Yesterday at the WWDC23 keynote, Apple introduced a new hardware platform, the Vision Pro.
It’s always fun to give hot-takes and first impressions on a new technology, especially when I haven’t tried it yet, so here’s mine, for what it’s worth.
I’m excited about it. While the initial device is far short of the ideal of unobtrusive glasses or similar, that let you overlay information on the world (augmented reality, or AR), it has an impressive array of technology and concepts, showing great potential.
I don’t know how comfortable it would be to wear for hours, or how well the virtual windows within the AR space would turn out for real work, but if anyone can get these sorts of things right, it’s Apple. And remember that this first one is the worst offering; Apple has a history of iterating and improving over the years, so it will get better and better.
For myself, I could imagine using this device to give me larger screen space for my app development work. I currently work from a laptop in my motorhome, sometimes with a magnetically attached screen. So being able to wear a headset and have vastly larger screen space is quite attractive.
Of course, using it with a Mac seems a bit limited at present, just expanding the existing screen. So that is less useful, since my development work is done on a Mac. But that may change over time, either by enhancing Mac integration, or by moving the Xcode development tools to the visionOS platform.
For non-work purposes, the Vision Pro seems like it would make a great entertainment device. I don’t watch TV nowadays, and have never been a gamer, but I could imagine the device being perfect for such activities, with its ability to make the show/game as immersive as desired.
I really like the reality dial thingy — the ability to twist a knob to change between an AR experience, with the outside world visible, to a fully VR environment. Great for plane trips or other distracting environments.
I don’t suffer from motion sickness, but for those who do, it sounds like Apple has done a lot of work to reduce those symptoms. And the aforementioned dial should help, by keeping the outside world visible to reduce nausea.
Another interesting feature is the external screen that shows the eyes of the user when interacting with others. Time will tell how well that works; it could be a disturbing uncanny valley situation, or it could work really well. It reminds me of transparency mode with the AirPods Pro; a way to interact with the outside world, while being immersed in another world.
I was amused by first-day hot-takes from people saying that they’d never buy one of these, or would refuse to interact with someone wearing one. It’s too soon to tell; I think like with other technologies, if they become widespread, people will get used to them. It won’t be a big deal.
Like with other new platforms Apple has introduced in the past, the initial version is just a starting point. As people get the devices and developers make apps for it, usage patterns will become clear. Apple introduced the iPhone as “an iPod with touch controls, a phone, and a breakthrough internet communications device”. At the time (I was there), people applauded the iPod and phone aspects, and were a little confused by the internet communications part. But it turned out that the iPod and phone were minor features of the device, and it’s all about the internet aspects. Similarly, the Watch was promoted as a communication device (Digital Touch?!), but evolved into primarily a fitness and notifications device. The Vision devices will no doubt similarly evolve based on how people end up using them.
All in all, I am excited for the potential. I may or may not get the first model (it’s rather expensive!), but I’m very tempted.