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Apple Vision Pro Evokes Deep Ambivalence

I’m 55, and I’ve been covering Apple for over 33 years. There are ways in which I’ve become jaded, and my opinions about some things have evolved with observation and analysis over time. I now feel that social media is damagingly corrosive and tune in as little as possible, but after years of naysaying, I control nearly every light in my house with Siri and HomeKit. I’m on the other end of the spectrum from the Luddites and will test a new service or product at the drop of a hat, but my decades of experience render me cynical about grandiose claims.

Plus, my life isn’t like those of most other people. I live in a semi-rural area on the outskirts of a small, highly educated city, so I have little experience with urban life, public transit, and cheek-to-jowl neighbors. Nor do I commute to an office and work with colleagues in person—I spend my time at home and conduct all my business over the Internet. I’m married, and Tonya and I do most things together. Although we have parenting experience with children of all ages, our son is now an adult living on the other side of the continent.

All that’s by way of setting the context for everything I’m about to say about the Apple Vision Pro, promised for sometime next year at a price starting at $3499. First, I want to explain what it is, both in terms of how we talk about it and its physical construction. Then I’ll segue into thoughts about what you can do with it and for whom it’s best suited. Finally, I want to explore some deeper social and societal issues surrounding a device that enables the wearer to experience a different reality than those around them. If you want to read more, I also link to first-impression articles from journalists who received a 30-minute demo from Apple at WWDC.

What Is the Vision Pro?

This question is not easy to answer. Apple calls the Vision Pro a “spatial computer,” which is an unusual but reasonably accurate description of what the company believes the Vision Pro will do. First and foremost to Apple, the Vision Pro is a computer, one on which you perform computer-like tasks. Of course, Apple is thinking about a modern “computer,” which encompasses nearly any digital device whose functionality is determined by apps rather than hardwired. The Mac is a computer, of course, but so are the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV.

Where things get tricky is with the “spatial” bit. What Apple seems to mean by that is that you interact with your apps—whether they’re showing photos, displaying text, coordinating a video call, playing video, or immersing you in a game—in what appears to be the space around you. From your perspective as the wearer of a Vision Pro, apps float in the air in front of you, with the room behind them. Or they take over your visual space entirely, obscuring the physical world.

The rest of the world is calling the Vision Pro a “mixed-reality headset” or “XR headset.” Until writing this, I was under the misapprehension that “mixed” meant a mix of “augmented reality” and “virtual reality.” And XR is short for “extended reality.” Let’s unpack those terms so we’re all on the same page:

  • Augmented reality overlays virtual information on the real world. Think of Pokémon Go (see “What the Heck Is Pokémon Go?,” 17 July 2016). With the Vision Pro, that’s limited to visual and auditory content, although perception through touch, smell, temperature, proprioception, and more are theoretical possibilities.
  • Extended reality seems to be a catch-all term that bundles augmented reality, mixed reality, and virtual reality.
  • Mixed reality, though often used synonymously with augmented reality, allows real and virtual elements to interact and enables the user to interact with virtual elements as they would in the real world. In short, it’s more interactive.
  • Virtual reality is a simulated experience that puts the user into a fully immersive, computer-generated digital world.

For the Vision Pro, both mixed reality and extended reality turn out to be accurate terms. Although virtual reality would seem to describe the full immersion mode of the Vision Pro, there’s some disagreement from the journalists who were given demos whether that truly applies, or if you’re always somewhat aware of your surroundings.

Finally, although Apple is studiously avoiding the term “headset,” it too seems reasonable, given the now-common terminology in the VR world for a head-mounted device that covers the eyes. I can’t think why Apple would be perturbed by it, and it’s a far more fluid and descriptive term than “spatial computer.” No one is ever going to say that without air quotes.

So What, Physically, Is the Vision Pro?

Right, let’s get back on track. The Vision Pro has four primary pieces.

Apple Vision Pro with battery

Here’s how Apple describes each one, with additional commentary:

  • Enclosure: A singular piece of three-dimensionally formed laminated glass flows into an aluminum alloy frame that curves to wrap around your face. The bulk of the Vision Pro’s technology is here. For those who wear glasses, Zeiss optical inserts customized with your prescription magnetically attach to the interior lenses. They’ll cost extra, and you’ll have to remove and replace your glasses for each session.
  • Light Seal: The Light Seal gently flexes to conform to your face, delivering a precise fit while blocking out stray light. It magnetically attaches to the aluminum frame, and the word from some early tests is that Apple has more work to do in customizing Light Seals for different head shapes. It’s unclear if the Vision Pro will be shareable, but if so, each person would probably need their own Light Seal.
  • Head Band: The Head Band provides cushioning, breathability, and stretch. The Fit Dial lets you adjust Vision Pro precisely to your head. It sounds great, but many of those testing the review units reported discomfort after use. Apple said nothing about the size range, so it will be interesting to see if some people’s heads are too small (likely children, also unmentioned) or too large.
  • Power: The external battery supports up to 2 hours of use, and all‑day use when plugged in. I can’t decide whether 2 hours is way too little, such that you’d need to tether yourself to a power outlet, or more than enough because no one will want to wear one for even that long. Some movies are more than 2 hours long, though. The battery will also be harder to manage for women whose clothes less commonly have pockets.

So what’s in that enclosure that consumes so much power?

  • M2  and R1 chips: Apple’s M2, the same chip that’s in the MacBook Air and Mac mini, runs a new visionOS that manages everything. An all-new R1 chip processes input from the Vision Pro’s cameras, sensors, and microphones and streams the data to the displays within 12 milliseconds. A thermal system keeps everything cool, presumably without making any noticeable noise.
  • Displays: Each eye gets its own micro-OLED display with more pixels than a 4K display, or 23 million in total. Apple says a custom three-element lens creates the feeling of a display that’s everywhere you look. From the sound of that, maybe everything would be in focus all the time, which would be a boon for those of us whose aging eyes are on the downhill slope.
  • Dual-driver audio pods: In other words, they are speakers next to each ear that provide audio while not blocking ambient sound from the room. Spatial audio supposedly makes the sounds seem to come from where they emanate from avatars and virtual objects. AirPods are also supported when you don’t want to leak sound around you.
  • Eye-tracking system: A set of LEDs and infrared cameras positioned around each eye’s screen project invisible light patterns onto your eyes, enabling the Vision Pro to track what you’re looking at precisely, a vital part of the interaction model. To select something, you merely look at it.
  • Sensor array: Numerous sensors, including the LiDAR Scanner, TrueDepth camera, and infrared flood illuminators, are positioned around the front and bottom lip of the enclosure to provide precise head and hand tracking, plus 3D mapping to understand your hand gestures, the other central part of the interaction model. Two high-resolution cameras transmit video—over 1 billion pixels per second—to the displays to render the world around you.

While much of this technology sounds like the flux capacitor from Back to the Future, it’s very much real. Apple said it applied for 5000 patents based on the hardware in the Vision Pro.

We may blanch at the $3499 starting price, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable considering everything Apple put in—especially the custom hardware. In terms of current hardware, the Vision Pro would seem to be more than the equivalent of an M2 Mac mini with a pair of 4K displays, backed by the kind of sensor array and cameras you find only in the iPhone 14 Pro.

It’s worth noting that all this hardware isn’t light. Apple hasn’t said how heavy the Vision Pro will be, but testers were told that it was about a pound (0.45 kg), and one wrote that he felt it was more like 1.5 pounds (0.68 kg). Hard hats and bike helmets are generally under a pound and don’t put most of their mass on your face. Even beyond the comfort questions—a number of the testers had issues—will you end up with red marks on your face after you take the Vision Pro off? Joanna Stern of The Wall Street Journal did.

What Can You Do with the Vision Pro?

Next up is the interesting question of what the Vision Pro is actually useful for. All we have to go on is what Apple shared in the WWDC keynote film and with journalists afterward. However, Apple clearly chose WWDC to unveil the Vision Pro because it wanted to seed developers’ imaginations with possibilities.

That’s good because Apple’s examples aren’t particularly compelling. Apple even says, “So you can do the things you love in ways never before possible.” In short, the Vision Pro is just another way to do what you already do. That’s a dangerous path to head down because what we already do involves the Mac, the iPhone, the iPad, the Apple Watch, the Apple TV, the HomePod, and the AirPods. Is Apple really setting the Vision Pro up to replace everything else in its lineup? The company hasn’t been afraid to cannibalize its own product lines—the iPhone ate the iPod for lunch—but it’s still a bold claim. Nonetheless, Apple’s existing product lines don’t have much to worry about for the near future.

Apple’s main demos fit into five categories:

  • Work: The Vision Pro will have native apps, for which it will have its own App Store, and you’ll be able to use many (but not all) iPhone and iPad apps, each running its own window. The Vision Pro can also create a virtual screen for a Mac, and you can continue to use your Mac’s keyboard and trackpad on that virtual screen. Those who have tried the Vision Pro say that text is crisp and readable, and it’s easy to position windows as desired. And while using it as a large Mac display while traveling is unquestionably valuable, it’s hard to imagine it being that much better than a Studio Display when working in your office.
    Vision Pro at work
  • Communicate: Apple is pushing FaceTime, of course, but there’s an interesting caveat. No one wants to look at you wearing a Vision Pro, so as part of the setup process, you scan your face to create a digital avatar. Reports say the avatars are remarkably good but still clearly fake—it doesn’t sound like Apple has avoided the uncanny valley. That will be all the more true with people you know well. More generally, although video calls have become commonplace, I still find audio-only calls easier to set up and equally effective for most conversations. And video calls haven’t cut into the popularity of text messaging for short communications, so it’s hard to see the Vision Pro supplanting the iPhone as the default communications device for users.
    Vision Pro for communication
  • Watch video: The killer feature of the Vision Pro is probably watching TV and movies: regular 2D content, 3D movies, and specially filmed Apple Immersive Video that offers 180-degree, high-resolution recordings with spatial audio. Watching sports filmed in Apple Immersive Video is reportedly impressive because it can put you much nearer the field of play. A Vision Pro may make for a legitimate personal home theater.
    Vision Pro for watching video
  • Play games: I don’t play video games, so I’m speaking only speculatively, but if the Vision Pro’s eventual performance matches what Apple’s demos showed, it could be a decent gaming rig. Gamers already spend big bucks on hardware, so the question is if the most desirable games would be ported to the Vision Pro.
    Vision Pro for gaming
  • Reminisce: Finally, Apple emphasized that you can use the Vision Pro to capture, view, and share 3D photos and videos. Once again, that’s technically impressive, though it seems likely such a capability will eventually come to the iPhone as well. Are such photos and videos game-changing, though? And will someone rush to put on their Vision Pro to capture that special moment when it’s easier to pull an iPhone out of a pocket?
    Vision Pro for photos

To loop back to the question of what the Vision Pro is, one thing that emerges from many of Apple’s demos is that the Vision Pro is, in many ways, the ultimate screen. (Whenever Apple breathlessly talks about it being 4K, I immediately think of the 5K iMac screens I’ve been using since 2014 and wonder if it’s as good.) Technically nifty though it may be, floating a virtual screen in a room doesn’t seem like compelling mixed reality for everyday use.

Examples of more ambitious uses of the Vision Pro were limited to quick looks at a 3D view of the human heart, a 3D collaborative design review tool, a way of reviewing and approving production lines, a spatial interface for DJ-ing, and a simulated planetarium. Most of these took place in the user’s physical space, and none interacted with the space or real objects in any interesting way. Nor did any augment the user’s senses or capabilities—could a Vision Pro app give you superhuman vision or point to where a sound is coming from? Will the Vision Pro have a killer app, or will Apple’s basics be sufficient for most people?

Vision Pro 3D heart display

The virtual elephant in the room is porn. Adult filmmakers are already applying for developer units, and the Vision Pro is the ultimate personal peep show device. No one else can see the screen, and someone could be watching porn in a window while in a room with other people—there’s no way to know. Apple will undoubtedly reject apps that would attempt to do creepy things like replacing a real-world person’s body with a naked version, but sex comes to all technology, and Apple probably won’t either choose to or be able to block it all.

We also probably won’t see apps that are primarily used outside. Along with all the social and battery constraints, it seems unlikely that the Vision Pro would withstand rain. So the desire for AR glasses that superimpose turn-by-turn navigation on the real world while you walk outside may stay unrealized for some time.

Finally, an open question is if the Vision Pro’s version of Safari will enable users to see and interact with 3D content on Web pages. 3D objects can be embedded in Web pages now, and more ambitious integration of 3D capabilities is getting started with projects like WebXR.

Who Would Use the Vision Pro, and How?

Are you thinking that these use cases aren’t the sort of thing you’d pay $3500 for? You’re far from alone. The Vision Pro makes more or less sense depending on your situation. I’m going to make some assumptions here, but based on numerous conversations over the past few days, I think they’re warranted:

  • Many people won’t like wearing the Vision Pro around others, much less in public.
  • Many people will find it off-putting to have someone else wearing a Vision Pro in their presence.
  • Most people won’t find that the Vision Pro makes them more productive than working on a Mac, iPhone, or iPad.
  • Many people won’t find the Vision Pro sufficiently comfortable for long periods or in warm environments.
  • Most people will consider the price too high without a compelling use case.

Those assumptions start to paint a picture of the Vision Pro’s environmental requirements. If people find wearing the Vision Pro around others awkward, embarrassing, or dangerous, they’ll need a cool, comfortable room to themselves. For entertainment purposes, that points more toward people who live alone or can at least spend a lot of time alone. For work, those with remote jobs could use it much more easily than those who interact with colleagues in an office environment. One of Apple’s video examples notwithstanding, a private office would probably be more comfortable than an open layout.

On the usage side, if the Vision Pro is mainly for watching videos, it’s either a lot more expensive than the TV you already have or a reasonable alternative to a home theater. Ditto for gaming. Either way, it’s challenging to imagine it being more productive for work than the devices we have years of experience using, at least with the same apps. Innovative new uses would change the equation, such as a medical student being able to scrub back and forth in time through a 3D video of a complicated surgery close up and from multiple angles. Or, imagine a repair app that would show how to disassemble common appliances, exploding each piece in a 3D view.

Until a compelling use case justifies the $3499 price, the Vision Pro will largely be a toy for those whose financial situation makes the cost irrelevant. That will focus the market—and perhaps app prices—on niches where a business model can be developed around a small audience. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s an unusual approach for a mainstream company like Apple.

Putting all this together, the ideal audience would seem to be a single person who lives alone, works remotely, is involved in pop culture and gaming, and has disposable income. To me, this sounds a lot like a 20-something techie. I know nothing about the makeup of the Vision Pro design and engineering teams, but I suspect many of their members fit squarely in that demographic and built the Vision Pro for themselves.

What about other groups?

  • Parents I’ve spoken with recoiled in horror at the idea of children and teens having a Vision Pro—if you think screen time is problematic on an iPhone or iPad, just wait until it’s an addictive immersive experience and there’s literally no way to see what someone is doing. Apple said nothing about children using the Vision Pro, but wealthy teens will undoubtedly end up using them. (For porn. With a nod to Avenue Q.)
  • Parents also acknowledge that their own use of digital devices is often at odds with effective parenting—that’s why they ban phones for everyone at the dinner table. So they—at least the good ones—would be uncomfortable setting a bad example by using the Vision Pro when they should be paying attention to their kids. A number of the Vision Pro videos were cringeworthy in that respect.
    Vision Pro used by parent
  • Couples without children in the house often spend significant time together in person, even when watching TV, and one may see the Vision Pro as harmful to the relationship, especially if there’s a difference in tech savviness. Regardless of perception, it seems likely that the Vision Pro could be divisive unless its use were carefully considered.
  • Those who work in offices were highly uncomfortable with the idea of wearing a Vision Pro where colleagues could see. It throws financial and class differences in people’s faces.
  • Ironically, the Vision Pro’s interaction model might work well for an older person who lives alone and has trouble with modern technology, but if the reactions I’m hearing are any indication, such people can’t imagine themselves adopting such a radically different device.
  • For people with disabilities that make it difficult or impossible to use a mouse or trackpad, the Vision Pro’s gaze-tracking and simple gesture control may be more beneficial than—or a good alternative to—other computing devices.

Apple talked a little about how the Vision Pro uses Optic ID, a Face ID-like system that scans the iris, to authenticate the user, but there was no mention of multi-user access. I’d argue that would be helpful so owners can show it off and so family members can share it. Of course, that raises other issues, such as needing separate lenses and Light Seals, and while buying them might not be cheap, it would be less than buying another Vision Pro.

Social and Societal Implications of the Vision Pro

I didn’t dive into these criticisms from the start so they would be grounded in an acknowledgment of the Vision Pro’s possibilities and Apple’s technical achievements. But I use the phrase “deeply ambivalent” in the title of this article because much about the Vision Pro concerns me, should it become anywhere near as popular as the iPhone.

Given Apple’s technical and marketing prowess, I think the Vision Pro—or a second or third non-Pro version that’s smaller and cheaper—stands a good chance of succeeding. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, even given my criticisms below. Of all the companies that could create such a device, I’d far, far rather have the privacy-driven Apple do it than the likes of Meta, with its desire to track and monetize its users’ every action. There are also positive possibilities, such as for users with certain disabilities.

The Vision Pro will hamper in-person social interaction

Putting a Vision Pro on your head cuts you off from the real world. That has been a huge problem for VR headsets, so Apple went to great lengths to minimize the effect with technical wizardry. For instance, cameras on the bottom of the enclosure mean you can look down to see the coffee table and avoid barking your shins as you stand up from the couch. Even when you’re in a fully immersive view, if someone walks into your field of vision, they fade into your view in the Vision Pro so you know they’re there. More impressive yet, the Vision Pro displays your avatar’s eyes on a front-facing screen, giving those outside the sense that they’re seeing your eyes through the Vision Pro.

Despite all this, there’s no escaping the fact that you’re wearing something that looks like oversized ski goggles. One could argue that we would become accustomed to it. After all, we got used to face masks during the pandemic, but when you see someone in a mask, you probably still make assumptions about them, some of which may not be positive. I suspect the same will be true of the Vision Pro.

Some have raised the AirPods as another example of a visually apparent technology that cuts the wearer off from others in their vicinity. While the analogy holds, the AirPods are far less obtrusive, and most people take them out to indicate that they’re paying attention to others around them.

Plus, I find it off-putting when running to pass people wearing AirPods since they eliminate any chance to connect as people, even if it’s merely saying hello. These small, positive interactions create “weak ties” that are an important component of mental health. And yes, I do still smile or wave. Similarly, Tonya reports that it’s frustrating when cycling on a bike path to pass dog walkers so tuned into media that they don’t hear her bike bell and ensure the leash won’t tangle with her bike. Tuning out the real world creates an annoyance for everyone.

The Vision Pro will break shared spaces and reduce togetherness

What about the effect of one or more people in an in-person group wearing a Vision Pro? As with the AirPods, I worry that the sense of togetherness and connection would be reduced. When people get together in person, the same aspects of the real world are available to all. Not everyone may be able to see, hear, or smell precisely the same things or may perceive them in the same way, but the opportunity is there.

Not so with the Vision Pro. As soon as anyone is wearing a Vision Pro, they could be seeing something completely different. You know how irritating it is to be in a group where other people aren’t paying full attention because of using their phones? With the Vision Pro, it may not be quite so glaring that someone isn’t tuned in, particularly if their avatar eyes remain focused on other people, but I suspect it will still be noticeable.

It could be argued that the concept of togetherness is a social construct that will evolve to meet new technology. But it’s easy to find research into how smartphone use is detrimental during social interactions. Given the obtrusiveness of the Vision Pro, it’s hard to imagine that it won’t be at least as bad as the smartphone, and likely worse, when it comes to damaging both group and intimate relationships.

The Vision Pro will encourage social isolation

This concern is partially an extension of what we’ve already seen with the smartphone and the logical next step of the last two worries. If the Vision Pro offers a gorgeous, immersive environment far nicer than the real world with its mess, dirt, and noise, won’t people want to spend more time there? It might even be legitimately more productive sometimes; we all seek to block out distractions to focus on work.

But escapism has dangers that start with reduced in-person interaction, which has significant implications for mental health. Yes, virtual interaction can be a big win, and it’s certainly better than nothing, but it’s not a substitute. Worse, the more that people can withdraw from the real world, the less effort they’re willing to put into improving it. That’s true at the individual and environmental levels. Why bother cleaning up when you can dial in an immersive environment to block out the mess? Why get involved with a neighborhood beautification group or an environmental protection organization when gorgeous natural scenery is available anytime in your Vision Pro?

The Vision Pro could cause health problems

Earlier in the WWDC keynote, Apple announced it was adding features to iOS 17 and watchOS 10 to help users improve mental and vision health.

Although the new features surrounding mental health are mostly about logging and reflecting on emotional states, there’s lots of research about how social interactions are essential for mental health—just look at what happened during the pandemic. Similarly, an increasing body of research shows that exposure to nature is good for mental and physical health, particularly when coupled with exercise. But the more compelling the Vision Pro, and the more time people spend using one, the less time is available for social interactions or just being outside.

On the vision health side, Apple is adding a feature to help reduce the increase in myopia by helping parents encourage children to spend more time outside—doctors recommend 80–120 minutes per day. To that end, the Apple Watch will measure and report on time spent in daylight. Another behavior that can cause myopia is reading at too close a distance. Apple’s new Screen Distance feature works to increase the distance at which people view things like devices and books. It’s great to see Apple focusing on improving health in these ways, but doesn’t the Vision Pro, by encouraging prolonged indoor use and placing screens directly in front of the eyes, directly counter these efforts?

Finally, although a few of Apple’s demos showed people standing up, most were sitting or lying down while using the Vision Pro. That isn’t much different from today’s devices, but it doesn’t seem like the Vision Pro will encourage or even be usable during exercise. Even if it was usable only indoors, it could still provide an immersive experience while riding a stationary bike and using Zwift, say. But can it handle sweat?

The Vision Pro is a glaring statement of privilege and class

Would you walk around in a jewel-encrusted tiara or gold crown? People flaunt wealth all the time with designer clothes, expensive watches, and fancy jewelry. That’s their prerogative, certainly, but expensive clothes, watches, and jewelry can be faked, so at a glance, it’s hard to tell if that watch cost $5000 from Rolex or was picked up for $5 from a street vendor. There won’t be any faking a Vision Pro—wear one and you’ll be broadcasting particular facts about yourself.

The Vision Pro could help people with certain disabilities

The Vision Pro’s new gaze- and gesture-based interaction model could be helpful for people with certain disabilities. Eye-tracking has long been used by those with motor or rehabilitative disabilities (ALS, cerebral palsy, paralysis, spinal cord injury, etc.), and the Vision Pro likely offers more accurate and more tightly integrated eye tracking than other solutions. Plus, while the Vision Pro’s gestures do require some muscular control, they need far less movement and potentially less coordination than a mouse or trackpad.

Apple may not have an accessibility story for the Vision Pro at launch, but given the company’s accessibility efforts in its other operating systems over the years, I would be surprised if there aren’t plans to offer gaze-only options, such as with Dwell Control, which performs specific actions when the cursor is held still for a specified time. Since the Vision Pro supports game controllers, it seems likely that it could work with a sip-and-puff controller.

In-person Impressions

After the WWDC keynote, Apple gave some journalists 30-minute demos of the Vision Pro. None were allowed to take photos or videos apart from Good Morning America, which also scored an interview with Tim Cook. As you might expect, the video of GMA host Robin Roberts using the Vision Pro is boring—watching someone sit on a couch wearing a headset is not compelling TV. Nonetheless, it was interesting that Apple chose to give a mainstream show like Good Morning America an exclusive interview about an expensive tech product that won’t ship until next year.

All the reports I’ve read or seen from those who received Vision Pro demos were positive—the technology blew everyone away. But experiences differed, with people finding it more or less comfortable, and what reviewers chose to focus on varied as well. But nearly everyone expressed some level of dismay at the price, particularly in relation to the question of what the Vision Pro will be able to do that existing devices don’t already handle acceptably. For the answer, we’ll have to wait until the launch.

Apple plans to ship the Vision Pro “early next year,” at which point everyone can try one at an Apple Store. Then you can decide if you want one enough to spend $3499—or perhaps $4000 after special lenses, sales tax, and AppleCare.

Reassessing after the second or third release might be the smart thing to do. The original iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch feel dated today, and for those who aren’t interested in watching movies, playing games, or experimenting with the latest tech, it’s difficult to imagine what real-world problem the Vision Pro solves. By then, we’ll also have a sense of how Apple has addressed social and societal concerns to keep the Vision Pro from playing a role in a Ready Player One-like dystopia.

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Comments About Apple Vision Pro Evokes Deep Ambivalence

Notable Replies

  1. Outstanding pretty deep dive by Adam. It will take me a while to decode some of the cultural references but I appreciate his insight.

  2. I can’t vouch for this, but the Wikipedia article about the Apple II computer indicates that “the original retail price of the computer with 4 KB of RAM was US$1,298 (equivalent to $6,268 in 2022).”

    I offer this info just as a reality check on pricing for new technology. Honestly, I doubt that the cost factor will be the greatest hurdle for Apple to overcome.

  3. i know one use case were these Spatial computers will be superb. long starship voyages to the Martian city being built by Elon Musk: i call it MarsX ‘Marsk’ these will make the 6 month journey more survivable

  4. Thanks for the thoughtful commentary Adam. One potential outdoor use occurred to me, but it would depend on the spectral capability and sensors. In other words, could they be used for night vision?

  5. I think it’s premature to try to evaluate a device that’s not even available yet. Software developers will largely determine what it will be good for. Who knows what they will come up with. I think it’s possible that someone will come up with a use that no one has yet imagined.

  6. Even if they could, why would you spend $3499 when actual night vision goggles are available for much, much less? A quick check of Amazon and it seems like night vision goggles are in the $100-$200 range.

  7. Adam, thanks for providing the article as a springboard to us.

    I’m sure everyone will pick their own use cases that they believe are significant (either for or against/ These may differ from what Apple or the media emphasize. For example, I think that a primary use case for the Apple Watch is how it makes using contactless credit cards and Apple Pay a trivial function (rather than pulling out a wallet or phone, you pay by tapping twice and flicking your wrist).

    Anyway, to get back to the Vision Pro, having multiple large displays available without taking up physical space seems magical. I sometimes connect an iPad to Mac for a second display and use Mission Control to put projects on multiple virtual desktops. However, having these desktops available and immediately available at a glance seems tempting. We’ll see if that becomes the actual reality.

  8. What’s actually interesting is that Apple, along with a great number of other major corporations are doing the work of places like the WEF, separating people from reality.
    Strap on the headset, then get fed whatever “they” want to feed you (remember, today’s movies include messages that you see, or are subliminal), the same with music.
    There are thousands of the fake AI programs showing up almost daily, type in something and MARVEL as a filter produces that “image”.
    Plug in your children, and let corporations input whatever they like into their minds, because YOU don’t know what’s actually being crammed into their minds (think of the way the schools are teaching things they refuse to tell parents about).
    The intent is to create a population of mindless drones sitting in a corner having false information pumped into their minds. Remember Pokemon and the millions of little drones running everyway looking for little characters that ONLY EXIST IN A COMPUTER PROGRAM.
    Those were the tests, now, these corporations have decided it’s time to plug people in, all while pretending the invention is ONLY FOR GOOD.
    A very dangerous game is about to be played, and while the Apple version might be ridiculously expensive, the Apple approved knockoffs will be affordable, while including the same chips inside running the same software.
    Pretend that it’s intention is Benevolent, but discover it’s just another way to CONTROL…

  9. Very good analysis of VR headsets. However, the Oculus Rift is now over 10 years old. How much of what you predicted has happened in the last 10 years?

    I expected a much better looking VR headset. To me the thing looks like someone wants to go snorkelling. And I haven’t read any discussion of vertigo caused by the headset.

  10. The impression I get is that the AVP (isn’t that a fun acronym?) isn’t meant to be a dumb headset peripheral, like so many existing VR headsets, but is designed to be a completely standalone computing device with its own distinct OS and apps.

    I think that change by itself makes it difficult to compare it against most other products currently sold, since they are all peripheral devices designed to work along with a computer or game console.

  11. While reading this very interesting article I tried to imagine applications for this device.

    I’m commuting long distance. Sitting in a train or plane for some hours. It seems compelling to have one or two large computer screens and a Mac mini available wherever I go, without the physical equipment. No more laptop constrains, no one peeking over my shoulder… very compelling.

    I moved to a new location recently. Designing the new place with a device like the Apple Vision Pro would be great. Just moving furniture around until you are satisfied without having to push them physically - great idea.

    So even while the price is a challenge it’s a compelling device. Even more so compared to AR/VR/XR headsets because there are 2 differences: regular AR/VR/XR devices are connected to a computer and a specific software running for a specific task. The Apple Vision Pro is a computer, not a headset. And it’s not task specific but for general use with an OS based on MacOS X. Very promising.

  12. Some very good points thanks Adam, which largely mirror my own thoughts. There are undoubtedly situations where the Vision Pro may be very popular - such as while travelling - but it is definitely a very visual indication of wealth. And then you have to carry them around with you when you reach your destination. They look quite bulky.

    I’m always reminded of the film Strange Days when I see devices which take you out of reality. For some people the attraction of remaining in that reality may be strong. What about the remaining partner looking at 3D video of their deceased lover? Or someone drawn in by the adrenalin rush of a video which takes them away from a humdrum existence?

    I’ll be interested to see what developers come up with, because you do suggest some very good areas for such a device. And I’ll be keen to see what take up there is when it eventually launches here in Scotland (since the initial launch is US only).

  13. I appreciate Adam and everyone to take the time in considering the implications of Apple Vision Pro and spatial computing in general on our lives. Some of my random thoughts below:

    Possibilities/Future

    • Personally, I am excited about the possibilities that the Vision Pro in particular - and spatial computing in general - enables. However, good intention does not guarantee positive outcomes; in fact, some may go further and say “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. We only need to look at social media and the vision (sorry) of bringing people closer together - only to turn into echo chamber etc.

    • In developing a spatial computing platform, I am not sure if Apple places the same importance on good intentions/values as profit - but such platforms can take on a life of its own, as we have seen with social media and iPhone. Nonetheless, Apple has a lot of influence when it comes to steering the direction of the development of this new platform - I guess only time will tell.

    The next iPhone, Touch Bar or Apple Watch?

    I am wondering if the Vision Pro is the next iPhone, the next Touch Bar or the next Apple Watch?

    • I am sure everyone (or at least Apple) would want the Vision Pro to be the next iPhone - and the spatial computer paradigm to be at least as important as the “computer on one’s palm” paradigm.

    • The Touch Bar was arguably an interesting piece of engineering, but looks more like a solution in search of a problem.

    • Apple Watch started off as the next big thing-iPhone replacement-status signalling device, only to have the focus narrowed to a device focusing on health and quality-of-life improvements.

    • Will the Vision Pro and Apple’s spatial computing platform take one of these paths, or will it chart a path of its own? The future is certainly not deterministic, but I wonder if market and social dynamics make some outcomes more likely than others. (Probably few people can imagine how big the mobile phone industry can be - and how important phones are to our lives - once hindsight is taken out of the equation.)

    The Spatial Computing Market/Business Model

    • There are a lot of plausible use cases for the Vision Pro and spatial computers, but is the market one big market like mobile phones, or more like a large number of small markets?

    • In coming up with an App Store, Apple obviously wants to make it a big market and not a fragmented one. Some use cases e.g. entertainment are sizeable markets, though the starting price of the device limits the size - until the price becomes more affordable - and I guess this is true for consumer use cases in general.

    • Some of the proposed use cases, such as becoming training devices for medical students and pilots, seem very specialised and small when considered individually. They probably do not afford Apple the scale of consumer markets to continue investing tens of billions of dollars on the spatial computing platform until the platform is mature and stable enough like those for iPhone and Apple Watch. What does it mean for Apple frameworks e.g. ARKit?

    • Pricing: The device starts at US$3,499 - what are the likely specifications, especially storage and memory? Will the fully-spec’ed device cost more than twice as much as the base model?

  14. Adam, pretty much all the arguments deployed against the Vision Pro were and are levelled at the smartphone and yet this seems to be integrated into our lives, to a greater or lesser degree. It seems to have been pretty successful. There are plenty of assumptions in this article and it would be better to reserve judgement until we have actual experience of it.

    The suggestion that lonely geeks are almost the sole beneficiaries of this technology is frankly rather insulting. Just hang fire and see how people adapt to it and use it and then we’ll see what the reality is.

    Remember also that the Vision Pro will be one device among several that you use in the course of a day. The VP is a standalone computer like my iPad Pro, Mac or iPhone but I move between them to exploit the strengths of each, not living exclusively with one. The VP will be the same. Donn it when it has something special to offer, take it off when something else is better. That’s why the battery life arguments are not so convincing. When I am sitting for a while, I plug my iPad into power - why wouldn’t I do the same with the VP?

    The cost is being perceived in a strange way. The VP is about the same price as a decent full-frame camera body (without a lens) and has much of the same technological density and complexity. Are those who have such a camera also elitists who dare not go outside? The camera only takes stills and video but the VP will have all the functionality of a general purpose computer. The price will come down, as it always does.

    I can think of many very interesting applications for this technology. I use CAD and the idea of being able to see 3D models properly at last is very appealing. In my engineering work, being able to have a schematic, an oscilloscope display and look at my test bench at the same same time offers huge possibilities.

    How about tying into a camera that shows a close up of your milling machine cutter as it operates while also having the digital read out, a blueprint and your sketches in the same field of view? Magic.

    I am a photographer and how terrific it would be to have the live viewfinder image, a magnified portion for critical focus, the last few images and the camera settings all visible simultaneously instead of squished into the tiny camera display?

    I work with head gardeners of large estates who would kill for the ability to look around and fuse our database of their specimens with the real world, record safety issues with trees, superimpose planned changes to the garden with the current state and visualise changes in sun angle on the design rather than do it in their office. Sharing and collaborating that same view with the garden owner or contractor would be immensely valuable.

    Having a bigger canvas means not having to overlap or hide windows nearly as much and for those of us who depend on spatial cues, the VP looks made for us. A big conventional display may start to look rather cramped.

    Artists could have a ball with technology like this, overlaying their work on things they are looking at, experimenting with ideas, superimposing designs on ceramics and choosing framing options. Buyers could trial the ideal position for the art they have acquired or are about to acquire, moving around so see the effect and its relationship to other elements in a room.

    Finally for entertainment, I would be thrilled to ride virtual pillion with Pecco Bagnaia on his MotoGP Ducati, being able to turn my head and see our competitors and the crowd around us and be in the action in a way a flat screen will never be able to do.

    Adam, you are quite a bit younger than me so this is not the time to be shooting down something in which some of us can see real value.

    With their many flaws, our existing computers are not that fantastic yet. We need all the options we can get and the more new thinking we can have, the better.

  15. Very thoughtful adjunct to Adam’s article.

  16. Thanks Adam for a thorough explanation of my first-time-ever-response-to-an-Apple-Product of: “Creepy.”

  17. Thanks @mark4, I suppose what I am looking for is a framework for understanding the phenomenon (or whether it will become a phenomenon).

    Some additional random thoughts after reading the comments (some, multiple times):

    Status symbol/Veblen goods/Inclusivity/Digital divide

    • I suppose status symbol and conspicuous consumption have been always been an issue or fact of life, whether Vision Pro exists or not. But this being a tool with real use does bring up some problems in the short term and over the longer term.

    • In the short term, the pricing of such devices might widen the digital divide. The early adopters will have longer runway to acquaint themselves with this paradigm and new ways of interacting with a computing device. They might even have substantial influence in shaping how this new paradigm works, in their own terms. If one does not belong to this group, some concepts may be hard to grasp. (Imagine someone without having worked with paper and files while on a desk, to understand the analogy of desktop and folders on macOS.)

    • Suppose I am a teacher that adopts such technology early and prescribes this for class use. Or I can just use this as a class aid; optional but very beneficial to learning (e.g. imagine learning about linear transformation by immersing yourself in a 3D space and look how the coordinates transform as I work through the matrix operations.) How will this impact the learning experience of students, especially those who cannot afford it? Do we have arrangements in place to address this? This goes beyond the technological realm into politics and economics, but I think it is an important issue to consider.

    • Over the longer term (and if this indeed becomes something as important as the mobile phone), prices of spatial computing devices will come down and there will be more choices beyond Apple. However, it does seem that performance of such devices (esp. latency and resolution) is a very important factor in usability. Presumably, the more expensive devices will offer superior experience and make them more attractive to users. This is very important for someone who is new to - and might be suspicious of - new technology. The question arises again: While there is greater opportunity to be exposed to spatial computing devices, how does affordability and price-to-performance ratio affect adoption?

    • As if parenting is not challenging enough, now there is one more device to contend with - and I truly have not considered the fact that one can freely do anything without people around them knowing what they are doing - and the porn issue :exploding_head: Do parents and guardians have the appropriate resources (including time) and knowledge to understand the technology, its misuse and how it can be used to beneficial effects, and transmit this to their children/people under their care?

  18. I don’t think that this will be anything like the iPhone - certainly the excitement for the launch of that product is probably never going to be duplicated, and it really seems that there isn’t a lot of excitement for this product (hence this article.) Regarding comments about the initial pricing being too high, though, it reminds me of the people who ridiculed the $499/$599 announced initial price of the iPhone, that it would never sell, etc. We likely all forget that nobody paid that much for even a smartphone back in 2007. Probably most of the questions were from competitors and the anti-Apple tech pundits, but it was there. (Of course Apple and AT&T ended up lowering the price a few months later, but a lot of people still purchased at that initial price.) Then just a few years ago tech pundits also questioned if people would ever spend as much as $1000 for an iPhone when rumors of what became the iPhone X and its initial price started circulating. Clearly many people did and do.

    This is like the initial pass at what will probably be a more sophisticated and capable product. I’ve said it before - it’s not for me, but I’m still interested to see where it will go and how fast it takes to get there.

    No worries about the person in front of you leaning back in their seat, bringing the tray table to a place and angle that makes it nearly impossible to use a laptop.

    Surely not the next iPhone - as I said, we’ll likely never see anything like it again. But wouldn’t Apple love it if it became the next Apple Watch? They sell a lot of those. And of course the Touch Bar was never its own thing - just a part of the MBP.

  19. I’m not suggesting it as a reason for purchase - just adding to potential use cases. We live in interesting times!

  20. I work for a company that makes big, expensive machinery and has been developing AR software running in Microsoft’s HoloLens as a training tool for field engineers. I had a chance to demo it for just a couple minutes. If AVP is half as good as the first impressions suggest it is, Apple could dominate that market, because the HoloLens experience was pretty bad. Part of this is a basic limitation of AR: it can basically only show a wireframe model. AR can’t make anything in your field of view darker, only lighter. Part of it is intrinsic to the implementation: projected objects bounced when you moved and didn’t respond well to hand gestures.

    One thing that Apple didn’t show is people standing up, walking around, and interacting with virtual objects from different angles, which something like this would require. Also probably would need to change the interaction model from gaze-tracking to hand-tracking.

    Clearly Apple isn’t interested in trying to make this succeed on industrial applications, but the price tag would be a non-issue for big companies, and once the software exists for putting CAD models into AVP, Apple could probably sell all they could make just to industry.

  21. Plus, I find it off-putting when running to pass people wearing AirPods since they eliminate any chance to connect as people, even if it’s merely saying hello.

    FWIW, I always have my Beats Fit Pro in transparency mode, except when large trucks lumber by (not that often on my street, except when the school bus goes by and on trash collection days), so you can always say hi to me. I’ll hear you, interact with you, even stop to chat with the buds in. I can hear you just fine (as well, as birds, dogs, my neighbors calling out hello from the yards, etc.) It’s just as possible the people you are passing are doing the same with AirPods Pro.

  22. Excellent commentary, Adam.
    I have some thoughts about the new platform here:
    https://brockerhoff.net/blog/2023/06/09/a-vision-of-the-future/
    For me, having different vision deficits in each eye, optimizing the views separately would be an enormous plus. Beyond the prescription lens inserts, Apple already has patents for sensing and correcting vision on the fly.
    Regarding myopia, remember that the risk is not in having screens close to the eyes; rather, the strain of focusing closely is the main problem. My computer glasses are optimized such that the screen appears at infinity, so the eyes are completely relaxed; and those Zeiss lenses will no doubt be set in the same way.
    Finally, many people found the dad filming his children with the AVP “creepy”; I confess that I’m still not used to people constantly using their phones in such a situation! Looking through a camera is oddly enough, not considered creepy.

  23. I always remove my AirPod Pro when speaking to somebody or being spoken to. It’s an overt sign I am listening and/or ready to interact with them.

    I would go so far as to say removing your earbuds when approaching someone (or being approached) is just being polite, regardless of how fancy shmancy the tech. The way I see it, it’s basic common courtesy.

  24. At first I couldn’t figure out why Adam was being so negative about Vision Pro. Then I realized the problem: he’s reviewing the current device. Not even the device that will be released next year, with software and features that haven’t been written yet, but the prototype unveiled at WWDC last week. He’s also postulating that this version would be mass adopted – used by children and couples and in public, which is extremely unlikely – and all the problems that would entail.

    Now there’s nothing wrong with that. I appreciate his viewpoint and I fully agree on most of those points where it’s related to this specific version of VP.

    But all of the positive reviews of VP tend to focus not on what VP is now, but what it will be like in the future. That’s a future where most of Adam’s concerns are mitigated: the price comes down, the size/weight is a non-issue, the social concerns are minimized or accepted, and practical use cases for the tech are determined.

    I’m looking far into the future when these goggles are the size of reading glasses or the tech is completely invisible (perhaps even embedded into our brains). While that doesn’t erase the problems of isolation or social disintegration, I’m not sure that’s the end of the world. If we could jump back to 2006 and see the future of smartphones after iPhone, would we be horrified or excited? Would we willingly jump to that future despite its problems? I bet most would. The benefits of the tech are too many and too critical.

    Right now it’s challenging to see that with VP and spatial computing, but I like that this new experience is utterly unique; it can do things that can’t be replicated any other way. That means if there’s a way to make it practical and useful – and Apple seems pretty close on this first shot – then this tech will be here to stay. Once people get used to doing things spatially, they’ll find there’s no way back to ordinary 2D computing.

    I agree the current version is just baby steps and is flawed on many levels; but that’s due to limitation of today’s technology, not problems with the basic concept. There will be early adopters who will pave the way for better versions in the future.

    I remember when the iPhone came out I was so excited and I couldn’t understand why regular people weren’t knocking down walls to get the device; it seemed so clear to me it was the future. Yet when it looked at it from their perspective, the thing was “just a phone.” They weren’t that wrong. The camera was terrible, and while it did the internet better than any other mobile device, it was still underpowered and limited (it couldn’t run Flash and tons of the web was Flash back then). That first version would be a terrible flop if released today.

    Back then people didn’t even know why they needed the internet on-the-go. Now no one can live without their phone. It has replaced dozens of gadgets we used to think important.

    I see VP as similar: from most people’s perspective it’s just a different version of what we already have. (I already have Macs and iPhones and iPads and big screen TVs, etc.) But eventually we’ll see that this device can do things you can’t do any other way… and that’ll be its selling point. By then, maybe even Adam will be converted. :wink:

  25. I would replace TouchBar with HomePod. That’s a more apt comparison for an Apple failure. HomePad had the best tech and sound, but it turned out the market didn’t care about that. They only focused on price.

    The key difference with VP is that there’s nothing else like it on the market; a lot of the reason the price is so high is Apple is including extra tech critical to the experience that no regular VR headset includes. Those things aren’t just optional: high-res screens and fluid reality projection is required to prevent nausea and tech like EyeSight helps mitigate key social problems. I predict that anything that doesn’t have those isn’t going mainstream.

    TouchBar failed not because it wasn’t a good concept – I loved the idea – but because Apple never followed through. I don’t know if it was created by a small faction without Apple that had no power or if higher heads didn’t get it, but few to none of Apple’s own software ever supported TouchBar, even years after release. That doomed it, as third parties didn’t bother either, and with no apps that used it, consumers didn’t demand it.

  26. Asked and answered. :slight_smile:

  27. Why would anyone pay a lot more for an iPhone, iPad or a Mac when there are literally thousands of other cheaper models of mobile phones, laptops and computers?

  28. I mean, I don’t agree with Adam’s negative take here, but I’m not sure we can just say “there will be a future where all the problems will disappear.” You react to what exists at the time it exists, not a magical unicorn that doesn’t.

  29. Which is why I said I understand Adam’s perspective and agree with it.

    However, at the same time, I am excited about the potential of this technology. He doesn’t seem to be.

  30. Sure. And I said that you can’t assume a future where all the problems that exist now go away.

  31. First off, it will probably be better at launch, because there will be more and better apps available for it. Hence the need to announce it at WWDC - so developers can get started and have something more than a tech demo ready when the product is released.

    And second, we’ve seen big concerns with other products go away after a few subsequent releases. Including iPhone (remember that it had no third-party app support at launch), or Thunderbolt (no peripherals worth speaking about at launch), or iPad (low resolution screens, slow response times).

    Of course, there’s no guarantee that all of the problems observed today will be fixed, but it’s also unreasonable to assume that none of them will be.

  32. Yes, which is why I said “you can’t assume a future where all the problems that exist now go away.”

  33. Great analysis, Adam. I want to add a couple of things.

    I have written about problems with development of 3DTV and Virtual Reality and one of the key issues is the human vision system, which uses multiple ways to assess distance of objects. It does not depend just on the stereo vision effect from seeing through two separate eyes. Knowing just how far away predators are is very important, so animals have evolved other ways to tell distance, such as how large a predator looks, which tells you how far away they are. Our vision system essentially uses the other indications of distance for error checking, and if the distances don’t agree, you get eyestrain and a headache. 3D and Augmented reality can be useful and fun, but so far we have not found a way to make it comfortable for a long time because we don’t know how to fool all the ways our brain uses to measure distance. That may well be a good thing.

    As an old guy who lived with severe myopia and thick glasses for decades before having cataract surgery, I came to appreciate the benefits of having a wide field of view at a distance. I now need glasses to read or do close work, but my far-field vision is good across a wide range of angles rather than the narrow field in focus – a kind of tunnel vision – when I looked through thick glasses. Now that I can see the broader world better, I don’t want to give that up to limit my focus to goggles. I like to be able to turn my head away from work and look out the window, then put my reading glasses back on to go back to work. I also wonder how well AVP could adjust itself so those of us with presbyopia (the inability to adjust our focus between near and distant points which makes it necessary for me to use reading glasses close up).

  34. I think the battery issue will be a concern for the AVP, and few of the reviews so far have mentioned it. (Probably because the trial runs took well less than 2 hours).

    First, is the hassle of an external battery pack. If you’re going to be standing or moving, you have to have the battery pack on you somewhere. A pocket is presumably fine, as long as the battery doesn’t get too hot. But not all clothes have convenient pockets.

    Second, is the two hour limit. The AVP may be great for movies, but few movies are less than two hours long. Most professional sports games run longer than two hours. And using the AVP in your “office” (real or remote) might be great, but most people work more than two hours per day.

    The answer, of course, is that you can use the AVP with the battery pack plugged in. Note that no one in any of the videos Apple showed was using the AVP in this manner - kind of makes the device a bit less “free and easy”. Think of the hassles trying to use the AVP at an airport (say on a long layover when you are participating in a Zoom meeting), when you’re forced to be tethered to one of the few either inconvenient or crowded outlet locations you can find.

    Of course, you could probably buy multiple battery packs and switch them every couple hours. (Hopefully without having to restart the AVP). Or maybe Apple or a third-party will offer a 4-hour or 8-hour battery pack - which will likely be larger and heavier and hotter.

    Yes, Apple will improve battery life over time, as they have with iPhone and other devices. Digging around, it looks like the iPhone 14 battery lasts about 2-4 times longer than the battery for the iPhone 1. Yay - but that was accomplished over 15 years!

  35. Another experience of the live demo from Federico Viticci of MacStories:

  36. That’s an interesting one because it gets to what I was saying about how little about the Vision Pro actually augments our senses. Obviously, we won’t know until it ships, but the fact that the Vision Pro has LiDAR and infrared light emitters suggests that it might be able to put together some sort of simulated night vision view. It all depends on whether Apple opens those sensors up to developers or not.

    As @schinder points out, this likely wouldn’t be a primary use case for the Vision Pro, but it might make for an interesting capability to be used an app with some other use case.

    Well, quite a lot, actually, though existing VR headsets aren’t nearly popular enough to be the drivers of it. Most of the negative social and societal effects that concern me are already in play thanks to smartphones and earbuds. Social scientists and psychologists write about this stuff all the time.

    @Shamino’s point that the Vision Pro is a standalone device is important too, since it’s the first of the headset-like devices that can be used untethered from a computer or gaming rig. Those were always going to be constrained, whereas the Vision Pro will eventually be the sort thing that could be worn for long periods of time and used for many different purposes.

    Wow, I have never heard of this movie before, and I can’t find anywhere it can be streamed online.

    Possible, but not likely given either the lack of response or the surprised looks I get most of the time. :slight_smile: I haven’t paid that much attention, but my impression is that I mostly see plain AirPods or other earbuds with unknown capabilities. AirPods Pro are less common.

    I think your categorization of my article is correct—that I’m writing about what we know to be true about the device at this point in time. That’s intentional because anything else is speculation bordering on science fiction. I regularly speculate on what Apple could do and even suggest concrete things that Apple should do to no effect, but I do it with a firm grasp on what’s technically possible. And little of what I suggest comes to fruition. That’s why I wrote that I’m cynical about grandiose claims.

    And yes, I did extrapolate what we know about today’s Vision Pro to the social and societal criticisms that would only come into play if the Vision Pro were to be a mainstream success. That could be seen as logically inconsistent since it’s likely that the Vision Pro model that gains mainstream acceptance would be technologically improved. But will it be that different? It doesn’t seem that Apple is anywhere close to letting you actually look through glasses rather than simulating that act with cameras and screens. And unless it’s that different, I’m not sure I see the criticisms as being mitigated through technology.

    We may never know what technologies Apple tried, but what I was more expecting was a pair of regular glasses that could overlay small amounts of information on the real world, much more in the Google Glass category, but done with better, newer technology. You wouldn’t be watching movies on these, and they would rely on a companion iPhone for processing power, much like the Apple Watch. But you could get turn-by-turn directions, names of people you’re talking to, measurements of objects or distances, translation lookups based on text in the view, and so on.

    To my mind, that would avoid a lot of the concerns and let Apple work up to something that was more immersive and more capable slowly, rather than going all the way to what the Vision Pro is in the first try. But it’s not like Apple listens to me. :slight_smile:

    Alas, no. The Vision Pro clearly has a demo mode, since all the journalists were able to use them, but that’s a long way from multi-user support, where each person sees their own setup. You can demo an iPhone or an Apple Watch in an Apple Store too, but they support only a single user in actual use.

    Huh. So he’s saying that resellers will discount it, but it’s not clear to me why the cellular carriers would be candidates for that since the Vision Pro doesn’t have cellular connectivity. Nor does the Vision Pro require an iPhone, so I’m not seeing how they make a financial link apart from just “it’s all from Apple and we’re reselling it.”

    I’m not sure that’s true, but I don’t see the mainstream potential the way you do. It’s sort of like the iPad, which I thought had huge potential but for the mainstream has largely been just another way of watching videos and browsing the Web. The people who are huge iPad proponents usually talk about specialized uses, and that’s great for them, but clearly not of the level of impact of the iPhone, where putting an Internet-connected supercomputer in your pocket truly did set new paradigms.

    The main areas I’m excited about the Vision Pro right now are, like the iPad, quite specialized. Helping those with disabilities and providing focused educational and training experiences are just a few. But if it’s just a different way to watch movies, play games, browse the Web, and check the weather (“fully immersive hurricane warnings!”), I’m less impressed.

  37. I’d say Cramer made this inaccurate statement because his background is trading, not investing.

    Traders don’t care much about understanding how businesses and industries work because they make money from movement, not company performance. Plus Cramer has been a cable TV talking–actually, make that screaming–head for decades now, rather than a direct participant in financial markets.

  38. When I was watching the WWDC presentation and they started talking about the Vision Pro, one of the presenters (maybe Tim Cook?) was wearing glasses. I half expected him to reach up, tap his glasses, have the lenses opaque and the presentation switch to the “what he was seeing” view.

    As for overlays, Garmin had the Varia Vision (not exactly an overlay), now discontinued and unsupported, that put stats in your field of view. I’ve seen somewhere that there are swim goggles that do the same. I’m personally not that interested in such data for cycling, which can be immediately seen anyway just by looking at a device in front of me on a mount (and apparently a lot of people were uninterested, since the Varia Vision is no more). I can sort of see the case for swimming, or cross country skiing where the watch on my wrist is invisible unless I stop poling and raise my wrist.

    For me, the Vision Pro falls into the “too expensive for what I’d use it for”, especially since I can already do (view video, even 360 video) what I’d use it for. Maybe when the Vision Air comes out…

  39. I was just reading this interesting article on Harvard Business Review that explores that idea in comparison to Vision Pro:

    The authors are critical of that form of AR as distracting:

    This perspective highlights why many previous AR and VR purported use cases have been of low value. VR meetings with avatars in pretty rooms do not provide information that is obviously more useful to those in the meetings that might arise from a Zoom call. AR glasses that provide text notifications as you walk around are increasing your cognitive load rather than decreasing it. Our framework suggests that the best use cases will be in contexts where it is normally expensive or dangerous to get information, highlighting the value of VR, or where the environment is so complex that the value of digital overlays to clarify it via AR is high — or both. Think applications like prototyping the design of a new aircraft or building, or assisting in remote medical procedures.

    They are essentially pointing out what’s different about Apple’s approach and why it’s better. Their suggestions are niche markets, but still important and useful, and I bet Vision Pro will be successful in a variety of ways, but not mainstream in the way the iPhone has been.

  40. Another behavior that can cause myopia is reading at too close a distance. Apple’s new Screen Distance feature works to increase the distance at which people view things like devices and books. It’s great to see Apple focusing on improving health in these ways, but doesn’t the Vision Pro, by encouraging prolonged indoor use and placing screens directly in front of the eyes, directly counter these efforts?

    No. The thing that causes myopia is focusing on something in the near distance for hours on end (or, rather, not focusing on things in the distance for at least a few hours a day). The AVP will cause your eyes to focus at varying distances. Now, unless you load up a 3d vista of an outdoors scene, it won’t be better than just being inside, but it won’t be worse, either. https://youtu.be/LAkFtka3UFw

    On another note, the comparisons to the dystopian world of Ready, Player One are really irritating. The VR world was the deeply desirable escape from the horrible dystopian world, not the cause of it.

  41. I enjoyed Adam’s insights. But I must admit, I only have very shallow ambivalence for this. And that is somewhat astonishing as technology regularly stirs my moral outrage. I conclude, as Adam does, that this is the evolution of the screen. As such, it is the evolution of the iPad - the device you need the least, but like the most. Content consumption will be the main use. When released, there will be those who find novel ways to create content with it - but that will be a niche market. It could also be huge in education. And I think that is already a large iPad market. So then we get to the negative implications. Quite frankly, software is much more nefarious than hardware. I save my outrage for that - automation surprises, alert fatigue, over-complexity, built-in productivity metrics and more. Social media is a software menace, it is designed to be device independent. So why am I ambivalent - I think the visual and audio interfaces will require excellent native hearing and vision to meet expectations for the experience. I think a lot of folks won’t adapt that well.

  42. A truly brilliant article, one of the best ever in terms of style but most of all analysis. Well done, Sir, well done!!!

  43. Reading the title of his comment, I was surprised that Adam would be such a Luddite. Then I read what he wrote, and I, who consider myself to be no Luddite at all, wholly agree with him. The Vision Pro’s effect on social interaction is quite upsetting. As Adam points out, AirPods (and even Smartphones) have already done this, but the VP will be a quantum leap, especially as the technology gets better, the price goes down, and the apps and uses, many of which aren’t even imagined yet, multiply. Some of this will be good, of course, BUT …

    Immersed in their own world, people will interact with one another less and less in the flesh. Social interaction of all kinds - conversation, touching, eye contact - is fundamentally important not only for individual mental health and the conduct of relationships, it’s the basis of a successful society (“social”, “society”, from the Latin noun “socius”, meaning "comrade, friend, ally). How can this continue if so many people are so immersed in their own individual isolated worlds at work and play. And how much worse the effect on child and adolescent development, the period of identity development when we learn both about ourselves and others so that we can become functional and gratified adults. I fear a future world composed of a multitude of individual hermits, perhaps living cheek by jowl together, but never knowing anybody, never having a comrade, friend, or ally, and “community” will be a bygone concept. Will we even procreate - all masturbation, no sex?

  44. Hopefully it won’t be the instant disaster that the Touch Bar was.

  45. That’s not how I read the article, and more completely, their paper on which it’s based.

    What they’re saying is that AR and VR have different economic values based on the context and environment. AR is valuable in understanding complex contexts, whereas VR is valuable in providing access to distant, risky, or expensive environments. The examples I gave of turn-by-turn directions, names of unfamiliar people, measurements of objects or distances, and in-context translations all fall squarely into their “complex context” category.

    Most of the AR examples in their paper would not be feasible with the Vision Pro because it’s too limited in the environments in which it can be worn.

  46. My point in the article is that escapism leads to a lack of involvement. In other words, it’s not the cause; it’s what gets in the way of being part of the solution. It’s the personal, technological form of bread and circuses.

  47. I don’t feel that pessimistic about VR and metaverse technoloogy, either broadly or specifically. First from a broad perspective, humans are resilient and adaptable. Just as other changes in communication, such as writing, moveable type, the telegraph, the telephone, and email, surely caused consternation and angst at first, VR may seem malevolent right now. But I am confident that if few popular uses emerge for VR, it will remain on the fringes of most people’s lives and will become just another some-do-it-even-though-it’s-unhealthy activity.

    Specifically, the failure of Google Glass, the irrelevance of Second Life despite the sustained hype it received, and the inability of Meta to make it’s VR products and services mainstream–or even attractive to its massive user bases–all point to a minimal societal or generational threat. Apple Vision Pro, especially given its high price, isn’t going to break this pattern, in my opinion. And even if it did, I think there are a lot more pressing and immediate threats to people’s well-being, safety, and health currently than using a legless avatar in a deserted “town plaza” to order a pizza.

  48. “By then, we’ll also have a sense of how Apple has addressed social and societal concerns to keep the Vision Pro from playing a role in a Ready Player One-like dystopia.” The impression I got from that book is that OASIS played a positive role in that dystopian world, and the bad guys were trying to ruin/hypercommercialize OASIS. In other words, we should want the Vision Pro to play a role in a Ready Player One-like dystopia, should one arise.

    I know this is a very minor point, but this is a comparison I have seen several times, and I think it’s inapt. Perhaps a better comparison would be to Total Recall(/“We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”).

  49. I think that the Vision Pro will make all these things (well, except “touching”) better, not worse. Maybe not with this first iteration, but before long, we will have a world where you can interact closely, including conversation, body language, and eye contact, with—anyone, wherever they are. And, if everyone in your living room is wearing a Vision, they can all be watching the same movie, and look at each other, and just see—faces. The Vision will literally disappear, and you will just see them, as they normally are. And you can have that exact experience, as if they were sitting on your couch (and you sitting on theirs) with anyone in the world. Phone calls and group chats will feel just exactly as if the other person/people is/are in the room with you. Etc.

    Obviously this version can’t do all that. But in a couple of years, it will. And it will be amazing.

  50. I don’t want the world to get to the point where a virtual reality is preferable, so I’m not in favor of anything that makes it easy for people to opt out of trying to make the world a better place.

    As the Wikipedia entry for the book notes:

    In the 2040s, the world has been gripped by an energy crisis from the depletion of fossil fuels and the consequences of pollution, global warming and overpopulation, causing widespread social problems, poverty, and economic stagnation. To escape the decline their world is facing, people turn to the OASIS,[a] a virtual reality simulator accessible by players using visors and haptic technology such as gloves.

    I enjoyed the book and found the movie visually impressive, but once you step back from the “Ooo, shiny!” aspect of the technology, the real world those characters inhabit is horribly depressing, and the virtual world is an escape, not a tool for addressing those issues.

  51. To quote from that piece:

    Twenty years―or however long it takes―when the technology has evolved to the point that a device can deliver on that promise without incurring the physical restriction that Vision Pro does, that will be truly amazing.

    In other words, the concept is great, he just doesn’t like the fact that we have to wear goggles on our face to experience it.

    But what’s the alternative? Do nothing? Wait 20 years for the tech to catch up? If Apple did that, wouldn’t they be allowing someone else – the tasteless tastemakers of Meta, Microsoft, or Google – to define this new form of computing and dooming the world to decades more of a primitive Windows-like experience?

    If naysayers had said when the original iPhone was ready to be introduced, “Oh no, we have to wait, because this device has so many limitations and problems. The battery life is terrible, the screen’s too small, there’s no copy and paste, and the camera is worse than digital cameras from 10 years ago, it’s too expensive, and the cellular service is crap. We’ve got to wait until there’s LTE cellular, 12 megapixel cameras, FaceID, GPS, etc.”

    (The irony, of course, is few of those other technologies would have been developed as fast or at all, without the iPhone to push them.)

    I have no issues if Adam, this Wayne G, or any other individual doesn’t like or want Vision Pro. But their take doesn’t seem to be “This isn’t for me” but “This isn’t for anyone.” I question that. What’s the point? Is it just exercising caution? Venting? A shrug?

    I don’t mind criticism or even appropriate negativity. If when I try Vision Pro I find problems with it or don’t like it, I’ll be first to point that out. I currently have many questions about this tech and I’m not even sure if it’ll work for me or not. But I’m willing to give it a chance. I don’t see doom and gloom about the tech or the future.

    Adam seems to find “escapism” a problem, but we’ve had that for centuries in all sorts of ways: nature, books, music, movies, amusement parks, etc. It’s human nature to want to escape our humdrum world. To me taking off a headset is little different from looking up from a screen, tearing my head out of a book, or being forced to come in from playing ball because it’s getting dark out. We’ll adapt to this new headset method.

    I honestly can’t wait to revisit this article and these comments in exactly one year and see how everything stands up after having Vision Pro on the market for a few months. (Note I don’t expect full vindication on either side of the debate. I imagine it will be a mixed bag, like most things, with some arguments hitting home and some looking hilariously wrong. And that will happen again at the two-year, five-year, and ten-year marks. Just go back and look at early iPhone reviews.)

  52. I don’t think it’s a question of naysayers or yeasayers, but rather a problem of unintended consequences. And it’s often not even a question of one outweighing the other. Like countless other achievements, most of which were invented for good reasons and provided improvements, many also had unintended consequences, wholly unforeseen initially, usually only becoming apparent or developing after some time has passed. You can’t stop progress, because it’s necessary, and somebody will always, sooner or later, contribute to it. But once you have it, once it’s done - whatever it is, a thing, a medicine, a technology - you’ve got the whole ball of wax, you can no longer undo it, you’ve got and must accept and somehow deal with the bad along with the good. Like the song said “you can’t have one without the other”. Nuclear fission and AI are good modern examples - in fact, digital technology and the internet itself.

    Aside from perverted use by bad actors, some things just change the way we live and conduct our lives, individually and as a society. For instance, many inventions have made physical work much easier, often eliminating it entirely. However, we now have to do something extra to keep fit and healthy. Since many don’t do that, and because we now have all sorts of fast foods and such, we’re facing an obesity epidemic and a shocking rise in, among other things, diabetes.

    Such it is with the Vision Pro and it’s future iterations and uses. There’s no question that they’ll provide all kinds of benefits. I’m just concerned with one of the possible - which I believe is likely and unavoidable - downsides, as I wrote above: the detrimental effects of less in-the-flesh, full-attention social interaction. Of course, even predicted downsides don’t always happen, or not the way we foresaw, so I may be wrong. But TMO, and YMMV.

  53. Beats me how people can have strong opinions on products that they haven’t even seen. I’m entitled to an opinion because I am effectively blind in my right eye so the Vision Pro is not for me. I also use a monocular in place of a binocular. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

  54. It’s probably because Vision Pro will not be available for sales for sometimes next year. Apple most probably debuted this product way in advance to gin up demand in advance, for consumers, developers as well as potential retailers. I’m assuming that it would make a whole lot of sense for Apple to have a cellular model sometime in the near future, if not with the release next year, then two or three years after. Apple Stores will be good for Vision Pro trials and sales, and adding adding select retailers in the US around the globe would greatly increase sales. It’s kind of how iPod and Apple Music debuted.

  55. I think that all of the social/societal issues that Adam highlights are worth our concern for the very reason that our smart phones have caused similar issues, even though they are less isolating physically than AVP which is less isolating than VR headsets.

    However, as a long time educator who embraced computers and programming decades ago, I have to say that I think that the educational and research opportunities presented by the AVP are beyond extraordinary. I am a field scientist (a geologist) and the AVP could do a lot to bring the immersive, 3D environment of the field into the classroom to students who do not have the opportunity, for reasons of physical disability, lack of resources or time, to go to the field themselves or for any student to experience a field setting which is too remote or dangerous to experience in person. I do field work in some of the remotest places in the Andes where total cost of the expedition is many times the cost of the AVP (even before the inevitable price drops). With the AVP I could bring some facsimile of that experience to students for a fraction of the price. In my field, data “caves” – 3D/4D data volumes represented in a room via 3D projectors – were a thing. You could literally walk through your data volume and visualize it from the inside out. These never became popular because they were breathtakingly expensive for institutions to build and few of them did. Although Apple did not demo such an application, I can easily image that the technology that they have developed could be adapted to such an application. $3500 is probably too expensive for the consumer, but to a scientist who wants or needs that sort of functionality, it is incredibly cheap. Heck, when a mass spectrometer costs many, many hundreds of thousands of dollars, $3500 is a drop in the bucket.

    All technology comes with upsides and downsides. Smartphones are isolating and it drives me nuts to see students glued to their screens. And yet, I write smartphone apps to collect field data because they are way more efficient than the old fashioned notebook, pencil, analog compass, dedicated GPS receiver, etc. When data collection is faster, you can collect more of it increasing your signal to noise ratio.

    I expect AVP to present the same dichotomy but in ways that we cannot yet imagine. My two cents…

  56. Yes I can see many fields of work in which AVP will be innovative and expanding options.

    All of my concerns lie in the familial and social spheres.

    Holding fire until I get to try one but inclined to think that the future will resemble a pair of glasses but you have to get there through here.

    The ideas behind a 3D camera is for me the most intriguing. There was a post recently about how using digital zoom is now better on the iPhone than using the lens and enhancing in Photoshop. That computational photography had advanced to that point where the three lenses on an iPhone Pro can be used to provide a much better digital zoom beyond the capabilities of the individual lens.

    I’m curious to see if computational, multi lens cameras emerge beyond this instance of the AVP, multi lens needed for 3D of course.

  57. But imagine what they could show in the goggles? The porn industry may get right behind this.

  58. This is a followup article to Adam’s original posting that should be archived. Adam, you maybe should be looking at producing an actual book (I know you’ve written them before!!) based on your own posting and locking up the rights to others’ postings such as this.

  59. Well, arguably, porn drove the development and adoption of VHS, Beta, DVDs, and even streaming, so stand by.

  60. I am baffled that this thread doesn’t have any discussions about use of Vision Pr technology in automobiles, buses and trains. The trend towards ‘self-driving’ vehicles might provide “drivers” and passengers suffering from trip boredom a personalized and productive access to digital services, especially with the rollouts of 5G, 6G, etc. What a great way to let folks work and play while on the way. For those without a need or funds for Vision Pro ownership rentals would be an easy way to use the technology.

  61. There’s more than enough road carnage already from people playing with their cell phones when they should be driving, read paying attention, hands on the wheel, eyes on the road. The last thing I’d want is more people who believe they can play on their AVP because “driving assist” and “autopilot” and all that other tech bro malarkey. If you want to play, take the bus. If you want to drive, pay attention. It’s not too much to ask.

  62. This sounds waaaaay too far into the Uncanny Valley for me. In any event, I doubt that the New York City Public Transportation system has enough bucks to equip even just a few of its thousands of subways, railroads, busses, ferries, ambulances, etc., etc., employees, at Vision Pro’s just announced price. And with the current price, or people wearing a Vision Pro on public transportation, unloading shipped goods, walking in the park, etc., could easily become a victim of a new system of “Apple Picking”… criminals grabbing iPhones, etc. So even if I wanted one, which I don’t, I wouldn’t ever risk wearing a $4,000 purchase that could be grabbed from my face.

    And it’s NOT been a well kept secret that Apple has been diligently working on Project Titan, an electronic car, for well over 10-15 years. And Apple continues to lure away top automotive talent from major car companies:

    “ Apple currently has around 1,000 people working on the project and it’s already trying out various technologies aboard Lexus test mules, with much of the testing taking place on an ex-Chrysler track bought in 2021 for $125-million.”

    And Vision Pro would have to be hooked into the Internet or another communications system to keep enough of a charge to keep the headset going in cars, railroads, taxis, going. But I will bet Apple will release different versions of the Vision Pro like they have done with iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad, etc.

  63. I’d like to say that all TidBITS Talk postings will be archived for the future, but in reality, TidBITS Talk has gone through a handful of major technology changes and while I personally do have all the content, I haven’t had the time or energy to figure out how to get the old stuff back online in a useful way. One of these years…

    I’m 100% sure there will be a porn story with the Vision Pro and the devices that will crop up to compete. What’s different this time is that Apple is a controlling company and has long kept significant amounts of porn out of any venues it controls. So we haven’t had porn apps, but there’s no blocking the open Web, and that’s where I expect the first entrants to come. And, of course, we’ll see what happens when other companies produce similar devices and are looking for a way to compete—porn may be one of them.

    Apple showed the Vision Pro being used in an airplane, so I can’t see there being much difference with a bus or train, apart from the environment being much less controlled, such that the wearer would be far more vulnerable to attack and theft. With cars, I’m sure that passengers will use it; it’s just the next step in giving kids in the backseat an iPad to amuse them on a long trip.

  64. I sincerely hope that you can figure out a way to (sustainably) either get the “old stuff” online or least make archives available for search. TidBITS is a very non-trivial portion of the Mac canon, going pretty much all the way back.

  65. Adam’s take on VP is a good one but seems restricted his vision to an in-home usage. I occasionally give ad hoc consulting advice to a client which is a global company focussed on medical devices, particularly teaching devices. Almost immediately after the VP presentation was over, I was asked to look into VP being adopted by the company to upgrade some of its robotic style medical technologies, particularly those used in surgical operations. I don’t live in the US and so testing one is not possible. But the company’s R&D head does and now has had to opportunity to trial one for some hours. She and I see good opportunities for the company’s development and planning to make purchases when the VP prototypes become available as we are suggesting a number of surgeries that will be helped both in training and in practice. There’s probably some flow on to sports medicine. Now I am not giving away any secrets because I am aware of other companies in the same space drawing the same conclusions. In summary I believe that the commercial and industrial use of VP may be its strong suit.

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