The first thing that strikes you about the Apple Vision Pro goggles is how comfortable they are, it’s like wearing a giant ski goggles on your face.
I was one of the first people in the world to test the so waitedace and costsaceglasses Apple Mixed Realityduring its launch on Monday at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino.
Unlike several similar systems already on the market, Apple removed the battery from the device, making it lighter. But this means that now the battery should be next to you, linked by a cable.
The user experience is minimalist, classic Apple.
Once you put on the glasses, you see the room around you, but you don’t see ityes through glass, but rather through the many cameras built insidethe device. This is important for the experience of “mixed reality” or digital content that is projected in your environment.
Physically, you press a single button on the top right of the glasses, and some familiar app icons appear that you’ll recognize if you’ve ever used an iPhone: iMessage, Photos, Apple TV (more to come as developers create them).
And from there, it’s all a matter of “gesture control”. The glasses track where you’re looking, so when you gaze at an app and pinch your thumb and forefinger together, it opens.
A “mixed” reality
Apple did several demos. It was impressive to see a photo gallery that stretched from floor to ceiling, though it was obvious they had been meticulously chosen and well taken.
You can record 3D video using the cameras on the glasses. I saw a boy blowing out a candle so close to me I almost felt his breath.
I had a live video call with another Apple employee, who was also wearing glasses (in fact, the call was with a photorealistic avatar of the employee instead of an actual video). I don’t know what it really looked like because I never saw it in person, but there was something strange about the softness of her skin and the detail of her eyesparticularly when he smiled or frowned.
I watched movie clips on a virtual giant screen after the room had digitally darkened around me, like a movie theater. A gigantic 3D tyrannosaurus rex sniffed my face. I saw digital flower petals dance around the room during a mindfulness meditation.
You can choose the level of immersion using a physical dial to increase or decrease the size of what you are viewing. You can fill the entire room or appear as a TV screen superimposed on your wall.
If someone walks in front of you in real life, you can see them no matter how deep you are.
I tried to reply to a text on the digital keyboard that appeared in front of me, but it was difficult.
Every time I commented something not very positive about the Vision Pro, I received an enthusiastic: “remember that this is not the final product!”.
Unfortunately, I can’t show you anything I’m telling you about because we were all banned from recording. Surprisingly, no one at Apple was actually using a Vision Pro, not even the boss, Tim Cooknor Disney CEO Bob Iger, who described the device as “real life magic.”
I’ve tried a lot of VR and mixed reality headsets in my career as a tech journalist, and these are some of the best – of course, with an introductory price of $3,499, I’d expect it to be.
They’re probably still going to be the most expensive glasses on the market when they go on sale next year. Bloomberg has reported that Apple expects to sell 900,000 units in the first year.
So who theace will buy?
I think Apple is playing a very clever game here with its marketing, although I’m not sure it’s going to work.
Traditionally, mixed reality headsets have been aimed at people playing video games, with the promise of big wacky moments. Kill monsters the size of your house! Be a rock star on the Wembley Stadium stage!
Apple barely mentioned the games. The message was: do everything you do on your phone, but bigger, brighter, and in the context of your own home.
There was much speculation that the announcement of the Apple Vision Pro would be an “iPhone moment”, meaning a revolutionary product from Apple in the same way that the iPhone forever changed the smartphone landscape.
But what if the Apple Vision Pro really is the new iPhone?
By giving it utility as an everyday accessory rather than an occasional thrill, Apple is clearly targeting the general public.
I’m not sure if it will work.
Apple has a unique magic and a very loyal customer base. People who like the brand really, really like it. But hardware devices have been a barrier in VR for a long time.
Wearing glasses for long periods of time just doesn’t feel great. Lots of people experience nausea (me too, though it didn’t happen to me on Monday, but my demo was only 15 minutes long, with a couple of minutes for each section).
How much of this is novelty?
I can tell you for sure that while it was a significant experience, I’m not sure I’d want to be sniffed out by a virtual dinosaur again anytime soon.
Now, clearly, $3,499 is not the price of a novelty product. I remember shuddering last year when Facebook-owned Meta announced that its Quest Pro headset was going to cost around $1,500, less than half what Apple’s (it’s now been reduced to $999).
Of course, you are paying for the years of research and development that goes into building the first generation of any product. But what if you use it every day?
A friend of mine who works in the fashion industry says that you should spend more money on the clothes you wear most often.
So if you spend $100 on a dress and wear it once, each wear will have cost you $100. But if you use it 100 times, it will only have cost you $1 each time.
Maybe Apple is banking on making the glasses useful enough that more people are likely to see them that way. They need a lot of content and a lot of developers to get it done.
But if you like Apple and you like mixed reality, and you have the money, chances are you’ll like the headset.
If you replace your smartphone five years from now, well, maybe our avatars can talk virtually on FaceTime.
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