Apple opens Vision Pro headset applications for developers, but they can’t talk about it

Apple CEO Tim Cook stands next to a new Apple Vision Pro headset displayed during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in Cupertino, California, June 5, 2023.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

Apple opened up Vision Pro developer kit applications on Monday, ahead of a planned 2024 launch for the $3,499 headset.

When the device launches, it will need a catalog of apps built for its unique hardware and capabilities. By opening up applications for a developer’s kit months ahead of its release, Apple is allowing selected developers to use the actual hardware to build and fine-tune the apps.

But Apple’s developer’s kits aren’t a soft launch for the product. The device is a loan, not a sale, and it will remain Apple property to be returned after the Vision Pro headset launches. Apple representatives will also check in with developers and offer code reviews to software makers and companies with access to the hardware.

Developers are asked about what they’re making and what Apple tools they’ve used in the past, and they have to sign confidentiality agreements — which include provisions that require that the device remain at the address to which it was shipped, that it can’t be used in public, and that it must be locked inside a Pelican hard case when it’s not in use, according to the Apple developer agreement.

Family, friends, roommates, or household employees cannot access, view or handle the hardware. Apple also bars any public discussion of the hardware in person or on social media. Apple reserves the right to see a list of staff who are authorized to work on the device.

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

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

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

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

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

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