Remarkably, Apple has created the Vision Pro. However, how many people will actually purchase it?

A member of Apple’s staff showed me around the new Vision Pro headset last week as we passed a well-kept lawn, descended a set of stairs, and entered a neatly furnished mock living room within the Steve Jobs Theater.

The Vision Pro is a high-end device that costs $3,500.Credit...Jim Wilson/The New York Times
The Vision Pro is a high-end device that costs $3,500.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The Vision Pro

Like other reporters who got early access to the Vision Pro, my demo didn’t cover every single feature. I sat on a gray midcentury sofa next to two vigilant Apple employees as they led me through a curated demo while I wore the device for approximately 45 minutes. No one would let me film or photograph the device, and I couldn’t even take one home to put through my own tests.

The scope of my trial was so small that I feel guilty about giving you my honest opinion on whether or not the Vision Pro is worth the $3,500 price tag. (That amount does not cover taxes or any additional accessories, including the $200 carrying case or the $100 Zeiss lens inserts that are necessary for those who wear contacts or glasses with prescriptions.)

What I mean by the “six-month problem” is something I am unable to comment on in regards to the Vision Pro. The novelty wears off with many virtual reality headsets I’ve tried, and I’ve tried a lot of them. Then, little annoyances like hazy graphics or an absence of interesting apps begin to mount up. No matter how many headsets I try, they all wind up gathering dust in my closet six months later.
However, regarding my initial thoughts on the Vision Pro, I can state two things.

First, the Vision Pro is a remarkable product in many respects; its development took a long time and cost a lot of money. Its eye-tracking and gesture-based controls, display quality, and ability to combine immersive virtual experiences with the ability to see the world around you, a feature known as “pass-through,” are leagues ahead of the previous best virtual reality headsets on the market, the Meta Quest series.

Although I went into my demo with an attitude of skepticism due to my concerns about Apple’s aggressive stage-managing, I experienced moments of true wonder and a sense of being present for what could be a groundbreaking change in computing while wearing the Vision Pro.

Next, I have no clue who or what the intended user is for the Vision Pro, even after giving it a go. The bulk affluent, let alone the masses, cannot afford the $3,500 price tag. As a status symbol for your face, it’s a large, ostentatious statement piece.

But it doesn’t mean the Vision Pro isn’t interesting or that using it was a pleasure. I confirmed that it is. Based on my personal experience, I now have a clearer understanding of who should hold off on purchasing one at this time and who should resist the temptation.

The Vision Pro Newbies

The Vision Pro Headset
The Vision Pro Headset

The Vision Pro will wow you if you’re among the roughly 40% of Americans who have never used a VR headset.
Get a demo of the Vision Pro in an Apple shop when they go on sale this Friday or beg a friend to let you use theirs if this is your first venture into virtual reality. (Letting someone else use a VR headset is usually preferable than buying one, just like with boats.)

Issues with early virtual reality headsets included headache-inducing motion tracking, flimsy controllers, and hazy displays. Additionally, you couldn’t multitask while wearing these early headgear.

With the displays of the Vision Pro—two screens about the size of postage stamps—Apple has addressed many of these issues. Impressive: clear, vivid, and richly detailed. They make you feel as though you’re looking into the real world, rather than a screen, when you gaze at them.

Also, the immersion toggle on the top of the Vision Pro really amazed me; it lets you view more of your surroundings just by turning a dial.
There is no need for controllers with the Vision Pro, unlike competing virtual reality systems. You need to glance at an icon in order to navigate. The next step is to choose it by pinching your thumb and index finger together. Even while there isn’t a particularly high learning curve, it took me a while to figure it out.

The Vision Pro provides a good level of comfort when worn. While it was comfortable to use and didn’t cause any headaches like other virtual reality headsets, I did experience some little pain as my eyes adapted to wearing and removing it. (Another coworker who got a demo likened it to the way you feel when you exit a dark theater on a bright day.)

I have no idea whether these are just temporary issues or if I will eventually become used to them. Still, they weren’t terrible enough to detract from the event.
Over the years, the promise of three-dimensional images and films has both thrilled and disappointed me, as a sentimental parent. Being a little bit of a camera nut, I can’t wait for 3-D photos to reach a level where I can truly immerse myself in a family memory, instead of merely staring at a grainy photograph.

Apple’s “spatial photo and video” technology.CreditCredit...via Apple
Apple’s “spatial photo and video” technology.CreditCredit…via Apple

I knew it had come to a head when I looked at the Vision Pro’s spatial photographs and movies. Stunning photographs and videos captured by the 3-D camera were incredibly lifelike in Apple’s demo.

These featured a picture from a child’s birthday party, a mother blowing bubbles for her daughter, and a family seated around a kitchen table. In my opinion, it was the same as if I were actually there. As I imagined reliving my son’s first steps in this manner many years from now, a lump formed in my throat.

Obviously, not everyone feels the same way. Even though the Vision Pro is expensive, I can almost see other camera-obsessed parents justifying it for the home movie possibilities alone—I was captivated by Apple’s spatial photographs and films.

Office workers

In terms of duties directly connected to my job, I was less impressed.

Apple has promoted the Vision Pro as the ideal computer for those who spend most of their time sitting at a desk: a spatial computer that lets you design your ideal workstation and then transport it to any location. Users have the freedom to open several virtual windows, manipulate their size and position in space, and even blend them with their actual Mac display.

The Vision Pro did not provide me the opportunity to practice column writing or podcast hosting. However, I did give it a go with some simple typing and web browsing, and I was disappointed.

Using a standard mouse or track pad was much easier than the pinch-and-drag action required to scroll on a Vision Pro. Additionally, the virtual keyboard on the Vision Pro was an awkward, sluggish nightmare to type on. I wasted almost a whole minute just entering nytimes.com into Safari. The portability of the Vision Pro is somewhat undermined because, in order to accomplish serious work, users will likely be required to attach a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.

Making a video call might not be an improvement. While I was unable to try out third-party video conferencing apps like Zoom or FaceTime on the Vision Pro, other reviewers have panned Apple’s attempt at creating a lifelike avatar that can substitute for you on video chats, Personas.

One non-demo workplace tool that I got to test out was a version of Apple’s slide show program Keynote, which allows you to practice presentations in a virtual stage or conference room. It wasn’t a genuine productivity booster, though; it seemed more like a gimmick.

Fans of film and video games

Those who enjoy fully immersive media are another target Apple is aiming to win over with the Vision Pro.

The movie clips I used in my demo ranged from “Super Mario Brothers 3-D” to a “Star Wars” trailer and included snippets from a soccer game and a scuba diver’s encounter with sharks, among others. Apple also provided some of these movies. A butterfly perched on my finger as a prehistoric beast materialized from the screen in an interactive film I watched.

The technology required to display these clips on such tiny displays is rather remarkable, and several of them were truly astounding. (I developed a severe phobia of heights after watching a clip of a tightrope walker precariously standing above a canyon.)

However, I have noticed such issues with other virtual reality headsets, and the Vision Pro’s performance in watching movies was not up to par with those models, so I don’t think it was worth the price. Unfortunately, the Vision Pro does not have apps for popular streaming services like Netflix and YouTube, so if you want to enjoy their immersive content in their entirety, you will need to utilize an Apple TV or a suitable service, such as Disney+.

Considering the current state of the Vision Pro’s game library, I likewise fail to see myself ever desiring to play games on the gadget. This gadget isn’t ideal for competitive gaming because it lacks external controllers, which make it difficult to perform actions like pressing buttons quickly or moving with precision. Plus, I won’t be exercising in it since I don’t want to harm my $3,500 computer from perspiration.

Self-promoters and introverts

The most important thing I took away from my demo was that the Vision Pro doesn’t blend in with its surroundings as well as Apple would like it to. Of course, I also need more time with the device to fully understand its capabilities.

Apple has refrained from portraying the Vision Pro as a device that can immerse you in a science fiction metaverse or even a replacement for the actual world. It aspires for the use of a Vision Pro to be as discrete and inconspicuous as removing an AirPods or iPhone.

However, that will not be accomplished for the foreseeable future.

That is due to the fact that the majority of the Vision Pro’s outstanding features are reserved for completely immersive virtual reality settings, rather than the “augmented reality” scenarios that Apple has in mind. Even while Apple has greatly simplified the process, there is still some friction when navigating between the real and virtual worlds.

For the time being, the Vision Pro is aimed at a mix of people: those who want to flaunt their latest high-end Apple device and those who prefer to stay indoors, thinking that nobody cares if their virtual reality headset draws attention.

Although the initial excitement may fade, this is an important consideration for anyone planning to wear a Vision Pro covertly for the time being. Whether you approve or not, Apple has created an outrageously cool gadget.

According to The New York Times

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