Woman wearing Apple Vision Pro and smiling.

Woman wearing Apple Vision Pro and smiling.

By Shawn B

Let’s not beat about the bush here.  The Apple Vision Pro (AVP) is a definite buy, even if just eventually. Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk about the demo experience.   

So, I booked an AVP demo recently, and went to our friendly neighborhood Apple Store to execute the 20-minute test drive of our collective future.  Having never tried any virtual reality or augmented reality device before, my expectation was somewhat mid-grade.  I know they’re out there, but from the plethora of videos I’ve watched, they mostly seemed like unrefined toys.  In contrast, from the videos I’ve seen of the AVP, I had the expectation that it would be above average – and AVP absolutely did not disappoint.  

However, before we delve into what was great about it, I think the store experience deserves a paragraph or two.  While I expected Apple-like control over the demo experience, I thought it was extremely limited in scope, too controlled and not representative of real life.  I get it, Apple wants you to experience the best of its best features, the most complete of experiences, unencumbered and uninterrupted – is that what real life is about? I headed to the store, wife and two kids in tow, and first thing one of my kids did was jump in the “driver’s seat”.  I don’t think my Apple Genius liked that so much – she said as much in her few words – “I want you to have the best experience, do you mind if your kids wait outside?” to which my answer was a prompt and frank NO. They will stay with me wherever I am.  No fault of hers, but I think she was so laser-focused on making my experience optimal, she ignored some critical observations about the purchase-making, decision process of my and probably many families.  

1) I’m not spending $3,500 for just me – this thing has got to be useful to all of us, so they are integrally involved in that process.  

2) Parents at home don’t have the luxury of an interruption-less experience.  When I’m wearing this thing, my kids are going to bug me, they’re going to yell “daddy” or “mommy” and get in the way.  If I can’t interact while wearing this piece of the future, then it probably has no place in our future.  

3) I’m not going to buy four AVPs – one for each of us.  I’m pretty sure most people just don’t have 14 to 16 grand sitting on to indulge individualities for one device category.  To that end, I was very disappointed they didn’t us try Guest Mode – like how we would be using it at home.  

4) She (at first) refused to let my kids try it.  She said Apple’s policy was they had to be 13 or older – The kids are 7 and 3-year-old – so that’s completely understandable.  She did, eventually, let both put it on their face for about 5 seconds a piece, and that’s when she really got my attention (I think she noticed this too).  Nevertheless, these things must survive families, so they should somehow indulge this.  Apple’s smart, if they can figure out how to put the future on your face, I’m sure they can figure this minor inconvenience out. 

Now, I’m not going to belabor the virtues of every feature of AVP, but mainly the ones that stood out to me on my 20-minute joy ride. 

A) Apple has, once again, revolutionized how we navigate our devices and the world. This thing has no external or physical controllers.  No physical input devices needed natively.  It tracks your eyes and hands. It’s accurate. It’s awesome. It reminded me of the bounce back effect on scrolling which debuted with the original iPhone.  A simple stupid feature, yet it provided priceless tactical feedback which sprung forward our interaction with our mobile devices.  There was also the pinch to zoom, which, for me, was a “why hadn’t anyone thought of this before?” Moment.  How had no one thought of that?  On AVP, the screen elements highlighted exactly where I looked, and then all I had to do was a simple finger-thumb tap to select.  After about 30 seconds of both, it was like second nature.  So why does every other VR headset have some clunky hand device that I got to unnecessarily keep track of?  Why has no one thought of this?

B) Immersion was impressive.  I had, essentially, giant ski goggles on my face, but when I went into full immersion mode, they took a big back seat to the experience.  It was almost as if I was there – underwater with sharks, in a safari face-to-face with rhinos, on a sheer cliff face rock climbing, in a hot air balloon looking down on the world below or standing right next to Alicia Keys and her Steinway grand piano.  It was properly immersive. It felt like I was right there.  I can’t wait to see what content regular folks come up with, because we are the true geniuses.

C) I’ve never given a second or third thought to spatial photos and videos, though my iPhone is capable of recording both, but seeing them in practice has given me not only pause but cause for full reversal of that perspective (or lack of).  Now, I must admit, spatial photos were just weird.  Seeing multiple dimensions just frozen in time just felt odd, though it simultaneously looked awesome, but the true coup de grace was spatial videos.  This is where it shone.  The family in the video celebrating birthdays was not mine, but they might as well have been.  It was almost as if I was there.  The cake was inches from my face, the amber flames flickered, the children in the mid-ground behind the cake leaning in to blow out the candles, and the background elements completing the snapshot of natural existence.  All I can say is, our phones these days – i or S – take amazing photos, but you don’t truly realize how much you lose in a 2D vs 3D video or photo.  It was, in a word, astonishing. 

D) Not to be outdone by spatial video was Spatial Audio. I must admit, I wondered how good the audio experience could be from speakers not placed directly on your ears, but I can truly say – my skepticism was completely unfounded.  The answer is it can be good.  It can be really good.  It was amazingly good.  You hear everything, in its proper perspective, at its proper depth, and for its proper environment.  I’m no audiophile, so I’ve never been a fan of Spatial Audio in music, as I didn’t see the need.  But now I must say, I think the application (for me at least) isn’t music, but more for reality.  To augment the immersive experience, the audio must work in conjunction with the video to convince the brain that you are in the environment you are looking at, and AVP definitely got this right.  

This is getting a bit long in the tooth, so let’s wrap it up.  Is AVP a good buy? I think it is. Even at $3,500, its promise isn’t just the now, but the future.  As humans, most of us are perpetually limited by the constraints of the now, but thankfully, we have innovators like Apple who are forward thinking enough to give us tools what we can use to break out of the now box.  Even more fortuitous is that once we have the tools, there are so many more of us who can use those tools to build a future that even Apple itself can’t dream of.  So, what’s left? What’s left is for the rest of us to go out there and experience the future our fellow humans build with the tools Apple and other innovators avail to us.  

Is AVP a buy? Yes – both in beta and future.

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