Apple lends Vision Pro AR headset to devs on a very short leash


The Apple Developer Program has some very strict demands for anyone lucky enough to get a Vision Pro loaner.
The Apple Developer Program has some very strict demands for anyone lucky enough to get a Vision Pro loaner.
Image: Apple

A fortunate few will soon get their hands on the Apple Vision Pro. Developers can now apply to get a prerelease loaner unit with which to test the applications they’re creating for the upcoming AR headset.

But don’t expect to see people walking the street with a Vision Pro anytime soon. Apple’s rules for the loaner units are extremely restrictive.

Apple Vision Pro takes critical step forward

Vision Pro is Apple’s entry into the market for augmented reality and virtual reality headsets. The device was unveiled to global attention in June, but won’t actually reach customers until 2024.

Part of the reason for the delay is to give developers time to create software for the new platform. The headset can run iPad applications, but Apple really wants software focused on AR and VR in ways that aren’t possible with any of its current products.

Apple says Vision Pro offers developers “an infinite spatial canvas to explore, experiment, and play, giving you the freedom to completely rethink your experience in 3D.”

The company released the necessary software tools for building Vision Pro apps in June. But for app development to be practical, devs need hands-on access to a Vision Pro for testing. Beginning Monday, Apple is making that happen.

How to apply for an Apple Vision Pro developer kit

Apple is now inviting developers making an “app that takes advantage of visionOS features and capabilities” to apply for an Apple Vision Pro developer kit.

As Apple says, “This kit will help you deliver amazing spatial experiences by letting you quickly build, iterate, and test on Vision Pro.” Devs will also get assistance setting up the device, and help with their application.

But Cupertino isn’t sending developer kits out willy-nilly. Devs have to reveal what applications they’re creating. And people making apps that use AR and/or VR get priority.

Apple places strict limits on demo headsets

The terms and conditions of the hardware loan includes very tight restrictions that prevent it from being taken anywhere or being shown to anyone not absolutely necessary.

“The kit will need to stay at its ship-to address in a private, secure workspace accessible only by you and your authorized developers,” says Apple. The developer kit must be “enclosed with solid doors, floors, walls and ceiling, and locks that can be engaged when the DK is in use.”

Those using the Vision Pro for testing can’t show it to anyone not on the developer team. “You must ensure that unauthorized persons (including any family, friends, roommates or household employees) do not access, view, handle, or use the DK,” Apple says.

The AR headset must be password protected and never left unattended. When not in use, it must be kept locked up.

It’s not free — it’s Apple’s

Note that Apple is not giving away free visionOS units. The company warns anyone applying for a loaner unit that “this is an Apple-owned development device.”

At the end of the testing period, “You’ll need to return the kit at Apple’s request.”

Devs will be able to use the Apple Vision Pro developer kit until 90 days after the device launches at retail, which is scheduled to happen in 2024. At that point, it will be up to devs to buy their own Apple headsets.


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