The Apple Vision Pro Developer Kit: A Guide for Beginners

The Apple Vision Pro Developer Kit: What’s Included and How it Works

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Mixed RealityInsights

Published: May 28, 2024

Rebekah Carter

Rebekah Carter

The Apple Vision Pro Developer Kit, Apple’s collection of tools designed to support app development, has been available for a while now. In fact, Apple opened the program for applications long before the spatial computing headset ever hit the market.

Now that the Vision Pro is available in the US and capturing the attention of consumers and businesses worldwide, demand for this kit is increasing. Additionally, many Apple partners are beginning to roll out their own tools to support development, such as AWS.

Though the number of apps available for the Apple Vision Pro is growing, there’s still an excellent opportunity here for developers to create and sell their own unique experiences. In particular, I believe companies investing in business-focused apps will become extremely popular.

Here’s what you need to know about the Apple Vision Pro Developer Kit: how it works, what’s included, and how you can start using it to create your own apps.

What is the Apple Vision Pro Developer Kit?

The Apple Vision Pro Developer Kit is a suite of tools that empowers creators to design spatial experiences specifically tuned to the capabilities of the Apple Vision Pro. It’s similar to many of the extended reality developer kits available from companies like Meta, Google, and more.

The main difference is that the Vision Pro developer kit includes a range of resources that enable developers to leverage Apple’s unique spatial reality operating system (visionOS).

If you’re successful in applying for kit (I’ll cover how you can do that later), you’ll get a Vision Pro headset (on loan), as well as various forms of support. Apple’s team will give you support with setting up the device and onboarding, as well as guidance from Apple Experts.

You can even access design kits, human interface guidelines, and developer documentation. Plus, you’ll be able to work with experts from Apple’s various Developer Labs, located in regions around the world. Apple says developers designing for the Apple Vision Pro will gain access to a range of technology frameworks, including ARKit, RealityKit, SwiftUI, Testglight, and Xcode.

Plus, you’ll be able to leverage “Reality Composer Pro” to preview and edit 3D objects.

What’s Included in the Apple Vision Pro Developer Kit?

Alongside access to expert Apple technician support, the Apple Vision Pro developer kit comes with everything you need to design spatial computing apps. The core components of the kit include:

  • VisionOS frameworks and technologies: The central solutions you need to create spatial computing experiences with Apple’s proprietary operating system. You’ll gain a development environment where you can build applications for visionOS using Xcode IDE, Xcode previews, and a visionOS simulator.
  • Frameworks and technologies: VisionOS is supported by the frameworks and technologies used for iPad and iOS apps. This means developers will be able to use well-known tools like SwiftUI to create spatial experiences, as well as UIKit, Reality Kit (Apple’s 3D rendering engine), Arkit and more.
  • Reality Composer Pro: The new Reality Composer Pro tool supports Apple Vision Pro app development with an environment fir editing and designing 3D content. It also allows developers to import 3D compositions into Xcode.
  • Unity integration: Unity offers comprehensive support for Apple Vision Pro developers, including a visionOS template which forms the foundation of spatial experiences. Developers can also leverage all of Unity’s core features without the need for modifications.
  • Extensive motion information: App icons and other tools in VisionOS feature three-dimensional designs, showcasing depth between layers. Apple gives developers the tools to leverage this functionality, and implement accessibility solutions for individuals who want to use apps using their voice, eyes, or multiple biometrics.

The developer program will also include full documentation on App Store submission guidelines for Apple’s comprehensive application platform. This ensures developers can successfully upload their apps for other users to access through VisionOS.

How to Use the Apple Vision Pro Developer Kit

Using the Apple Vision Pro developer kit, there are a couple of ways to build an app for the Apple Vision Pro. Experienced developers can design experiences from scratch using the Apple Vision Pro SDK and other supporting tools, like SwiftUI, ARKit, and RealityKit.

Alternatively, Apple also allows companies to modify existing apps (already approved by Apple) with spatial computing abilities. Before you get started, it’s worth making sure you have access to all of the right tools alongside your developer kit, such as:

  • SwiftUI programming tools
  • Xcode for development
  • Apple Vision Frameworks for image processing
  • RealityKit for 3D rendering
  • Machine learning tools like CoreML and Create ML
  • ARKit for augmented reality development
  • UIKitfor user interface development
  • Metal and SceneKit for graphics

It might also be worth ensuring you have the right data and backend services available to ensure you can connect your Vision Pro app to cloud storage services, like AWS. Plus, App Store Connect and TestFlight will be valuable for beta testing and tracking app performance.

Once you have these things, here’s how you can start building your own app.

1.      Define Your Concept and Use Cases

Despite its high price tag, I consider the Apple Vision Pro to be a transformative solution in the spatial computing and mixed reality landscape. Though there’s definitely opportunities here for building XR games and immersive experiences for everyday consumers, I think the biggest opportunity lies in the enterprise sector. Productivity and collaboration apps like Microsoft Teams and Zoom are already extremely popular among Apple Vision Pro users.

Developers also have a growing opportunity to design apps specifically for certain industries. Already, Apple’s headset has emerged as a powerful tool for those in the healthcare landscape, and I have a feeling it will become a valuable resource for the industrial metaverse, too.

Consider your use cases carefully, and remember to consider carefully the features your app should include based on VisionOS’s unique spatial computing capabilities.

2.      Plan Your Development Strategy

After determining your app use cases and researching your audience and their needs, it’s time to start thinking about your development approach. I recommend conducting a comprehensive market analysis to look for gaps in existing spatial computing solutions.

Consider how you’ll leverage the capabilities offered by the Vision Pro, such as hand and eye-tracking and comprehensive mixed-reality passthrough. Think carefully about the specific tools you’ll need to leverage, such as Apple’s Personas for immersive collaboration.

You’ll also need to think carefully about:

  • User experience: How will you ensure customers get a good experience when using your app? Will you enable multi-tasking with your application, make it easy for users to leverage existing accounts with your business, implement technologies that minimize virtual reality sickness, and ensure your app is “accessible” to those with specific needs?
  • Device limitations: Although the Apple Vision Pro is an extremely powerful headset, it still has some limitations. Battery life is a major issue, so it’s important to look at how you can optimize your app’s use of system resources and reduce the drain on device battery life.
  • Security and privacy: How will you defend users’ interactions in the metaverse leveraging your app and the Apple Vision Pro? Make sure your application complies with Apple’s strict data privacy policy and any industry-specific regulations.

3.      Identify Crucial Features

Notably, the app you create with the Apple Vision Pro developer kit can evolve over time. Plenty of developers already working with Apple, such as Zoom, are planning on adding new capabilities to their platform over time, building on its spatial computing capabilities.

However, it’s worth establishing in advance which “core features” will be central to your app experience. To gain insights into what you need to consider, check out Apple’s design guidelines and the features enabled by the Apple Vision Pro.

Common features to consider include:

  • Third-party app integrations
  • Rich and immersive 3D content
  • Eye-tracking and hand-tracking
  • Real-world mapping and sensing
  • Virtual avatars (Personas)
  • Group or multi-user support
  • Calls and messaging in AR/VR
  • User controls and sensors

4.      Consider Support from an Expert

If you’re already investing in the XR development landscape and have access to all of the tools required to build an Apple Vision Pro app, you may be ready to start building straight away. However, it’s worth noting that designing apps for the Apple Vision Pro will be a little different from creating apps for things like Meta’s Horizon ecosystem.

If you’re not familiar with Apple’s development tools already, it might be worth sourcing assistance from an expert who already specializes in this ecosystem. Alternatively, you may want to provide your development team with training and resources they can use to enhance their skills.

Fortunately, the Apple Vision Pro developer kit works with Xcode for development and testing and gives you access to a range of solutions for detecting potential app errors. However, it may still be a good idea to hire an expert for pre-launch testing.

5.      Apply for Access to the Apple Vision Pro Developer Kit

Once you’ve planned everything from your app’s features to your development strategy, you can apply for access to the Apple Vision Pro developer kit. You can find the application form here. You’ll need to have an account with the Apple Developer Program, or you’ll have to join the Apple Developer Enterprise program to get started.

Notably, Apple will ask you to provide information on your team’s skills and any existing applications you’ve built. You’ll also need to agree to Apple’s development terms and conditions and be willing to return your headset to the company when asked.

Apple says its team reviews applications individually, and prioritizes developers who are creating tools that take full advantage of the capabilities of VisionOS, so keep this in mind.

6.      Develop and Launch Your App

If your application is approved, you’ll be given access to all the resources mentioned above, and a Vision Pro headset. You’ll also be able to attend developer labs across various locations and access consistent support from Apple’s teams.

Once you’ve created your app, you’ll need to reach out to Apple again, and ask them to review your app. The team will assess its features and functionality and determine whether you should be allowed to launch your app on the VisionOS store. Keep in mind that gaining approval can take a little while, particularly now that more companies are building apps for the Vision Pro.

Even if your app isn’t immediately approved for listing, you may still need to return the headset to Apple before launch.

Using the Apple Vision Pro Developer Kit

Hopefully, this guide has given you an insight into what you can expect from the Apple Vision Pro developer kit and how you can begin creating your own apps. While Apple’s developer solutions might not be as accessible or flexible as those offered by Meta right now, they do give creators an opportunity to take full advantage of the spatial computing landscape.

Whether you’re designing your first application for a specific group of users or you’re looking to expand your portfolio with mixed reality tools, applying for this kit could be a good first step.

I do recommend keeping up-to-date with Apple’s evolving visionOS ecosystem and developer resources, however, as the tools available are likely to evolve in the months ahead.

FAQs

Is there a free Apple Developer Program?

Technically, you can’t access the Apple Developer Program for free. You’ll need to pay a monthly fee of $99 per year to access all the tools and capabilities. However, you will be able to loan a headset for free. Notably, there may be other fees to consider for development support.

What comes with the Apple Developer Program?

The Apple Developer program includes access to all the tools and resources you need to develop and distribute apps, including apps for the Apple Vision Pro. You’ll gain extensive technical support, app services, testing tools, analytical resources, and more.

How do I enable developer mode in Apple Vision Pro?

To access Developer Mode in the Apple Vision Pro, go into the settings section on the device and click on Privacy and Security. From there, you should be able to select “Enable developer mode”. The device will restart, and you’ll be able to log into your developer tools.

 

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