How developers reacted after their first encounter with Apple Vision Pro labs | Tech News

How developers reacted after their first encounter with Apple Vision Pro labs

A few members from the Apple developer community recently encountered the Apple Vision Pro labs where they witnessed how their application would look and interact with the user.

By: HT TECH
| Updated on: Aug 24 2023, 21:58 IST
Apple Vision Pro
Apple Vision Pro labs wows Apple developers. (Apple)

After Apple Vision Pro was unveiled during the keynote session of the WWDC 2023 event, Apple invited the developer community to its brand new Apple Vision Pro labs, where they could have conversations to understand how their apps would be featured, and the changes they would have to make in order to optimize its performance with the device. This is a pretty standard affair that developers do every year for iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and watchOS. However, visionOS is different since it is an entirely new technology that allows users to interact with the platform in a vastly different way. The AR/VR device reimagines how people interact with a computer by making the experience entirely visual.

As a result, the developers who visited the Vision Pro labs were both shocked and surprised at experiencing such technology and to imagine how they could optimize their apps in this 3D visual interface.

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Developers experience Apple Vision Pro

As CEO of Flexibits, the team behind successful apps like Fantastical and Cardhop, Michael Simmons has spent more than a decade minding every last facet of his team's work. But when he brought Fantastical to the Apple Vision Pro labs in Cupertino this summer and experienced it for the first time on the device, he felt something he wasn't expecting.

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“It was like seeing Fantastical for the first time,” he says. “It felt like I was part of the app.”

That sentiment has been echoed by developers around the world. People can test their apps, get hands-on experience, and work with Apple experts to get their questions answered. Developers can apply to attend if they have a visionOS app in active development or an existing iPadOS or iOS app they'd like to test on Apple Vision Pro.

For his part, Simmons saw Fantastical work right out of the box. He describes the labs as “a proving ground” for future explorations and a chance to push software beyond its current bounds. “A bordered screen can be limiting. Sure, you can scroll, or have multiple monitors, but generally speaking, you're limited to the edges,” he says. “Experiencing spatial computing not only validated the designs we'd been thinking about — it helped us start thinking not just about left to right or up and down, but beyond borders at all.”

And as not just CEO but the lead product designer (and the guy who “still comes up with all these crazy ideas”), he came away from the labs with a fresh batch of spatial thoughts. “Can people look at a whole week spatially? Can people compare their current day to the following week? If a day is less busy, can people make that day wider? And then, what if like you have the whole week wrap around you in 360 degrees?” he says. “I could probably — not kidding — talk for two hours about this.”

‘The audible gasp'

David Smith, a developer, prominent podcaster, and self-described planner, just ahead of his inaugural visit to the Apple Vision Pro developer labs in London, prepared all the necessary items for his day: a MacBook, Xcode project, and a checklist (on paper!) of what he hoped to accomplish.

All that planning paid off. During his time with Apple Vision Pro, “I checked everything off my list,” Smith says. “From there, I just pretended I was at home developing the next feature.”

“I just pretended I was at home developing the next feature,” said Smith.

Smith began working on a version of his app Widgetsmith for spatial computing almost immediately after the release of the visionOS SDK. Though the visionOS simulator provides a solid foundation to help developers test an experience, the labs offer a unique opportunity for a full day of hands-on time with Apple Vision Pro before its public release. “I'd been staring at this thing in the simulator for weeks and getting a general sense of how it works, but that was in a box,” Smith says. “The first time you see your own app running for real, that's when you get the audible gasp.”

Smith wanted to start working on the device as soon as possible, so he could get “the full experience” and begin refining his app. “I could say, ‘Oh, that didn't work? Why didn't it work?' Those are questions you can only truly answer on-device.”

‘We understand where to go'

When it came to testing Pixite's video creator and editor Spool, chief experience officer Ben Guerrette made exploring interactions a priority. “What's different about our editor is that you're tapping videos to the beat,” he says. “Spool is great on touchscreens because you have the instrument in front of you, but with Apple Vision Pro you're looking at the UI you're selecting — and in our case, that means watching the video while tapping the UI.”

The team spent time in the lab exploring different interaction patterns to address this core challenge. “At first, we didn't know if it would work in our app,” Guerrette says. “But now we understand where to go. That kind of learning experience is incredibly valuable: It gives us the chance to say, ‘OK, now we understand what we're working with, what the interaction is, and how we can make a stronger connection.'”

Chris Delbuck, principal design technologist at Slack, had intended to test the company's iPadOS version of their app on Apple Vision Pro. As he spent time with the device, however, “it instantly got me thinking about how 3D offerings and visuals could come forward in our experiences,” he says. “I wouldn't have been able to do that without having the device in hand.”

‘That will help us make better apps'

Simmons says that the labs offered not just a playground, but a way to shape and streamline his team's thinking about what a spatial experience could truly be. “With Apple Vision Pro and spatial computing, I've truly seen how to start building for the boundless canvas — how to stop thinking about what fits on a screen,” he says. “And that will help us make better apps.”

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First Published Date: 24 Aug, 21:58 IST
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