R1 sensor fusion chip, Disney+ at the heart of Apple’s AR headset

R1 sensor fusion chip, Disney+ at the heart of Apple’s AR headset

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

As ever, the launch of Apple’s Vision Pro AR headset is strong on beautiful graphics and short on technical details. But it will be a year before it is available in Europe.

The $3499 headset will be powered by the M2 processor and a new sensor chip, the R1. These will drive two microLED displays with 7.5um pixels to pack 23m pixels into two displays. Apple’s manufacturer Foxconn showed a brighter microLED display in April.

The R1 is key to addressing one of the challenges of AR headsets, motion sickness. The chip takes inputs from 12 cameras, five sensors, and six microphones to monitor the outside environment, eyes and hands for control, streaming images to the displays within 12 milliseconds.

Users who wear glasses can use Optical Inserts from Zeiss to ensure visual fidelity and eye tracking accuracy. The eye tracking system uses high-speed cameras and a ring of LEDs that project invisible light patterns onto the user’s eyes for responsive, intuitive input.

All of this takes power. Although the headset is designed to be comfortable enough for all day use with a power lead, it will last 2 hours with an external power pack.

All of this needed a new ‘spatial’ operating systems, VisionOS, which Apple claims as the world’s first, and was designed from the ground up to support the low-latency requirements of spatial computing.

This includes a 3D interface for digital content that responds dynamically to natural light and casting shadows, it helps the user understand scale and distance. To enable user navigation and interaction with spatial content, a new input system is controlled by a person’s eyes, hands, and voice. Users can browse through apps by simply looking at them, tapping their fingers to select, flicking their wrist to scroll, or using voice to dictate.

However it is the content deals that will be key to the success of the headset, and Apple has already signed up Disney to have all the Disney+ content, including movies from Marvel and Pixar, on the headset.

The operating system also implements a feature called EyeSight. When a person approaches someone wearing Vision Pro, the device feels transparent — letting the user see them while also displaying the user’s eyes. When a user is immersed in an environment or using an app, EyeSight gives visual cues to others about what the user is focused on.

Apple Vision Pro starts at $3,499 and will be available early next year on and at Apple Store locations in the US, with more countries coming later next year.


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