Apple unveiled their brand new “spatial computer”, the Vision Pro, and while it’s as impressive as expected, there are some drawbacks. Here are some things we loved about it and a few things we didn’t.
In the run-up to Apple’s keynote for WWDC23, everyone was waiting with bated breath at the near-certain possibility of the company unveiling their very own VR headset. And they did, although it’s more augmented reality and not completely digital like an Oculus or qu. The Vision Pro seeks to make augmented reality an everyday use technology.
The device itself is sleek, true to Apple fashion, and impressive, and it’s definitely one of the company’s memorable devices even if it hasn’t been released yet. I was definitely blown away by the Vision Pro and what it means for the future of computers and AR, there were also a few things that I wasn’t too keen about.
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Apple Vision Pro: the things we loved and the things we didn’t
The stuff we loved
Spatial reality without disconnecting from reality
Apple is touting the VisionPro as their first spatial computer. That’s “spatial”, not special—just clarifying. This means you don’t enter a digital world but instead have digital content that you can interact with in your own physical space. Your messages, websites, or augmented reality objects appear in the same space you’re in.
But what was interesting was how Apple tried to think of ways you can still interact with others while wearing the headset. The Eyesight feature allows people to see your eyes even while wearing the VisionPro, and while others might argue it’s not important, it does make talking with someone a tad less weird now that they can see your expressions. I mean, you still have a thing strapped to your head, and your eyes do look a little janky. I did say less weird, anyway.
The Vision Pro also gives you the option on how immersive your experience is with just a turn of a knob. If you’re watching a movie, turn it all the way up so you’re not disturbed by anything else. But if you’re in the office and collaboration with your colleagues is important, you’ll have the option so that you can still see them when they come into your space. It’s the option of immersiveness that’s a great feature.
Your very own home theatre
In their keynote, Apple showed off how you can enlarge the “screen” on the Vision Pro so that it feels like you’re in a theatre. Judging from the presentation, you can also change the background so that you’re fully immersed in your cinema experience. Apple said that the Vision Pro also comes with spatial audio. I do have my reservations about that, but we’ll get to that later.
Ease of use
By the looks of it, Apple has done it again in making everything feel intuitive. The ability to control the Vision Pro with simple gestures and without the need for another piece of hardware is a relief. Judging by Apple’s track record, we could expect it to be silky smooth, so scrolling up and down by just pinching your fingers should be as satisfying as we expect it to be.
Like it’s done before, Apple has also ensured that switching between different Apple devices is easy. You can easily just look at your Mac with the Vision Pro and that will automatically put the Mac’s screen up on the headset.
On top of that, Apple has also taken into account things like different bands for different head sizes and even different lenses for those who need them, both of which are easily replaceable. The knobs on the Vision Pro for volume and immersion also make it easy for the user to control these settings. They’re small details, but it’s these small things that make Apple’s devices easy and a delight to use.
A different way of recording memories
Apple showed off the ability to view photos in Vision Pro like never before. That’s not surprising; after all, photos in augmented reality are a very immersive experience. Take their demo of panoramic photos, which you can view as if it was on a gigantic curved screen.
But one of the impressive features that Apple showed off was the ability to take spatial videos or photos, which are basically 3D photos and videos. With a push of a button, you can take a video on the Vision Pro and replay the video which now has depth almost as if it was a hologram of sorts. It’s one heck of an innovation, especially when you realise that these moments can now be relived as real as they possibly can be, at least for now.
Disney CEO Bob Iger made a surprise appearance near the end of the VisionPro presentation and aside from announcing that Disney+ will be available on Day 1 of its release, he also showed off some of the possible things users can enjoy. The trailer gave glimpses of immersive viewing experiences, which included setting a Star Wars-themed background for your virtual theatre. Information about characters and worlds also pops up on the side so you can keep up to speed with the lore, and you can also have immersive nature experiences with their National Geographic programming. Finally, the trailer also showed how users can enjoy Marvel’s What If…? series in an interactive way.
The stuff we didn’t love
Well, it’s more of a concern. Apple repeatedly said that the Vision Pro has spatial audio capabilities. Their press release reads, “Two individually amplified drivers inside each audio pod deliver Personalized Spatial Audio based on the user’s own head and ear geometry.” However, the notable thing to observe on the Vision Pro is that these audio pods don’t go over the ears. While no one can say for sure just how well the spatial audio works until they’ve tried the Vision Pro themselves, I have my doubts since it doesn’t cover the ears. However, one of the people in the demos was wearing their AirPods while using it, which is perfectly fine.
Short battery life
Apple has repeatedly been crticised for the way the iPhone’s battery life deteriorates, and that same criticism is now heaped on the Vision Pro. The presentation conveniently and quickly glossed over the fact that it only lasts two hours with the external battery pack. And yes, there’s a battery pack. Even though it’s not cumbersome, you’re still not completely wireless. You can, of course, keep it plugged in so that you don’t have to worry about it running out of juice, but we were hoping it would last longer than The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Extended Edition’s run time. To be fair, it may not be healthy to use a headset for more than two hours at a time.
It’s USD $3,499. For those of us in Hong Kong, that’s around HKD 27,431. Yikes.
The Vision Pro is set to be released early next year in the United States with other countries to follow afterwards. Find more info on Apple’s website.
[Hero image: Apple]
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Bangkok