Reviewers have got their hands on the Apple Vision Pro, and while the displays and specs have impressed so far, a common theme of the sites featured in our Apple Vision Pro review roundup is that the software lacks some luster.
That’s not to say it isn’t a blast to watch a 3D movie on a massive virtual screen. But a lot of the apps you’re using or just ported from iPadOS, focus on watching something, using a game controller to enjoy a flat game, or doing work with a Mac and keyboard. There are very few that let you get properly hands-on with virtual objects – the sorts of experiences people think of when they think of VR and AR software from the Quest or Steam platforms.
But the Vision Pro's app problem might soon be over.
For a start, Apple has said over 600 “new apps” are being released for the Vision Pro. This is quite a lot more than the 230-odd estimate given by Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman on Twitter in late January – who often has solid insider knowledge of Apple’s systems.
That said, beyond Fruit Ninja AR, Apple still has yet to show off many AR apps that involve much interaction. Many of those shown in its blog post still look like you’re mostly interacting with massive floating windows or viewing 3D objects rather than getting super hands-on.
We’ll have to wait and see what’s what when the software and Vision Pro hardware are released for the public on February 2nd (tomorrow at the time of writing).
Still some hurdles to jump
What’s perhaps more interesting is the announcement that Unity has launched the 1.0 version of its developer tools to create Vision Pro software. In the blog post, it said that after spending time in beta the tools are now available to “all Unity Pro, Enterprise, and Industry subscribers.”
The big upshot of this for people using Vision Pro is it’s now easier for Unity developers to create and port their apps to the Apple headset – so be on the lookout for a wave of new Unity apps heading to the Apple system in the coming months following the likes of LEGO Builder’s Journey and Tripp (with the team behind these titles having had access to the Unity beta for Vision Pro development).
Epic Games – the team behind Unreal Engine, a popular Unity competitor – hasn’t made clear when its tools will also offer Vision Pro development support if they’ll even come at all. The last we heard it was “exploring” the possibility back in September 2023.
Unfortunately, there are still some big hurdles to Vision Pro app development that may cause problems in getting long-term support from a wide pool of app creators.
The first is that visionOS app development – even through Unity – requires access to Mac computers running on Apple silicon. This won’t be a problem for every development team, but for software makers who mostly use non-Mac hardware for development buying all-new computers would be a serious investment in a brand-new platform.
Another problem is the Vision Pro’s lack of controllers. Apple’s dedication to only using hand-tracking certainly makes the device feel futuristic but many app developers have told us it makes porting existing VR and AR software to the system a bit of a challenge. That’s because most VR headsets use nearly identical controllers, so software is designed to work with these standardized handsets in mind.
To create a Vision Pro app they’d have to rethink the whole way players interact with the virtual world, which might mean effectively starting from scratch. What’s more, Apple has a unique version of hand tracking that also relies on eye-tracking – something most other headsets don’t have. So even if an app already has a hand-tracking mode in place there are still some hurdles to jump to accommodate the control scheme.
Over time developers should overcome these and other hurdles, but we'll have to wait and see how much they affect the availability of Apple Vision Pro software in the near and long-term future.
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Hamish is a Senior Staff Writer for TechRadar and you’ll see his name appearing on articles across nearly every topic on the site from smart home deals to speaker reviews to graphics card news and everything in between. He uses his broad range of knowledge to help explain the latest gadgets and if they’re a must-buy or a fad fueled by hype. Though his specialty is writing about everything going on in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality.