In addition to offering immersive experiences, Apple says that Vision Pro will be able to run most iPad and iOS apps out of the box with no changes. For video chat apps like Zoom, Messenger, Discord, and others, the company says that an ‘avatar webcam’ will be supplied to apps, making them automatically able to handle video calls between the headset and other devices.

Apple says that on day one, all suitable iOS and iPad OS apps will be available on the headset’s App Store. According to the company, “most apps don’t need any changes at all,” and the majority should run on the headset right out of the box. Developers will be able to opt-out from having their apps on the headset if they’d like.

For video conferencing apps like Zoom, Messenger, Discord, Google Meet, which expect access to the front-camera of an iPhone or iPad, Apple has done something clever for Vision Pro.

Instead of a live camera view, Vision Pro provides a view of the headset’s computer-generated avatar of the user (which Apple calls a ‘Persona’). That means that video chat apps that are built according to Apple’s existing guidelines should work on Vision Pro without any changes to how the app handles camera input.

How Apple Vision Pro ‘Persona’ avatars are represented | Image courtesy Apple

Persona’s use the headset’s front cameras to scan the user’s face to create a model, then the model is animated according to head, eye, and hand inputs tracked by the headset.

Image courtesy Apple

Apple confirmed as much in a WWDC developer session called Enhance your iPad and iPhone apps for the Shared Space. The company also confirmed that apps asking for access to a rear-facing camera (ie: a photography app) on Apple Vision Pro will get only black frames with a ‘no camera’ symbol. This alerts the user that there’s no rear-facing camera available, but also means that iOS and iPad apps will continue to run without errors, even when they expect to see a rear-facing camera.

There’s potentially other reasons that video chat apps like Zoom, Messenger, or Discord might not work with Apple Vision Pro right out of the box, but at least as far as camera handling goes, it should be easy for developers to get video chats up and running using a view of the user’s Persona.

It’s even possible that ‘AR face filters’ in apps like Snapchat and Messenger will work correctly with the user’s Apple Vision Pro avatar, with the app being none-the-wiser that it’s actually looking at a computer-generated avatar rather than a real person.

Image courtesy Apple

In another WWDC session, the company explained more about how iOS and iPad apps behave on Apple Vision Pro without modification.

Developers can expect up to two inputs from the headset (the user can pinch each hand as its own input), meaning any apps expecting two-finger gestures (like pinch-zoom) should work just fine, but three fingers or more won’t be possible from the headset. As for apps that require location information, Apple says the headset can provide an approximate location via Wi-Fi, or a specific location shared via the user’s iPhone.

New Live Captions Feature on Vision Pro Could Lead the Way to Real-time Translation

Unfortunately, existing ARKit apps won’t work out of the box on Apple Vision Pro. Developers will need to use a newly upgraded ARKit (and other tools) to make their apps ready for the headset. This is covered in the WWDC session Evolve your ARKit app for spatial experiences.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Christian Schildwaechter

    The avatar webcam is quite clever. So far I had considered the live user avatars as a slightly creepy workaround to integrate the AVP with existing Apple services like Facetime and iMessage. It didn’t occur to me as a compatibility solution for the many apps that require access to the front camera, the use of which jumped up during the recent pandemic for everything from seeing friends to remote teaching or trying/buying makeup.

    Excluding AVP users from these apps could drastically increase friction, if every time they got any type of video call for even a few seconds, they would either have to take off the headset and grab their phone, or grab the phone and participate while recording themselves wearing a headset, probably the worst option. A virtual webcam gives them the choice between extra hassle, looking like a slightly creepy avatar or like a very creepy robot. I wonder how many will go for the robot to mess with their friends or brag how much money they can spend on toys.

    And I was somewhat irritated about the “Developers can expect up to two inputs from the headset [..] should work just fine, but three fingers or more won’t be possible from the headset.”, fearing that none of the advanced hand tracking would be accessible to developers. That fear vanished after reading the transcript of the talk and realizing that this limit only exists for running existing iPad apps within their floating 2D “Window” scenes, not for “Volume” scenes adding 3D objects to the environment (≈ MR), or “Immersive” scenes taking over the whole display (≈ VR).

  • Guest

    Smart move by Apple to have a feature many people won’t trust the ad based social media companies with. I have screen caps
    with proof of them impersonating me before and it would only be worse with a realistic avatar.

    • JanO

      Yeah… I know this is unavoidable at this point, but I wonder where we’re going when every “social” interaction basically becomes a deepfake…

      • guest

        It will become a new feature called: Im-persona-te

      • Christian Schildwaechter

        It may have some advantages. Recently there is a new variant of online blackmail, where people get a mail saying someone got access to their private sex recordings and is going to leak them onto porn sites if they don’t pay them in Bitcoins. The new version switches that up and now actually has private sex tapes, deep fakes created with images of the person being blackmailed taken from social media.

        The people blackmailed will of course know that these are fakes, but with the quality of fakes theses days may be afraid of them being posted anyway, as getting them removed or proving they are fake will be very difficult. Once society has gotten used to the idea that any image, video or avatar of a person can always be a fake, nobody would ever react to similar scams again, as everybody would believe and even by default assume it wasn’t real.

    • Atlas

      This is no worse than showing your actual face to those apps…

  • knuckles625

    Eh, I mean the reasoning makes sense but you’re talking about owning a $3500 device with 12 cameras onboard, and you explicitly can’t show grandma your kid/dog/cat doing something funny while video chatting. Instead you need to drop the call and rejoin on a phone 1/8th the price.

    • Dragon Marble

      Yep, if phone apps are going to carry this headset, then let’s compare it to a phone. It’s a more expensive, bulkier, heavier device that you have to carry on your face, just to show an inferior, less realistic video of yourself to family and friends. Rename it Meta Vision Pro and see how people will react. Think legless avatars are laughable? How about floating heads? Wait, they are not from Meta? They are from Apple? So magical and revolutionary!

      • Blizaine

        Ok Ballmer.

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      The issue here will be perception of privacy, esp. convincing users that the AVP will never violate privacy by sending out recordings of you apartment. This is easy to control on a phone that you have to point at something, trigger with a tap or button press and most of the time carry around in your pocket. A HMD needs a constant feed from multiple cameras, you basically generate a full 360° image of your surroundings every few seconds just by turning around, even when you don’t use passthrough, but one of the VR/Immersive Mode apps.

      So my guess is that Apple is overly careful and in a case of doubt disables everything that could be seen as spying on users. Developers get no access to the camera feed, and can use features that could theoretically allow copying other parts of the screen only in Immersive mode without passthrough. No app is allowed to access any actual camera, the only camera available is the virtual avatar webcam showing a generated picture, so not even accidentally recorded background like with the front camera on a smartphone.

      If they long term goal is to move towards AR, they at one time will have to allow some kind of access to the cameras/environment, but they may wait for that until some time after the launch, when people have gotten used to them and there is less danger it will be considered introducing a spying device into your home. That was pretty much the initial reaction to Amazon Alexa or Google Hub devices with always-on voice recognition. The concerns are at least somewhat valid, but by now a lot of people simply got used to voice-assistants, allowing to add more “dangerous” features without a public uproar.

      • knuckles625

        No no, I understand their reasoning, but I still think it’s stupid and is worthy of ridicule, lol.

        There’s an outward facing screen whose entire purpose is to relay to the outside world that the person inside the headset is using a camera to look at them (aka recording you). As it stands, if you see eyeballs on that screen, you’re being recorded-it’s just that only first party apple apps have access to that recording, and apple promises to delete the info as soon as it’s done with the info (whether spacially positioning, or scanning the room for walls/pets/people). The eyeballs are an attempt to make you not think too hard about how the pass-through AR periscope works.

        Would it not just make sense to pop a video camera icon on the screen while an outside camera is in use? (I’d hope this is what will happen when users record stereoscopic video from the device, but again that’s presumably only allowable from first party app)

        • Christian Schildwaechter

          I completely forgot about the stereoscopic video recording, which kind of renders my whole argument that Apple might prohibit ANY kind of rear camera recording to assure user privacy moot. And I wasn’t even concerned about someone being actively recorded, where an icon on the outer display may help, but mostly about an app getting access to images used for room tracking and leaking those without any official recording going on.

          The rules mentioned in the article are for 3rd party developers, so it is possible that Apple will still allow users to live stream the feed from the rear camera in Facetime, with a camera icon showing the APV is recording, to allow showing grandma your kid/dog/cat. Just not with Zoom, WhatsApp, Meet or any other non-Apple product. You have to trust Apple anyway that they won’t upload camera data from room tracking/passthrough, so allowing Apple apps rear camera access doesn’t elevate the risk of a privacy breach above that of regular use without recording.

    • Atlas

      There is no indication that external cams can’t be used during a video call.

  • Interesting that ARKit apps won’t work…

    • guest

      Not surprising. Developers should anticipate to be on a faster upgrade treadmill of an ever steeper learning-curve to lock them in. Also add in the cost of a BOTH a new device and new Mac at least every couple years. Been there done that.

    • Atlas

      ARKit is supported.

  • Christopher Barnhouse

    “, all suitable iOS and iPad OS apps will be available on the headset’s App Store.”
    No one: Can’t wait to spend $3.5K to play iPad apps !