Technology: Apple’s Vision Pro

Reality Distortion Field aside, Vision Pro is a compelling version 1 of what Apple believes to be the future of computing or at least, a subset of how we will interact with computers that are not held in our hands or rest on our laps. These computers will one day be on us at all times and a part of our lives both as fashion and providing spatial context. All of us knew this would be the future we’d arrive but how we’d arrive was a mystery until Vision Pro was revealed.

I am going to be critical of this product but like any pundit writing about an early technology, most of my criticisms won’t be printed in our history books. Like the Apple Watch wasn’t primarily for messaging or sharing heartbeats or best covered in 24K Gold, Vision Pro’s product highlights won’t all be the same as we saw in 2023’s WWDC keynote. I still think Apple nailed version one. I’m blown away and looking forward to trying one in person next year at an Apple retail store.

Being an Apple fan has allowed me to skip many immature technologies like the first ten years of virtual reality. Apple toiled away at creating their vision for what a headset would look like and how it would interface with the user while I saved my pennies and skipped headsets that required either a Windows PC or a account.

Apple’s vision (lowercase) is realized as a device that doesn’t isolate you from the rest of the world. It might look ridiculous to wear in public but it can be worn in public assuming you brought with you enough batteries. It would not be out of bounds to wear this device at Disney World, using the spatial features to orient your location in the park, see ride wait times and find a place to eat using AR functionality and audio prompts. You could also be capturing 3D video or live-streaming your day to family who couldn’t make it who could also be there with you via their own headset. You would look out of place socially but my assumption is this headset will become more fashionable, discreet and smaller over time. Like Apple Watches which you see everywhere now, I believe Apple Vision will become worn by 15% of people nearly full-time within the next 10 years.

Version 1 of this device is not an experiment. It really is how Apple believes people should experience a headset / wearable. Thinking again to the Apple Watch, Vision Pro is probably how this device will look and its design will last 10 years but the technology, interface and battery life will greatly improve.

The areas I believe need an immediate improvement to reach mass adoption are vast. First, the price is crazy. $3299 is absurd. $1999 would have been acceptable and $1499 crazy-pills cheap. I don’t think anyone expected the announced price and even if Apple wows us with a $300 price drop before it ships, it’s still too much. The battery life of 2 hours may be all one person needs to use the device but it needs to be 6-8 hours to be effective for people who are in and out of meetings, living in Slack/Zoom/Google Docs and keeping in touch with family and friends throughout the day. This may become a health hazard after more research is done but to remove Vision Pro so I can go out to my laptop for a bit as the battery died on a plane or train is really unfortunate. If you are in an environment like an office or some plane seats where a charger is available, it’s less of a disruption but this device does not have a standby battery mode for hot-swapping so if you’re out and about, 2 hours is all you’re going to get.

Finally, there’s a world of more immersive and reality apps that provide context to the world around us. With battery life and 5G along with innovations in thin-ness, 3rd party developers will be able to leverage AR in a new way. AR requires going outside and experiencing the world. Vision Pro could serve its user with floating notifications which it already does but also in a Minority Report way, providing me information about things nearby, if a cafe is open and what it’s rated and walking directions (already present in iPhone in some cities) where the walking path and instructions float over the world I’m staring. Adding context, comfort and spatial direction when I’m in a new city. Vision Pro is a product that, if successful, would allow auto makers to stop building ANY screens at all. The Vision Pro is your heads up display and all buttons become floating. Same goes for operating heavy machinery virtually from home or editing a movie or even shooting a movie with FPV mode in drones. There are so many augmented reality ways to be productive, immersed and spatially centered but it’s going to require the product be faster, have a longer battery life and millions of 3rd party integrations.

Remember, that level of integration took 15 years for the smartphone. I expect Apple Vision to take 10-20 years to reach full maturity and at various price points from $299 to $1999 and at its basic level allow anyone to operate their car, travel to Italy and play the latest games thanks to smart integration with the iPhone as the one digital hub.

Will I buy the first generation? I told you all in January that I wouldn’t. I don’t plan on it but I think in my industry, use of Vision will become a cultural shift where many people have them and those that don’t will want one to the point where gens 2 and 3 will sell in the millions to high tech workers who are remotely based and in a LOT of meetings. Having my personal computer/iPad/iPhone and work computer all integrated in one view and being in our office talking to colleagues when I’m physically somewhere else. That spatial presence is going to be a huge win. Microsoft and Zoom are on-board. Google will follow.

This product is going to be huge.

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