As you’re reading this, there’s you, there’s the device you’re using, and there’s the world around you — your environment. Normally Apple restricts its sphere of influence to the device you’re using, but with Vision Pro, Apple has the ability to tinker with your entire environment, so instead of sitting in a coffee shop, being at your desk at work, or on your living room sofa, you can feel like you’re using your Vision Pro on the surface of the moon, on top of a mountain or while floating in ethereal morning light.
Of course, with Vision Pro, the device itself also melts away entirely, and all that remains are the icons from the Home screen floating in the air in front of you. This is the stuff that sci-fi was made of for years, but now, thanks to Vision Pro, it's a reality.
Apple calls these all-encompassing Vision Pro backdrops, the ones that give you the feeling of actually being there, Environments. Apple has several of these Environments available at launch with Vision Pro on February 2, and we’re going to tell you all about them and how they work.
Walking on the moon
Environments aren’t simply a panoramic photo that Vision Pro uses as a background — they are living, breathing landscapes that come with their own soundscapes and adjust their lighting depending on the time of day. All your apps work within your selected Environment, so you could choose The Moon Environment, which has a stunning backdrop of stars, and then start playing some music using the Music app, which will help you take in all that heavenly glory.
How immersed you are in an environment is also up to you. All you have to do is turn the Vision Pro’s Digital Crown, and your Environment will fade in and out, so you don’t have to leave the real world behind entirely. The fading in and out includes all the ambient sounds, too. However, there’s also a feature called Breakthrough, which means that if you look at a person (in the real world) then they ‘breakthrough’ the Environment and you can see them so that you can talk to them with ease.
To make Environments a seamless experience, the Vision Pro’s brand new R1 chip streams images to the displays in each eye in the headset every 12 milliseconds, which is 8 times faster than you can blink!
Selecting an Environment on Vision Pro is pretty simple. You just open Environments from the Home View, then choose the Environment you want. From our early looks at the Vision Pro we can confirm that the following Environments are available:
- Morning Light
- Spring Light
- Joshua Tree
- Mount Hood
- Summer Light
- Fall Light
- The Moon
- White Sands
- Winter Light
Let’s start at the top. Haleakalā is a massive volcano that forms more than 75% of the Hawaiian Island of Maui, and Apple’s Haleakalā Environment lands you halfway up it, way above the cloud line, so your view is impressive. If you want to get away from the pressures of daily life then this is the environment for you.
Yosemite will be familiar to macOS users, but this time it's the middle of winter, so you’re seeing snowfall on the ground and the cold, dark mountains juxtaposed against clear blue skies.
Mount Hood is a lovely lakeside Environment, complete with the sounds of birds and insects, pine trees in the background mountain ranges looking on. Its natural simplicity informs perhaps the most relaxing Environment Apple offers.
Another natural environment worth a look is White Sands, which has a desert-like environment of pure white sand leading off as far as the eye can see, under a gorgeous, cloudy, sky.
The Moon Environment is taken from the surface of the moon. If you’ve been watching the first couple of seasons of For All Mankind, one of the best shows on Apple TV Plus, then you’ll appreciate its austere beauty and the dazzling night sky. It lacks atmosphere, though. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
Finally, you have the Light collection: Morning Light, Winter Light, Summer Light, Spring Light, and Fall Light. These Environments provide you with the ethereal glow you’ve been looking for if you fancy cosplaying one of the Elves from Lord of the Rings.
You can also count the Cinema Environment as one of Vision Pro’s Environments. When you activate this (by playing a movie) it dims everything apart from a large screen right in front of you, which you can scale up as big as you like. It’s like having your own movie theatre.
In the Settings app you’ll also find some settings for Environments — you can separately set the volume level of all noises that emit from Environments, and you can also choose to have them be day or night time. The Automatic settings will change from day to night in sync with the changing rhythms of the real world.
You can see the menus in this tweet from Steve Moser:
3) Settings tour (Part 2) - struggling through the crashes which isn't surprising with the first beta of a new platform. pic.twitter.com/LSd3rwvtwKJune 21, 2023
We expect to see more Environments available at launch, and we’ll update this article when we find out more on February 2. Until then, stay tuned to iMore for all your Vision Pro news.
Master your iPhone in minutes
iMore offers spot-on advice and guidance from our team of experts, with decades of Apple device experience to lean on. Learn more with iMore!
With over 25 years of experience in the technology sector Graham Barlow has written for, edited and worked on some of the best technology titles in both print and digital, like MacFormat, Mac|Life, MaximumPC and Linux Format.
He also writes for websites like TechRadar, Top10Reviews, T3.com and blogs about martial arts.