After years of rumours, Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled the tech giant’s anticipated mixed reality headset on June 5 — and Hollywood was abuzz. The Apple Vision Pro, slated for release in early 2024, was presented as a space wearable computer, “starting” at $3,499. The device is operated with an interface controlled by face, hands and voice. And with features like 4K, HDR, spatial audio, and stereoscopic 3D, Apple made it clear that entertainment was a central part of its mission. Apple TV+ shows Ted Lasso And Foundation were included in the presentation, while the company described the device’s usefulness to consumers as a “personal cinema.” And Disney CEO Bob Iger even appeared during the reveal to announce that Disney+ would be available on the device at launch, deeming it a “revolutionary platform”.
The Hollywood Reporter checked out how the revelation resonated with some of the entertainment industry’s top tech pros:
Founder and CEO of content/tech studio Magnopus
Once Hollywood studios get their heads down on what’s possible, we’ll see waves of new experiences emerge that take advantage of the expanded canvas. Content creators have always been sensitive to the audience’s “second screen” experience (the idea of people watching TV while looking to their iPad or iPhone for contextual information). Apple’s Vision Pro can be described as an “infinite screen” experience.
But at the same time, because the contextual content can be 3D and integrate into your environment, it can feel more like a “zero screen” experience to users. That may be what people have been looking for to handle the cognitive load we face from all the devices in our lives. Over the past year, many filmmakers have expressed an interest in developing their ‘off-screen’ experiences. If we have to be critical of what’s different between Apple’s Vision Pro and other AR or VR headsets, it comes down to the interoperability and unification of other Apple devices.
The individual technology components within the device are certainly best-in-class, but they are backed by seamless integration with a host of other devices and capabilities. A subtle but important distinction Apple is making with this launch: by putting “Pro” in the name and releasing that level first, they’re letting people know that this product is aimed at those who are going to build the experiences consumers want in the next generation of devices they release. That takes some pressure off the price and a lot of other expectations. They said it several times in the presentation, “This is just the beginning,” and they’re right.
Founder of post-production company Light Iron, Academy member and tech entrepreneur
By focusing their approach on comfort and hands-on interaction, it’s possible that if Apple succeeds in bringing XR to the masses with Vision Pro, it could unlock the next form of television – creating competition for the 4K HDR television experience on big screen. But what are the opportunities for creatives? Today, most project results are rectangular iterations of each other mapped to different color versions.
But could space computing be the ultimate outcome of our stories? I think it’s a little early to say we’re all going to be wearing $3,500 ski goggles all day, but then again, most of us also didn’t think we’d all be wearing $250 fashionable headphones most of the day wear. Apple said they want Vision Pro to create “deeply personal experiences”. This means that filmmakers have a new medium to enhance their stories. I think this is an invitation for Hollywood to actively participate in this technology. In stark contrast to MSG’s Sphere approach to content (the immersive dome under construction in Las Vegas could house as many as 20,000 people), Apple and MSG share vastly different philosophies about how people will consume content in an immersive way.
We’ve experienced plenty of digital improvements over the last 20 years: film to digital, 2K to 4K, SDR to HDR, stereo to Atmos, broadcast to streaming. And with Apple Vision Pro, ultra-high quality meets fully immersive. Apple said this won’t be available until early 2024 – which suggests to me they’ll spend the next nine months building a marketplace full of immersive content. Once that market matures and the technology and cost of ski goggles finally mold into stylish goggles, adoption will be at a fever pitch. If anyone has ever worried that all things digital will diminish our connection to the physical world, perhaps XR will help us be more physically present in a digital experience.
3D stereographer/supervisor, Martin Scorsese’s Hugo
I’ve received a lot of enthusiastic messages from artists and the 3D community following Apple’s announcement. The first stereo cameras in an Apple product are gigantic! We’ve been hoping for years that this would happen, it’s a big step for stereoscopy. And now we have our 3D with Apple’s 90 Hz refresh rate, another step for High Frame Rate, a more comfortable and detailed viewing experience. I’m thrilled that stereo imaging is THE experiential ‘landscape’ in this headset for all applications, while displaying photo and video content at the high level Hollywood professionals have always envisioned.
This feels like the future has arrived. I have high hopes for a democratization of stereo imaging enabled by Apple’s user-friendly interface. This accessibility has been needed for quite some time. 3D was often too complex for ordinary users and lacked a platform on which to appreciate great films after their theatrical release. This is a great place where content and stories can be more intimate, and certainly more lifelike in this world of ‘spatial video’. I also look forward to some upcoming 3D zoom talks and revisiting the vast and growing catalog of stereo movies stretching back 70 years. Other devices may offer a big screen cinema in a headset, but this AR device is likely to dominate as their viewing space has more experience options to design how you set up your workspace and view your content.
One concern might be to ask how the device integrates seamlessly into everyday life (without falling down a flight of stairs). Can I safely wear the Vision Pro while commuting on the New York subway? What are the physiological and social consequences of the hardware experience? As always, proceed with caution. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to test the Vision Pro. Someone soon needs to make a stereo (3D) movie using this headset as the main camera to light up the world through these Apple lenses so that we can all understand the possibilities now being offered to literally every person on the planet. Hopefully, other digital platforms will follow Apple’s lead and take spatial video and stereo imagery seriously, because that’s how we experience our world, with our own two eyes, in clear, vivid detail and movement, every day. 3D photography has always been a larger “truth mechanism” that seeks to more accurately represent our world.
CEO of tech developer Sohonet
Apple was late to the world of streaming devices, but Apple TV eventually killed most of its competitors, even though it was a “hobby” for a long time. They were years after the Pebble (smartwatch), but after a few slow years, the Apple Watch redefined the wearable as a category. AirPods are no different. The AR/VR glasses are probably in a similar place. Apple has decided how to make this a game changer, and while it will be slow for the next two to three years, one day in the near future we will wake up to a new Apple-dominated category.
A version of this story first appeared in the June 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.