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Apple Vision Pro headset applications are open to developers

Apple CEO Tim Cook stands next to Apple’s new Vision Pro headset during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference on June 5, 2023 in Cupertino, California.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

On Monday, Apple opened up a developer suite for the Vision Pro, ahead of the $3,499 headset’s planned 2024 release.

When a device starts up, it needs a directory of apps built for its unique hardware and capabilities. By opening up developer kit applications months before its release, Apple allows select developers to use the actual hardware to build and fine-tune apps.

But Apple’s developer kits aren’t a soft launch of a product. The device is a loan, not a sale, and will remain the property of Apple and will be returned after the launch of the Vision Pro headset. Apple representatives will also reach out to developers and offer code reviews to software makers and companies that have access to the hardware.

Developers are asked about what they do and what Apple tools they’ve used in the past, and must agree to confidentiality agreements, including that the device must remain at the address it was sent to, cannot be used in public, and must be locked in a hard Pelican case when not in use, according to Apple’s developer agreement.

Family, friends, roommates, or household staff cannot access, view, or operate the equipment. Apple also prohibits any public discussion of the hardware in person or on social media. Apple reserves the right to review the list of employees authorized to work on the device.

In June, Apple unveiled the Vision Pro, its new virtual reality product, which the company says is its first “spatial computer.” It’s Apple’s first major new product since the Apple Watch in 2014.

The headset uses powerful cameras and sensors to integrate real-world and virtual objects inside the headset’s high-definition screens, mounted millimeters from the user’s eyes.

Many of the Apple-developed apps reviewed in June were essentially iPad apps floating in space. But Apple also hinted that the device will be able to make full VR apps that immerse the user in a virtual world, and previewed some full user apps that break the computer graphics out of windows and boxes.

Apple is interested in developers porting VR apps from other platforms and creating new apps just for Vision Pro. The company says it prefers app makers who want to take advantage of the new hardware instead of porting existing iPad apps to the device.

Apple said it will also allow some developers access to hardware in “labs” in cities such as London, Shanghai and Tokyo.

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