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Is the Vision Pro Too Immersive?

Writing for Vanity Fair about the Vision Pro, Nick Bilton worries:

When I take it off, every other device feels flat and boring: My 75-inch OLED TV feels like a CRT from the ’90s; my iPhone feels like a flip phone from yesteryear, and even the real world around me feels surprisingly flat. And this is the problem. In the same way that I can’t imagine driving a car without a stereo, in the same way I can’t imagine not having a phone to communicate with people or take pictures of my children, in the same way I can’t imagine trying to work without a computer, I can see a day when we all can’t imagine living without an augmented reality. When we’re enveloped more and more by technology, to the point that we crave these glasses like a drug, like we crave our iPhones today but with more desire for the dopamine hit this resolution of AR can deliver.

I know deep down that the Apple Vision Pro is too immersive, and yet all I want to do is see the world through it. “I’m sure the technology is terrific. I still think and hope it fails,” one Silicon Valley investor said to me. “Apple feels more and more like a tech fentanyl dealer that poses as a rehab provider.” Harsh words, but he feels what we all feel, a slave to our smartphone, and he’s seen this play before and he knows what the first act is like, and the second act, and he knows how it ends.

Harsh words, indeed, but success walks hand-in-hand with unintended consequences.

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Comments About Is the Vision Pro Too Immersive?

Notable Replies

  1. Oh FFS. Exactly how far back should time be rolled? Mid 20th? Late 19th? Late 17th (Shakespeare!)? Earlier? Socrates had some concerns about things.

    I’ve seen sweaty trembling articles about the New Thing Destroying Our Lives literally every year since I was old enough to read (mid-70s). Wait until I tell you how the VCR is going to obliterate social cohesion. My parents parents freaked out about the telephone. Their parents trembled at the radio.

    Everybody take a deep, long breath.

  2. 3D TV did not workout as I recall. For this to work there has to be more practical applications and a lower price point for people to engage with it.

  3. Good point. And 3D TV makes an interesting parallel. Its Archilles heel is that it is hard on the human eye, causing eyestrain that becomes a headache or nausea, and that gets worse over time. From my research, AR/VR headsets also cause eyestrain that gets progressively worse the longer you wear them. If that holds for Apple Vision, eyestrain may limit how long people will wear it.
    I wonder how much the Apple Vision experience varies with your eyesight?

  4. What ridiculous hyperbole. The fact the article’s author is a ‘slave’ to their smartphone says more about them than their phone. I greatly appreciate the convenience and utility of my iPhone, but I also have no problem living my life how I want and only using it on my terms. It doesn’t provide me ‘dopamine hits’.

  5. My grandparents, parents and other relatives on both sides of the family would reminisce about how there were people were running and screaming in the streets of New York City during Orson Wells’ radio broadcast of “War Of The Worlds” in 1938.

    There have been a number of TV and film adaptations of “War Of The Worlds,” and there are popular video games, as well as apps in the App Store:

    I’ll bet it will make a popular game on Vision Pro.

  6. Think again about this criticism. It’s more of a backhanded tribute than a real problem. Surely those of us old enough to roam the earth before computers can see forward to a day when sitting at a desk will be seen as the pure spinal torture it really is and roaming around, erect and using our bodies to gesture, as the only natural way to get work done. My lower back was nearly destroyed in the 90s sitting there staring for hours making tiny twitches with my mouse. This is a product category with a long way to go, true, but I think you have to be extremely hidebound and reactionary not to see the way it’s going. We have seen this ourselves, before!

  7. While the hand-wringing is clearly clickbait, the immediate aftermath of sitting for a Vision Pro demo at the Apple Store mirrors my experience. Almost as stunning as the demo itself was the lingering feeling that other screens seemed small, flat, and not as interesting.

  8. But this is nothing new. When I got my 65" HDR TV, movies watched on my other TVs (about 40" and smaller) started seeming small and boring. When I got a 24" LCD screen on my computer, the 17" CRT it replaced ended up feeling small and blurry.

    When I first got a DVD player, my old VHS movies (which I used to have no problem with) suddenly felt painful to watch.

    Any time you experience something “better”, however you define that, the things that you used to consider good no longer feel that way because you want to keep using “the good stuff”.

    This isn’t a problem. It’s human nature.

  9. Don’t mean to get off the topic, but here is an interesting article from USA Today.

    Did “The Simpsons” predict Apple’s Vision Pro?

  10. Meta’s entire business model is built around constant dopamine hits. They have a VR headset. Somehow they have not managed to make that into tech fentanyl. I think we’ll be OK.

  11. To an extent, but I don’t think it’s particularly controversial to note that many people, especially kids, have problems moderating their tech usage and suffer negative consequences because of it. That’s why Apple introduced ScreenTime.

    One of Tristan’s acquaintances growing up really screwed up his life because he was incapable of resisting the urge to play video games. His grades suffered, he didn’t get into the college he wanted, and he flamed out of the college he did get into. Obviously, there are lot of specifics built in there, but it was an actual addiction problem.

    And while that’s anecdote, there’s plenty of research into the topic too, such as:

    So I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ponder what the unintended consequences might be and have discussions about whether there are ways of mitigating them before they become problematic at the scale of a mainstream technology. There’s plenty of room between “OMG, it’s evil!” and “All new tech advances humanity.”

  12. I’m holding out for the next tech:
    Device Free Fully Interactive Holographic Interface
    … or should that better read HI-DFFI


  13. I completely agree, but for me someone loses credibility when they use the kind of hyperbole quoted above. I switch off because I have limited time and I don’t have any faith I’ll be reading a well thought out exploration and discussion. (For avoidance of doubt, I’m not referring to you, Adam, but to the Nick Bilton quote!)

  14. My daughter and I had the Vision Pro demo appointments last evening. And, I only went along because she asked me to. I have been hesitant to even think about such an expense for “fun”!
    Unfortunately, for my budget, I think that I have not had as much FUN with a toy since I was a kid. It was so simple to use and get used to. Yes, the headset is heavy and dorky looking. But when you are inside, it is like a sci-fi experience. Not real, but not not real, if you get my drift. And, when 3 baby rhinos approach you, you instinctively reach out to pet them. When the bear steps into the river on your right, you are in awe and just a teeny bit afraid. Everything is truly like being there without being there.
    If that means flat screens are dull and no longer interesting, so be it. But I don’t think we need to worry about that just yet. As @silbey says: take a deep breath. It is not the end of the world as we know it. The immersive videos are unbelievable and thrilling. The 3-D Avatar was okay, but I get car sick in 3-D situations, so I had to back out of that demo. But there is so much more to the Vision Pro than 3-D movies.
    It is really amazing technology that gives people with $$$ another way to spend it. I think I am going to save up and give myself a birthday present. Everyone deserves something special for their 80th birthday, right? Never too old to have a good time.
    BTW, the optical inserts cost $149, pretty reasonable compared to the cost of the unit itself. Apple has a way to take your current eyeglasses and configure the inserts to approximate your prescription for the demo. That was flat out amazing to me as my vision was one of my main concerns and the reason I went to the demo: can people with imperfect eyesight still enjoy the experience? Yes, they can!
    If you live near and Apple store doing demos, book a time and go have yourself a good time!

  15. I think Nick had a good time. About all there was to it on reading the article.

    We’ve all had the experience with new kit. I’m looking at my iPhone 11 Pro and have not checked out the 15 because my otherwise perfectly fine device will be diminished in comparison.

    The experience is not just technolust, it’s party biochemical, physical. In color grading photographs I have to be aware of it, editing contrast curves and color profiles. When flipping back to the original images they can appear duller and flatter than they did on first viewing. Waiting some time and coming back to the edited photographs, these can sometimes need to be dialled back. Our bodies respond in all sorts of ways to stimulus, tolerances and expectations play their part.

  16. My husband and I are still doing fine with our 8+ iPhones. To date they do everything we need.

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