Although marketed as an AR device, Apple Vision Pro will feature fully realized VR games.
Apple Vision Pro is marketed as an AR headset, although it is technically a VR headset. Users look at an opaque display and not directly at the outside world, which is digitally reconstructed by cameras and algorithms and displayed on the screens.
The term “virtual reality” does not appear in Apple’s marketing. Apple does not refer to applications that allow users to fully immerse themselves in digital worlds as VR apps, but rather as “fully immersive experiences”.
Consequently, no VR games were shown during the presentation of the device. Virtual reality can isolate the user from the environment, and Apple wants to avoid that stigma for the Apple Vision Pro.
Rec Room: Popular VR game announced for Vision Pro
Nevertheless, there will be VR games for the device. During the keynote, the Vision Pro’s dedicated App Store was shown and the social VR game Rec Room was listed as a supported title.
Apple and Unity have since confirmed that the listing refers to the VR version, not the iPad version. Rec Room was developed using Unity, which is officially supported by the new visionOS operating system.
The VR version of Rec Room was designed to work with VR controllers. Since Apple Vision Pro does not come with such input devices, the studio will have to rely on hand tracking. The developers confirmed a couple of months ago that they were working on hand tracking support.
A Twitter video (see above) shows the first clips from the Vision Pro version of Rec Room. The video was taken from a developer talk at WWDC 2023.
Hand tracking is the future
It remains to be seen if the Apple Vision Pro will be suitable for VR gaming as we know it. Rec Room probably won’t be as playable without VR controllers.
The majority of VR games require VR controllers, and only a handful of titles are designed primarily for hand tracking. If Apple’s headset or its successor is as successful as expected, this paradigm could change.
Meta will also continue to push hand tracking as an input method in the coming years. For example, the upcoming Meta Quest 3 will offer much better hand tracking than Meta Quest 2.
Hand tracking will lower the barrier to entry for VR and AR headsets. However, VR controllers will not disappear and will remain the primary way to play VR games for the foreseeable future.