As part of a document sent to developers, Apple explains how it intends to manage the access of third-party applications to the many cameras of its Vision Pro helmet.
With its 12 cameras, 5 sensors (including a LiDAR module) and 6 microphones, the Apple Vision Pro has everything it takes, on paper, to significantly harm privacy. An objection that Apple obviously saw coming, and for which it already seems to have put things in place. In a document provided to developers following its last WWDC, the firm details the outline of a system it wishes to use to preserve the privacy of users of its mixed reality headset… despite its many cameras.
As 9to5Google points out, this is an important issue for the Apple Vision Pro, since the latter is designed to allow the execution of many iPhone and iPad applications as soon as it is released in early 2024. And among they are third-party applications that Apple intends to regulate.
Only Apple software will have access to your environment
” When apps request access to the camera and microphone, expect the values returned to be different than iPad and iPhone “, begins by explaining Apple in the document mentioned above, consulted by UploadVR.
” When requesting microphone access, apps are granted access to a single microphone, located on the front of the device. When requesting camera availability, apps get access to two cameras. The rear camera then returns a black camera frame with a no camera glyph (…). And when looking for a front camera, apps have access to a single composite camera “, continues Apple before adding that “ if no virtual Persona is found on a device, no camera frames will be returned to apps “.
This phrasing intended for developers is a bit cumbersome, but what should be remembered is that third-party applications will be limited in their access to the cameras, and that this access will be differentiated. As UploadVR summarizes, as part of a request for access to the selfie camera, for example, VisionOS will return the image of your 3D avatar (the famous “Persona” that you can see just above). It is this avatar that will be displayed in particular during video exchanges on Zoom, for example.
In the case of a request to access the rear camera, VisionOS will return a black stream this time with a “no camera” icon in the center. This solution will ensure that the application works without crashing, but will prevent taking photos with this same application. It will also be impossible for the developers of this application to create their own computer vision solutions by exploiting any images filmed by this rear camera.
This does not mean, however, that developers will not be able to develop applications capable of using the real world in the background at all (and fortunately), but they will only have to be satisfied with the APIs designed by Apple informing them about the surfaces and furniture present in the user’s environment.
The real images captured live, they will a priori only be accessible to Apple applications and software. A way to protect the privacy of Vision Pro users, of course, but also to ensure that Apple maintains a relatively closed software ecosystem. We can indeed imagine that the most successful applications and functionalities of the helmet… will be those of the Cupertino giant.