Apple’s new mixed reality headset, the Apple Vision Pro, was announced at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2023. This headset will be available for purchase in the US early in 2024. The Apple Vision Pro is the company’s first-ever mixed reality headset that has the capability to support both augmented and virtual reality technologies. The headset is built on the visionOS operating system and is priced at $3,499. It features two high-resolution micro-OLED displays and is powered by Apple’s M2 and a new R1 chipsets. However, the Apple Vision Pro has raised concerns about privacy, and Apple has taken steps to address these concerns.
Protection of User Privacy
An Apple engineer confirmed that third-party developers will not have access to the camera feeds of the Apple Vision Pro. This decision was made due to privacy concerns. During the WWDC 2023 developer talks, the engineer explained that when apps request camera and microphone availability, they will receive different values than what is returned by iPad and iPhone. When an app queries a microphone, it will receive a single front location microphone. When it queries the camera, it will find two cameras. The back camera will return a black camera frame with a no camera glyph. This is a non-functional camera that supports apps that assume back camera availability. When querying for a front camera, the app will find a single composite camera. If no spatial Persona is found on a device, then no camera frames will return to apps.
When making a FaceTime call using the Apple Vision Pro, the video feed will use a Persona of the wearer instead of a regular front-camera video feed. Personas are digital avatars of the wearer that display the face and hand movements of the user in real-time. Apple’s machine-learning techniques create these Personas. Apps like Zoom and WebEx are also said to use Personas during meetings. For the rear camera, visionOS will return a black feed with a “no camera” icon in the centre. This would stop the app from crashing and prevent developers from building their custom computer vision solutions.
According to UploadVR, raw camera access is forbidden for competitors such as Meta Quest headsets. HTC also disallows raw camera access on Vive XR Elite. However, this may change in the coming years after the launch of new headsets.
Apple has taken a proactive step to protect the privacy of its users by disallowing camera access for third-party developers. The Apple Vision Pro’s mixed reality features will operate using Personas, which are digital avatars that display the face and hand movements of the user in real-time. While this decision may limit the functionality of some apps, it is a necessary step to ensure the privacy and security of users.