Apple's Vision Pro headset has been in development for almost 20 years and this patent proves it

A lady wearing the Apple Vision Pro headset
(Image credit: Apple)

After years of rumors, Apple finally announced the Vision Pro headset during the WWDC 2023 opening keynote on June 5. But while we'd been hearing that a headset was in the works for some time, the truth of just how long that development cycle was is quite surprising.

As shown by a new patent granted to Apple this week, the company has actually been working on the Vision Pro headset for at least 16 years and likely much longer.

The patent itself actually dates all the way back to 2007 — the same year that the very first iPhone started to change the world.

Decades of work

If this patent, titled "Automatically Adjusting Media Display In A Personal Display System," dates back to 2007 we can assume it was being worked on long before then. Patent applications don't get drawn up on the fly, after all.

The patent itself relates to a personal display system that may also include an electronic device that can display media among other things. As Patently Apple notes, the patent also suggests that "the personal display device may adjust displayed media to overlay features of a theater, stadium or concert facility thus giving the user of the personal display device the impression of being in the facility."

That sounds very much like the Vision Pro experience that Apple showed off during the preview event, as does another suggestion that a user's head movements could be tracked and then represented in real-time on the headset's display.

The patent is as dry as you'd expect it to be, but there's little doubt that it is an indication of just how early Apple was planning on something very similar to the Vision Pro headset that will go on sale in early 2024. Some of the features that will be available are directly attributable to this patent.

We obviously don't know if the headset was in active development throughout the last 16 or so years, but the fact that Apple's engineers were working on something so similar to the finished product that far back is mind-boggling. And we have to wonder what Apple is working on now that won't land until for another 16 years or so.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

  • FFR
    Probably the reason why facebooks head of vr quit
    Apparently Facebook and Samsung cancelled whatever plans they had for vr and are now just copying apple, something’s never change .