visionOS will power the Apple Vision Pro headset — here are the first official details

Vision Pro hardware
(Image credit: Apple)

With WWDC 23 in full swing, Apple is coming at us thick and fast with the new stuff. We've already seen the Apple Vision Pro headset itself, but now we're getting a glimpse of the new software at its core – visionOS.

It looks a bit like iOS, it's got a whole new job and format to power, and it's finally got an official name. But just what is new with Apple's latest piece of new software that's powering one of its most exciting new products in years? Here's what we know from the WWDC keynote.

Apple's VR OS showcased

Vision Pro

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple's visionOS has a lot to power. There are the twin screens of the VR goggles themselves, both the AR and the VR modes, as well as the user interface to make sure that you'll be able to navigate your fancy new Apple VR headset.

We know now that it's going to look a lot like iOS and iPadOS – obviously, this is going to make getting used to Apple VR a whole lot easier, as there are recognizable icons and apps. Of those recognizable apps are going to be some useful ones, such as messaging, callings, Safari, and more. They look a lot, again, like their iOS counterparts, albeit floating in front of your face.

There are going to be two parts of the OS as well – the AR portion, which overlays on the real world, and VR, which will make its own virtual world. The two will be switchable with a little dial on the side of the headset, seamlessly transferring between the two.

Some of the coolest bits are in AR, such as the virtual workspace – we knew this was going to be a focus of the device, but it's nice to see it confirmed. That will let you run a virtual desktop of sorts, and use the headset with your Mac in a very cool setup that puts your macOS interface into an AR world.

VR has been shown mostly around games and some other productivity apps. But Apple also says that it's going to allow developers to make their own apps. They'll be offered via a special new version of the App Store alongside existing apps that are compatible with Vision Pro. Microsoft's apps are already on their way, while Apple's own apps will give people a great starting point.

Apple has so far made a big deal about what Vision Pro will be capable of in terms of productivity and entertainment, including a slew of Apple Arcade games. Apple also says that it will share more details about how developers can bring their own apps to visionOS in the future, something that will surely have a big impact on how well the Vision Pro headset is received.

We're covering all the WWDC 2023 announcements live and as they happen. Don't miss all our Apple VR, iOS 17, macOS 14, iPadOS 17, and watchOS 10 news so far.

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.