmented reality experience, blurring the boundaries between the physical and digital worlds. It instantly reminds me of 'Hyper-Reality,' a futuristic concept video by Keiichi Matsuda from about seven years ago.

The video portrayed a city saturated with media, where physical and virtual realities were totally merged. It seemed like an ambitious vision then, but with what Apple Vision Pro promises to deliver in the near-term, Matsuda's concept appears less abstract and more like our imminent reality.

The Promise of Spatial Computing

So, when Apple talks about spatial computing, it's not just about this first-generation device. It's about an array of future devices, embedded in everything from cars to our homes, that augment reality in various contexts as users engage with Apple's ecosystem throughout the day. The scope and adaptability of this approach could drastically redefine how we perceive and interact with technology. The Apple Vision Pro promises to revolutionize not just how we work, play, and connect, but its impact could be so profound that it reshapes our entire life experience.

This, in essence, is the true promise of the Apple Vision Pro. It's not just a game-changer; it's potentially a life-changer. What might our world look like when such a technology becomes commonplace? The possibilities are mind-boggling.

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©Bora Nikolic 2023

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