Apple wants the Vision Pro to be the world’s most expensive in-flight accessory

The first beta for the Apple Vision Pro headset’s operating system – visionOS – has launched and we’re finding out a bunch of interesting details about the Apple VR headset, including that Apple wants it to be the ultimate travel companion.

Apple’s Vision Pro isn’t expected to launch until next year, but that hasn’t stopped Apple from releasing the OS early so app creators can start bringing their software to the system. This way, by the time the headset is publicly available it should have a solid library of content that’ll help justify its exceptionally high price of $ 3,499 (around £2,800 / AU$ 5,300). But the beta isn’t just giving us an idea of what third-party developers are working on for the Apple headset, it’s giving us a clear picture of the direction Apple wants to take the Vision Pro.

Previously (in our round-up of six Vision Pro details the visionOS beta has revealed) it was discovered that Apple isn’t keen for people to use its headset for VR fitness – with its guidance for app makers being they should “avoid encouraging people to move too much.” Now we’ve learned that the Vision Pro will have a dedicated Travel Mode designed for using the headset on an airplane (discovered by MacRumors).

The Apple Vision Pro headset on a stand at the Apple headquarters

(Image credit: Future)

Travel Mode is more than just the typical airplane mode you’d find on your smartphone. Instead, it apparently adapts how the Vision Pro operates so that the experience is better suited to being crammed like a sardine next to people in Economy. According to code found in the visionOS beta, the headset will do this by switching off some of its awareness features and asking you to stay stationary while in Travel Mode.

Both of these make sense. The Vision Pro’s awareness features alert the wearer if a person or an object gets close to them while they’re wearing the headset. On a plane, where people are around you all of the time this could make the sensors go haywire and be a major distraction to your in-flight VR movie. As for moving around, if you have people sitting on either side of you then they likely won’t appreciate it if you start flailing your arms around.

So you won’t be getting the full Vision Pro experience during your flight, but the idea of making your travel better with VR certainly sounds appealing. The beta code doesn’t go into much more detail, but we can turn to the Apple Vision Pro introduction video shown at WWDC 2023 to get an idea of how Travel mode functions. TL;DR, you can use your headset as a private movie theatre and enjoy a 4K film of your choice (that you likely had to download before you boarded) on a massive virtual display – a much larger and higher-quality image than a plane’s built-in video screens.

A model wearing the Nreal Air glasses, looking cool

The Nreal Air AR Glasses (Image credit: Nreal)

That said, if you don’t want to splash out $ 3,500 for a piece of travel tech, there are much more budget-friendly AR glasses that can achieve a similar effect to the Vision Pro’s private movie theatre. The Xreal Air AR glasses (formerly Nreal Air) won’t offer you 4K visuals and have a fair few faults – namely, we feel they’re pricey for what you get and the battery life leaves something to be desired – but if you’re a frequent flier these could be just what you need and they only cost $ 379 / £400 (around AU$ 570). And when the Xreal Beam launches it looks like many of the AR glasses’ faults could be solved. 

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Meta Builder Bot concept happily builds virtual worlds based on voice description

The Metaverse, that immersive virtual world where Meta (née Facebook) imagines we'll work, play, and interact with friends and family is also where we may someday build entire worlds with nothing but our voice.

During an online AI development update delivered, in part, by Meta/Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday (February 23), the company offered a glimpse of Builder Bot, an AI concept that allows the user to build entire virtual experiences using their voice.

Standing in what looked like a stripped-down version of Facebook's Horizon Worlds' Metaverse, Zuckerberg's and a co-worker's avatars asked a virtual bot to add an island, some furniture, clouds, a catamaran, and even a boombox that could pay real music to the environment. In the demonstration, the command phrasing was natural and the 3D virtual imagery appeared instantly, though it did look a bit like the graphics you'd find in Nintendo's Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

The development of Builder Bot is part of a larger AI initiative called Project CAIRaeoke, which is an end-to-end neural model for building on-device assistance. 

Meta's Builder Bot concept

Mark Zuckerberg’s legless avatar and Builder Bot. (Image credit: Future)

Zuckerberg explained that current technology is not yet equipped to help us explore an immersive version of the internet that will ultimately live in the Metaverse. While that will require updates across a whole range of hardware and software, Meta believes AI is the key to unlocking advancement that will lead to, as Zukerberg put it, “a new generation of assistants that will help us explore new worlds”.

“When we’re wearing [smart] Glasses, it will be the first time an AI system will be able to see the world from our perspective,” he added. A key goal here is for the AI they're developing to see as we do and, more importantly, learn about the world as we do, as well.

It's unclear if Builder Bot will ever become a true part of the burgeoning Metaverse, but its skill with real-time language processing and understanding how parts of the environment should go together is clearly informed by the work Meta is doing.

Mark Zuckerberg talks AI translation

Mark Zuckerberg talks AI translation (Image credit: Future)

Zuckerberg outlined a handful of other related AI projects, all of which will eventually feed into a Metaverse that can be accessed and used by anyone in the world.

These include “No Language Left Behind,” which, unlike traditional translation that often uses English as a mid-translation point, can translate languages directly from the source to the translation language. There's also the very Star Trek-like “Universal Speech Translator”, which would provide instantaneous speech-to-speech translation across all languages, including spoken languages.

“AI is going to deliver that in our lifetimes,” said Zuckerberg.

Mark Zuckerberg talks image abstraction

Mark Zuckerberg talks image abstraction (Image credit: Future)

Meta is also investing heavily in self-supervised learning (SSL) to build human-like cognition into AI systems. Instead of training with tons of images to help the AI identify patterns, the system is fed raw data and then asked to predict the missing parts. Eventually, the AI learns how to build abstract representations.

An AI that can understand abstraction could complete an image just from a few pieces of visual information, or generate the next frame of a video it's never seen. It could also build a visually pleasing virtual world with only your words to guide it.

For those full-on freaked out by Meta's Metaverse ambitions, Zuckerberg said that the company is building the Metaverse for everyone and they are “committed to build openly and responsibly” while protecting privacy and preventing harm.

It's unlikely anyone will take his word for it, but we look forward to watching the Metaverse's development.

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The world’s lightest 17-inch laptop makes the MacBook Pro feel clunky

Laptops with large screens are usually considered unwieldy and cumbersome, unless you're talking about Apple's 16-inch MacBook Pro.

However, the LG Gram 17 is an exception, giving even Apple's slimline device a run for its money. Weighing only 2.95 pounds, it's hailed the lightest 17-inch laptop ever made.

In designing a super thin and light laptop with a 17-inch screen, LG has succeeded where all other have failed. The device has been so well received that retailing giant Costco even commissioned an exclusive version for its customers.

The older and cheaper version ($ 1,200/£929 at Amazon) comes with an 8th generation Intel Core i7 GPU, 16GB memory, and a 256GB SSD. It also has a battery LG says will power your device for nearly 20 hours – yes, 20 hours.

It's not waterproof or shockproof, but its magnesium alloy chassis makes it more resistant than most laptops of this size. It also boasts a dedicated numeric keypad and adheres to the rigorous MIL-STD-810G standards.

The 17-inch display (which has a resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels) is the cherry on the rather large cake.

It's worth noting UK customers will also be able to purchase the Gram 17 straight from Amazon, but should be wary of additional taxes levied.

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The laptop with the world’s biggest screen is still on sale, two years after launch

There’s a good reason most companies never launched a laptop with a curved screen  as often, you need ample space to appreciate the curvature of the display, which a laptop often simply can't provide.

However, this didn’t prevent Acer releasing the world's first notebook to feature a curved display – the Predator 21 X.

If you want to get your hands on one, US retailer Insight still sells it at the time of writing for a staggering $ 9,935, which is actually more than the suggested retail price at launch.

A whopper of a laptop

The Predator 21 X is the first and only laptop ever to ship with a curved display – but that's not all it has to offer.

It has a proper mechanical keyboard, a four-speaker/dual-woofer setup, three fans and two (yes, two) 330W power supply units that feed an 8-cell battery.

The rest of the tech is somewhat long in the tooth; a desktop-grade Intel Core i7-7820HK, 64GB of RAM, two SSDs in SATA-mode, with a backup 1TB hard disk drive, and two Nvidia Geforce GTX 1080 in SLI with 16GB GDDR5 RAM.

Not surprisingly, the Predator 21 X weighs a lot – more than 10Kg including the PSUs. It is also very big (22.4 x 12.4 x 3.3in) and has a horrendously short battery life under load, meaning that whilst the Predator launched as a gaming laptop, it can also be used as a mobile workstation at a push.

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