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Earlier this week, Apple opened up applications for Vision Pro developer kits, allowing qualifying developers to receive the tools necessary to get an early start on building apps for Apple’s upcoming mixed-reality headset.
Not surprisingly, those “tools” also include a pre-production version of an actual Vision Pro headset that Apple will loan developers so they can test their apps on the real thing rather than just in a simulator.
Those developers who receive a Vision Pro Developer Kit will have access to several other benefits, including check-ins with Apple engineers who can provide design and development guidance during the process. However, the Vision Pro hardware is easily the most exciting — and most sensitive — part of the program.
As such, Apple is making it clear that these are not intended simply to let folks play with the Vision Pro before it goes on sale next year. They’re “Apple-owned development devices” being cautiously loaned to developers that Apple believes can contribute something to the new visionOS ecosystem. They also must be “returned upon request.”
Firstly, developers who wish to receive an Apple Vision Pro developer kit must explain in detailed terms why they need one and what they hope to produce. That includes a resume of their team’s development skills and a portfolio of apps that have already been developed. Apple will review all applications, and “priority will be given to applicants creating an app that takes advantage of visionOS features and capabilities.”
In other words, don’t expect to get the nod from Apple if you’re a new developer without an established track record. The company isn’t about to risk sending out Vision Pro developer kits to those who are just looking for a new toy to play with.
When applying, developers are given four options, only the first three of which allow them to continue with the application. The fourth, testing how an existing iPadOS or iOS app will work on the Vision Pro, guides the developer to a set of developer resources and shades out the “Submit” button, suggesting that Apple will not provide developer kits for those who simply want to try out their apps. They’re for folks creating actual visionOS apps, whether from scratch, from another platform such as Meta’s Quest, or turning an existing iOS, iPadOS, or macOS app into a full visionOS app.
Tight Customization and Even Tighter Security
We’ve already heard about how Apple plans to create a boutique shopping experience to ensure each $3,500 headset it sells is appropriately tailored for each customer. Naturally, it will need to do something similar for developers receiving the loaner Vision Pro headsets.
Earlier today, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman shared an example of the form that a developer is expected to complete if they’re approved for a Vision Pro development kit. They’ll get access to a pre-release version of the Measure and Fit app that will ultimately be used for the public, allowing the proper headband and light seal to be sent along with the headset. If prescription lenses are needed, those will be shipped to the developer by Zeiss.
This also means that each Vision Pro developer kit will include a headset intended to be worn by only one person on the development team. While Apple doesn’t prohibit other authorized team members from using the headset, they may experience a less-than-optimal fit, and it doesn’t look like Apple will be providing extra headbands or light seals to compensate.
More significantly, Apple’s terms and conditions for receiving a Vision Pro developer kit are strict to the level of a James Bond Q lab. The headset must be kept under lock and key, and only explicitly authorized team members will be allowed to even see it, much less use it.
Specifically, developers are prohibited from even showing the Vision Pro headset to anybody who isn’t listed by name on their Apple Developer program membership with their own Apple Developer account and “a demonstrable need to know or use the Developer Kit” in conjunction with the app being developed.
Each team member must also have “written and binding agreements” to not disclose any information related to the Vision Pro to anybody outside of the authorized team, and the list of names of those authorized must be provided to Apple upon request.
- Developers will only be able to use the Vision Pro developer kit (DK) in “a private, secure workspace” that can only be accessed by those who are authorized to see and use the headset.
- There must be no windows in the room where the Vision Pro is being used, and the door must be locked whenever the headset is out of its case.
- The headset must never leave the primary developer’s line of sight, even when being used by another authorized team member.
- When not being used, it must be stored in the locked Pelican case that Apple ships it in, within another securely locked space that only the primary developer has access to.
- The primary developer is responsible for ensuring that no unauthorized person even sees the Vision Pro DK.
You agree that all access to, usage of, and storage use of the DK will be in a private, secure workspace accessible only by You and Your Authorized Developers (e.g., fully enclosed with solid doors, floors, walls and ceiling, and locks that can be engaged when the DK is in use). You must ensure that unauthorized persons (including any family, friends, roommates or household employees) do not access, view, handle, or use the DK. When in use, the DK should be in your positive control (on your person or within Your direct line of sight) at all times. You must ensure the DK is passcode protected. Never leave the DK unattended. When not in use, turn off the DK and store it in its locked Pelican case in a locked space that only You have access to (e.g., a locked room or closet, a safe or locked drawer). The DK may not be moved from or taken away from its ship-to address by You or Your Authorized Developers without Apple’s prior written consent. If You will be away from Your workspace for more than 10 days, consult with Your Apple point of contact about how to keep the DK safe while You are away.
According to MacRumors, there’s also an indication that Apple may use an AirTag or AirTag-like Find My technology to help keep track of the Vision Pro developer kits. Developers aren’t permitted to use the Vision Pro DK anywhere other than the address it’s shipped to, so this could be a way of enforcing this policy, but it could also help track down a Vision Pro DK in the event that one gets stolen.