Reality Vision Pro was in some ways one of the company’s worst-kept secrets. We’ve known for years that Apple was working on AR/VR devices, and our renders were close enough to give us a decent preview of the design.
But Apple still knocked it out of the park yesterday! What we witnessed was the most impressive implementation of mixed reality that’s ever been seen, and also the most persuasive (partial) answer so far to the question, Why would anyone use this tech? …
Why did Apple say no to 1,000 things, and yes to this?
Apple is famously the company which says no to a thousand potential projects in order to say yes to the right ones. It tends to enter a market only after watching and waiting as other companies launch, figuring out what it would need to do differently to offer the definitive version. Given this, many were wondering – why would Apple say yes to this tech, of all things?
I think yesterday’s keynote answered that well. Yes, the presentation showed many of the same things we’ve seen before in other products – like immersive games and movies – but for me it also presented a vision of a new way of working which was seriously impressive.
Whether or not you could see yourself working in this way, and whether or not you still see mixed-reality tech as a solution in search of a problem, Apple still presented a case which was certainly credible and exciting, even if you didn’t find it persuasive.
If Apple’s vision is correct (and I’ll talk more about this below), then it will have a massive impact not just on how we work, but on the devices we need to help us do so. The company may yet turn out to be wrong, but I do think it was right to say yes to at least trying to make this a reality.
It’s more than just hype
Another question on everyone’s mind yesterday was: How real is this? Was Apple showing us visualizations of what it hopes the headset can achieve, or does it genuinely look this good?
Watching 3D movies with Vision Pro is proof that 3D movies can be incredibly immersive and downright cool if done right. 3D TVs may have been a short-lived fad, but Vision Pro nails the experience.
I also got to watch a clip of an NBA game while wearing Vision Pro, as well as an MLB game. Both of these experiences were incredible. I could look up, down, left, and right and feel as if I was in the stadium, sitting courtside or right alongside the first base line […]
The hardware of Vision Pro is absolutely industry-leading. I couldn’t see a single pixel on the 4K displays, and even the edges of the content on either side of me were crisp and clear. The combination of those displays and the powerful M2 and R1 chips inside mean that Vision Pro excels at everything it does.
Most of Apple’s consumer arguments don’t make sense
Apple talked a lot about how Vision Pro can create an even better experience than a far more expensive home cinema setup. Well, sure. But the clue is in the name: a home cinema experience is intended to allow an entire family, or group of friends, to enjoy the experience. If you have to provide each of them with a $3,500+ device, then the economics quickly get very silly indeed.
Similarly, the Disney segment was very cool and all, but seriously: Is anyone going to buy a bought-to-measure-headsize device for kids of an age to enjoy 3D Disney?! I mean, I guess you can buy different headband and goggle combos, throwing in different lenses as required to share one, but the costs are still going to really add up – and that’s a very expensive device to entrust to a young kid.
Gaming … umm, maybe. If you’re a massive fan of immersive games, and nobody else in your home is, then perhaps spending a few grand on this instead of gaming consoles and large monitors could make sense. But if you game with others in your home, nope.
Essentially all of the content consumption use cases presented by Apple work just fine if you live alone, and can afford to lay out this kind of cash – but fall apart as soon as you think in terms of a family.
To me, this is a work device
I sometimes roll my eyes at the way Apple makes up new words where there are already perfectly good ones which say the same thing. Retina displays, instead of high-resolution or high-definition ones, for example.
But I think the company is absolutely right to call Vision Pro a spatial computer. If this performs the way Apple claims for content creation as well as consumption, then Vision Pro is effectively a powerful Mac with multiple displays.
And viewed in that context, it doesn’t look ridiculously expensive.
I’m writing this sat at a fairly large desk, with a 49-inch monitor in front of me. Assuming there’s a way for work to be stored on wirelessly-connected external drives, then I could potentially replace my Mac and monitor with one highly-portable device.
I’d then need a desk only large enough for my keyboard, and could have as many virtual monitors as I want, of any size or shape, and change my configuration to suit my current needs.
Instead of having to travel with multiple devices to create a three-monitor setup for working away from home, I could have the virtual monitor setup of my choice without carrying anything more than Vision Pro, keyboard, and an external drive. Even, as Apple’s video suggests, on a train or plane.
That’s a very cool idea. Indeed, I would even go so far as to say that fitting a Mac and giant displays into a headset is the killer app we’ve all been waiting for.
I’m not sure I’m there yet
However … even if Vision Pro is as good as Apple suggests, and even if I really did find it worked as well as a Mac and external monitor(s), I’m still not sure I’m quite ready for that radical a shift.
Number one, I’m very unconvinced that I want to wear a
headset spatial computer all day. Even if it is lighter and cooler than existing devices, it’s never going to be as comfy as a bare head.
Two, while my Mac is mostly a personal device, there are times I use it with a friend – to view a video, for example. So that does raise questions about whether even a perfect spatial computer can fully replace a conventional one.
Three, the battery life. Sure, it will mostly be used sitting in one place, but if I’m going to use it in a coffee shop, or on a long-haul flight (and yep, I love that idea), I’m going to want a lot more than a two-hour battery life!
For all these reasons, I’m back to Vision Pro being a very expensive additional device, not a roughly dollar-neutral replacement one.
But I sure as heck want one!
However, as an additional device, I think it’s the coolest tech I’ve seen for a long time! I can’t wait to try it, and I absolutely want one. Just not enough to pay three-and-a-half grand for it (probably four, by the time I add in lenses, etc).
So, while I was wrong that there isn’t yet a killer app, my pre-keynote guess remains unchanged.
I won’t be buying one. The second version will be less eye-wateringly expensive, but I still suspect I won’t be buying one. If I had to guess when the appeal/price lines will cross for me, it will be about the 3rd-generation
Give me something similar to this, for about $1,000, and I think I won’t be able to resist.
I don’t expect that to happen with the second-gen (Vision Air?); I think that will still be way more than a thousand bucks. But by the third-gen (Vision Air 2?), then maybe. Maybe Apple will bring it down to $1,000-ish, or maybe I’ll have been persuaded by then to fork out rather more. Either way, I’m still guessing I’ll be buying a third-gen device – how about you?
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