Guide to Getting Started With Apple's Vision OS Development

Apple Vision Pro, VisionOS Development

The Apple Vision Pro, a new mixed-reality headset, represents a significant leap in innovation that will offer professional and casual users alike new virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) experiences. Vision OS app development will allow businesses to take full advantage of all the platform offers to innovate user interactions while delivering a revolutionary way to consume content.

This innovative headset unlocks a world of possibilities in AR and VR, providing the first widely supported system capable of displaying both VR and AR content worldwide. Let's dive into the exciting world of Apple Vision Pro and visionOS development by discussing a few facts about the VR and AR markets before covering what’s needed to bring a new product to life in this emerging ecosystem.

VisionOS Development: Ideation and Market Overview

There’s a substantial amount of material to ingest when considering visionOS app development. But first, we need to take a look at the hardware itself.

A Peek at the Apple Vision Pro

The Apple Vision Pro headset is a powerful piece of hardware capable of running dynamic resolutions up to 4K with 3D support, all via its internal components that are much different than most products currently on the market. The spatial computing functions that connect with different embedded components on the device are handled on the unit rather than offloaded to a connected device like a PC, giving users a significant degree of freedom.

A side view of the Apple Vision Pro headset – the dark front surface depicts the system in screen viewing mode for viewing traditional media and VR apps. By turning the knob above the right eye, the screen becomes transparent, enabling the use of AR apps. Image from Apple:

You can find out more about the exact specs by following the links, but the cost is one of the most important factors to consider at this point in time.

The base model pricing starts at $3499, which is a significant factor for businesses considering visionOS development. Looking at Steam’s most recent hardware and software survey from December 2023, we can see that from their 132 million monthly active users, the largest group uses mid-grade, last-generation technology to run apps and games.

Even if you’re not building a visionOS app for gaming, it’s vital to understand less than 1% of people are using the best hardware on the market (i.e., an updated PC or laptop equipped with an NVIDIA RTX 4090 graphics card and appropriate hardware components). Gaming is the most popular use for VR, but it’s still a small niche of this market – because of the price and how these consumers historically spend, the gaming audience it could possibly entice will only be a small portion of dedicated hobbyists.

Games may be the most popular use for VR, but there are emerging interests and use cases in other categories like virtual events, traveling, design, and more. Image from Newzoo

The costs and sentiments towards the technology mean that the best prospects aren’t necessarily those where VR has previously found an audience, but rather those in the smaller segments seeking valuable mixed reality experiences for business. Because nothing in the world of mixed reality is quite mainstream, any business looking to undertake visionOS development should approach the process knowing it will be a learning experience for them, like the rest of the market.

Simply put, Vision OS app development needs to be purposeful and carefully planned at each step to attract adopters, thus bringing us to our next point.

Quick Overview of the AR and VR Markets

The use of AR and VR is rapidly growing – to reiterate some figures from our blog on AR in retail, the market is projected to experience a 10.8% CAGR through 2028, eventually reaching over 3.6 billion users.

Augmented reality solutions are steadily gaining traction, driven by the evolution of immersive devices. While mainstream adoption is not yet on par with the smartphone era, early adoption of Apple Vision Pro can position companies to learn how to attract new audiences and revenue streams.

A glance at the Microsoft Store reveals a couple hundred mixed reality apps, though most would best be described as tech demos, as very few offer any utility. Image from the Microsoft Store

As other players refine their AR glasses and headset offerings, being ahead of the game for the future of augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality is promising for those willing to explore these solutions alongside an emerging audience.

Unlike most VR headsets, which are designed for entertainment, mixed reality is a newer frontier the market is just now beginning to explore. As such, there is immense utility for visionOS development in business, like virtual training and eventually, more robust applications using AR in industries like manufacturing, construction, healthcare, and education.

For a few specific examples, check out our blog on virtual and augmented reality in sports, as some of the foundational concepts in the examples we provide (e.g., motion tracking) can provide value beyond the realm of athletics.

A Great Product Requires a Tech Stack That Compliments Ambitions

The visionOS platform is a fully-equipped environment featuring tools developers can leverage to deliver the full extent of Vision Pro capabilities, drawing on both new and existing frameworks. As with other digital products, visionOS apps will require additional platforms and tools to supplement their operation, for example, analytics platforms that provide intricate details about user interactions and behavior.

This means selecting a technology stack compatible with Apple Vision Pro's requirements is pivotal for scalability and performance. Collaboration with visionOS app developers is crucial not only for business strategy but also for aligning the tech stack with the envisioned functionality and performance goals.

For example, Apple's augmented reality framework is complemented by tools like Reality Composer Pro, facilitating seamless content design and viewing in RealityKit. Third-party platforms like Mixpanel bolster analytics collection and analysis efforts by providing reports on data-driven events that paint detailed visualizations of user behaviors, which help with everything from proactively resolving technical issues to validating ideas.

Because of the enormous potential and copious specific use cases, successfully launching and maintaining each product will require specific strategies and tools. Fortunately, visionOS is essentially an extension of other Apple platforms – intersecting frameworks will allow visionOS app developers to use many existing Apple tools natively for spatial computing. Plus, this eases the learning curve for developers as they don’t have to learn all new skills from scratch.

Guide to Building a visionOS App

Apple Vision Pro unlocks unprecedented creativity with Vision OS SDK. For the hands-on crowd, this is a brief guide to getting started.

To get started with visionOS development, you’ll need:

  1. Update to macOS Ventura 13.4 and install Xcode 15 beta 2. Ensure your Mac is updated and the appropriate version of Xcode is installed.
  2. Creating or opening a project in Xcode. Since Xcode includes both visionOS and Reality Composer Pro, simply select "Vision OS" in the template screen to start building or open an existing project from the welcome screen.
  3. Explore and build using the visionOS simulator. Here, you can preview projects and test different conditions.
  4. Interacting and building 3D content. Open assets with Reality Composer Pro to preview, prepare, or alter.
  5. Use Xcode to preview SwiftUI development RealityKit content. Craft your UI with SwiftUI and bring 3D elements to life using RealityKit's RealityView.

Of course, there is much more to building a successful Vision OS app for the Apple Vision Pro, much like any other digital product. From a business perspective, it’s important to understand how everything comes together to launch a viable product in the marketplace.

To get an idea of what it looks like to launch a product for the Apple Vision Pro, we’ve put together this brief roadmap.

1. Ideation and Market Research

  • Understand the market. Research the AR, VR, and emerging mixed-reality landscapes to identify potential audiences as well as define your app's unique value proposition.
  • Stay informed. This is an ongoing requirement throughout a product’s lifecycle: stay up-to-date with the latest trends and keep a close watch on the competition.

2. Technical Feasibility and Partner Selection

  • Evaluate the feasibility of your idea. Assess whether Apple Vision Pro's capabilities align with your app's requirements.
  • Choose your partner wisely. Select a development partner with experience developing for Apple platforms and expertise in creating AR or VR apps.

3. Selecting the Right Technology Stack

  • Select platforms according to your specific needs. Work with your visionOS app development partner to identify a tech stack that aligns with your needs and is compatible with Apple Vision Pro.

4. Evaluating Development Strategies

  • Start from scratch. Build a custom Vision OS app that fully embraces Apple Vision Pro's unique features.
  • Port an existing app. Though not applicable in all cases, some existing VR or AR apps can be ported to the environment to take advantage of all the platform has to offer and potentially save time.

5. Prototyping and MVP Development

  • Prototype for learning and validation. Develop a prototype to validate your concept and refine your budget estimations. This is where you’ll test technical feasibility, gather feedback from real users, and iterate on your concept.
  • Build your MVP for market entry. Launch a minimum viable product to gauge user engagement and gather market insights.

6. Ongoing support

  • Ensure quality while keeping users happy. Use your analytics and other methods to observe user behavior and gather feedback. Use this information to regularly iterate and improve upon the product to keep users engaged.

Build the Experiences of Tomorrow for visionOS on Apple Vision Pro

Building an app for Apple Vision Pro is an exciting opportunity to be at the forefront of a transformative technology. By learning about the market and approaching visionOS development strategically, you can turn your vision into reality and shape the future of spatial computing.

While the emerging mixed reality markets show amazing promise, successful products will need to hit their marks throughout each stage, requiring a keen team to adapt and build accordingly for each stage. If the Apple Vision Pro sounds like the platform for your idea, we’d love to talk - get in touch.

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