Journalists are a skeptical bunch, so it was unusual to hear so many of them raving about their first-hand experience with Apple’s next Big Thing: the high-priced helmet called Vision Proa device infused with fully virtual reality as well as augmented reality that projects digital images on top of real-world settings.
But after wearing the Vision Pro in a meticulously orchestrated half-hour demonstration by Apple, I joined the ranks of those who were blown away by all the awesome technology that Apple packed into the shaped headset. glasses. Yet that excitement was tempered by an ominous sense of having just walked through a door that will eventually lead society down another path of digital isolation.
But first the good stuff: Vision Pro is a very sophisticated device, fairly easy to set up and incredibly intuitive to use. Setup requires the use of an iPhone to automatically perform certain assessments of your eyes and ears. If you wear prescription glasses (I wear contacts), additional calibration will be required, but Apple promises it won’t be complicated.
Once that’s all done, you’ll quickly find that putting on the Vision Pro is simple too, with a button on the side that makes it easy to ensure the helmet fits comfortably. And unlike some other helmets, the Vision Pro isn’t clunky nerdware, although the goggles aren’t exactly fancy, although they do look a bit like something you might see people wearing on a track ski, a jet fighter or a racing car.
Controlling the Vision Pro is incredibly easy. Users simply press a button above the right bezels to bring up a virtual screen of apps, including familiar standbys for photos, messaging, phone calls, video streaming and navigation on the Web. To open an app, just look it straight in the eye, then pinch a thumb and finger together. The same app can be closed with a pinch of a finger or can be moved sideways by holding two fingers together and moving them in the direction you want to place it.
Unsurprisingly, Apple’s well-organized demonstration showcased the Vision Pro in the best possible light. The headset clearly seems to be very popular for business purposes, improving productivity, collaboration and video conferencing, especially in a time when more work is done remotely.
Without causing the disorienting effects common in other VR headsets, the Vision Pro can immerse you in stunning visuals, 3D displays of distant locations. It can insert you into videos of past memories recorded with one of the device’s 12 cameras (the demo included heartwarming scenes from a child’s birthday party and a campfire scene). It can feel like you’re sitting in an IMAX theater while relaxing on your own sofa watching a 3D movie, like the latest Avatar movie. It can throw you into surreal moments (at one point I watched in awe as a butterfly shown for the first time on a virtual screen representing a prehistoric era seemed to float across the room and land in my outstretched hand as I was sitting on a sofa).
And the demo featured just enough glimpses of how sporting events appear through the glasses to realize that the powers that be in professional and college football, basketball, baseball and hockey are bound to finding ways to integrate technology into subscription services that make viewers feel like they’re sitting front row.
To Apple’s credit, the Vision Pro is also designed in a way that allows users to always see those around them, if they so choose.
My mixed feelings about Apple’s first foray into mixed reality ironically stem from the quality of the Vision Pro’s design by a company that was behind it. this type of breakthrough technology many times over the past 40 yearsranging from the Macintosh computer to the iPhone.
It looks like this could be another example in which Apple has accomplished something other tech companies have eluded by cracking the code to make virtual and augmented reality more compelling and less disorienting than a variety of other ho -um they did. the last decade or so.
The only reason the Vision Pro won’t make an immediate splash is its cost. When it hits the US market early next year, it will sell for $3,500, making it likely to start out as an unaffordable luxury item for most households, particularly because the headset won’t will not supplant the need to buy a new iPhone. or an Android-powered smartphone every few years.
The more likely scenario is that Vision Pro is in some ways Apple’s testbed for mixed reality that will encourage the development of more apps specifically designed to take advantage of the technology. The next ripple effect will be a range of other products equipped with equally compelling technology at lower prices that have a better chance of sucking more people – including children – into a field that threatens to deepen. screen addictions to the detriment of real human interactions.