Originally published at: Apple Vision Pro Evokes Deep Ambivalence - TidBITS
During the WWDC keynote, Apple unveiled the Vision Pro, its long-rumored mixed-reality headset. Adam Engst looks at what it is, what it’s good for, and who will want to use it. He also ponders some of the implications should it become popular.
Originally published at: Apple Vision Pro Evokes Deep Ambivalence - TidBITS
Outstanding pretty deep dive by Adam. It will take me a while to decode some of the cultural references but I appreciate his insight.
I can’t vouch for this, but the Wikipedia article about the Apple II computer indicates that “the original retail price of the computer with 4 KB of RAM was US$1,298 (equivalent to $6,268 in 2022).”
I offer this info just as a reality check on pricing for new technology. Honestly, I doubt that the cost factor will be the greatest hurdle for Apple to overcome.
i know one use case were these Spatial computers will be superb. long starship voyages to the Martian city being built by Elon Musk: i call it MarsX ‘Marsk’ these will make the 6 month journey more survivable
Thanks for the thoughtful commentary Adam. One potential outdoor use occurred to me, but it would depend on the spectral capability and sensors. In other words, could they be used for night vision?
I think it’s premature to try to evaluate a device that’s not even available yet. Software developers will largely determine what it will be good for. Who knows what they will come up with. I think it’s possible that someone will come up with a use that no one has yet imagined.
Even if they could, why would you spend $3499 when actual night vision goggles are available for much, much less? A quick check of Amazon and it seems like night vision goggles are in the $100-$200 range.
Adam, thanks for providing the article as a springboard to us.
I’m sure everyone will pick their own use cases that they believe are significant (either for or against/ These may differ from what Apple or the media emphasize. For example, I think that a primary use case for the Apple Watch is how it makes using contactless credit cards and Apple Pay a trivial function (rather than pulling out a wallet or phone, you pay by tapping twice and flicking your wrist).
Anyway, to get back to the Vision Pro, having multiple large displays available without taking up physical space seems magical. I sometimes connect an iPad to Mac for a second display and use Mission Control to put projects on multiple virtual desktops. However, having these desktops available and immediately available at a glance seems tempting. We’ll see if that becomes the actual reality.
What’s actually interesting is that Apple, along with a great number of other major corporations are doing the work of places like the WEF, separating people from reality.
Strap on the headset, then get fed whatever “they” want to feed you (remember, today’s movies include messages that you see, or are subliminal), the same with music.
There are thousands of the fake AI programs showing up almost daily, type in something and MARVEL as a filter produces that “image”.
Plug in your children, and let corporations input whatever they like into their minds, because YOU don’t know what’s actually being crammed into their minds (think of the way the schools are teaching things they refuse to tell parents about).
The intent is to create a population of mindless drones sitting in a corner having false information pumped into their minds. Remember Pokemon and the millions of little drones running everyway looking for little characters that ONLY EXIST IN A COMPUTER PROGRAM.
Those were the tests, now, these corporations have decided it’s time to plug people in, all while pretending the invention is ONLY FOR GOOD.
A very dangerous game is about to be played, and while the Apple version might be ridiculously expensive, the Apple approved knockoffs will be affordable, while including the same chips inside running the same software.
Pretend that it’s intention is Benevolent, but discover it’s just another way to CONTROL…
Very good analysis of VR headsets. However, the Oculus Rift is now over 10 years old. How much of what you predicted has happened in the last 10 years?
I expected a much better looking VR headset. To me the thing looks like someone wants to go snorkelling. And I haven’t read any discussion of vertigo caused by the headset.
The impression I get is that the AVP (isn’t that a fun acronym?) isn’t meant to be a dumb headset peripheral, like so many existing VR headsets, but is designed to be a completely standalone computing device with its own distinct OS and apps.
I think that change by itself makes it difficult to compare it against most other products currently sold, since they are all peripheral devices designed to work along with a computer or game console.
While reading this very interesting article I tried to imagine applications for this device.
I’m commuting long distance. Sitting in a train or plane for some hours. It seems compelling to have one or two large computer screens and a Mac mini available wherever I go, without the physical equipment. No more laptop constrains, no one peeking over my shoulder… very compelling.
I moved to a new location recently. Designing the new place with a device like the Apple Vision Pro would be great. Just moving furniture around until you are satisfied without having to push them physically - great idea.
So even while the price is a challenge it’s a compelling device. Even more so compared to AR/VR/XR headsets because there are 2 differences: regular AR/VR/XR devices are connected to a computer and a specific software running for a specific task. The Apple Vision Pro is a computer, not a headset. And it’s not task specific but for general use with an OS based on MacOS X. Very promising.
Some very good points thanks Adam, which largely mirror my own thoughts. There are undoubtedly situations where the Vision Pro may be very popular - such as while travelling - but it is definitely a very visual indication of wealth. And then you have to carry them around with you when you reach your destination. They look quite bulky.
I’m always reminded of the film Strange Days when I see devices which take you out of reality. For some people the attraction of remaining in that reality may be strong. What about the remaining partner looking at 3D video of their deceased lover? Or someone drawn in by the adrenalin rush of a video which takes them away from a humdrum existence?
I’ll be interested to see what developers come up with, because you do suggest some very good areas for such a device. And I’ll be keen to see what take up there is when it eventually launches here in Scotland (since the initial launch is US only).
I appreciate Adam and everyone to take the time in considering the implications of Apple Vision Pro and spatial computing in general on our lives. Some of my random thoughts below:
Personally, I am excited about the possibilities that the Vision Pro in particular - and spatial computing in general - enables. However, good intention does not guarantee positive outcomes; in fact, some may go further and say “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. We only need to look at social media and the vision (sorry) of bringing people closer together - only to turn into echo chamber etc.
In developing a spatial computing platform, I am not sure if Apple places the same importance on good intentions/values as profit - but such platforms can take on a life of its own, as we have seen with social media and iPhone. Nonetheless, Apple has a lot of influence when it comes to steering the direction of the development of this new platform - I guess only time will tell.
The next iPhone, Touch Bar or Apple Watch?
I am wondering if the Vision Pro is the next iPhone, the next Touch Bar or the next Apple Watch?
I am sure everyone (or at least Apple) would want the Vision Pro to be the next iPhone - and the spatial computer paradigm to be at least as important as the “computer on one’s palm” paradigm.
The Touch Bar was arguably an interesting piece of engineering, but looks more like a solution in search of a problem.
Apple Watch started off as the next big thing-iPhone replacement-status signalling device, only to have the focus narrowed to a device focusing on health and quality-of-life improvements.
Will the Vision Pro and Apple’s spatial computing platform take one of these paths, or will it chart a path of its own? The future is certainly not deterministic, but I wonder if market and social dynamics make some outcomes more likely than others. (Probably few people can imagine how big the mobile phone industry can be - and how important phones are to our lives - once hindsight is taken out of the equation.)
The Spatial Computing Market/Business Model
There are a lot of plausible use cases for the Vision Pro and spatial computers, but is the market one big market like mobile phones, or more like a large number of small markets?
In coming up with an App Store, Apple obviously wants to make it a big market and not a fragmented one. Some use cases e.g. entertainment are sizeable markets, though the starting price of the device limits the size - until the price becomes more affordable - and I guess this is true for consumer use cases in general.
Some of the proposed use cases, such as becoming training devices for medical students and pilots, seem very specialised and small when considered individually. They probably do not afford Apple the scale of consumer markets to continue investing tens of billions of dollars on the spatial computing platform until the platform is mature and stable enough like those for iPhone and Apple Watch. What does it mean for Apple frameworks e.g. ARKit?
Pricing: The device starts at US$3,499 - what are the likely specifications, especially storage and memory? Will the fully-spec’ed device cost more than twice as much as the base model?
Adam, pretty much all the arguments deployed against the Vision Pro were and are levelled at the smartphone and yet this seems to be integrated into our lives, to a greater or lesser degree. It seems to have been pretty successful. There are plenty of assumptions in this article and it would be better to reserve judgement until we have actual experience of it.
The suggestion that lonely geeks are almost the sole beneficiaries of this technology is frankly rather insulting. Just hang fire and see how people adapt to it and use it and then we’ll see what the reality is.
Remember also that the Vision Pro will be one device among several that you use in the course of a day. The VP is a standalone computer like my iPad Pro, Mac or iPhone but I move between them to exploit the strengths of each, not living exclusively with one. The VP will be the same. Donn it when it has something special to offer, take it off when something else is better. That’s why the battery life arguments are not so convincing. When I am sitting for a while, I plug my iPad into power - why wouldn’t I do the same with the VP?
The cost is being perceived in a strange way. The VP is about the same price as a decent full-frame camera body (without a lens) and has much of the same technological density and complexity. Are those who have such a camera also elitists who dare not go outside? The camera only takes stills and video but the VP will have all the functionality of a general purpose computer. The price will come down, as it always does.
I can think of many very interesting applications for this technology. I use CAD and the idea of being able to see 3D models properly at last is very appealing. In my engineering work, being able to have a schematic, an oscilloscope display and look at my test bench at the same same time offers huge possibilities.
How about tying into a camera that shows a close up of your milling machine cutter as it operates while also having the digital read out, a blueprint and your sketches in the same field of view? Magic.
I am a photographer and how terrific it would be to have the live viewfinder image, a magnified portion for critical focus, the last few images and the camera settings all visible simultaneously instead of squished into the tiny camera display?
I work with head gardeners of large estates who would kill for the ability to look around and fuse our database of their specimens with the real world, record safety issues with trees, superimpose planned changes to the garden with the current state and visualise changes in sun angle on the design rather than do it in their office. Sharing and collaborating that same view with the garden owner or contractor would be immensely valuable.
Having a bigger canvas means not having to overlap or hide windows nearly as much and for those of us who depend on spatial cues, the VP looks made for us. A big conventional display may start to look rather cramped.
Artists could have a ball with technology like this, overlaying their work on things they are looking at, experimenting with ideas, superimposing designs on ceramics and choosing framing options. Buyers could trial the ideal position for the art they have acquired or are about to acquire, moving around so see the effect and its relationship to other elements in a room.
Finally for entertainment, I would be thrilled to ride virtual pillion with Pecco Bagnaia on his MotoGP Ducati, being able to turn my head and see our competitors and the crowd around us and be in the action in a way a flat screen will never be able to do.
Adam, you are quite a bit younger than me so this is not the time to be shooting down something in which some of us can see real value.
With their many flaws, our existing computers are not that fantastic yet. We need all the options we can get and the more new thinking we can have, the better.
10 posts were split to a new topic: Price comparisons across decades
Very thoughtful adjunct to Adam’s article.
Thanks Adam for a thorough explanation of my first-time-ever-response-to-an-Apple-Product of: “Creepy.”
Thanks @mark4, I suppose what I am looking for is a framework for understanding the phenomenon (or whether it will become a phenomenon).
Some additional random thoughts after reading the comments (some, multiple times):
Status symbol/Veblen goods/Inclusivity/Digital divide
I suppose status symbol and conspicuous consumption have been always been an issue or fact of life, whether Vision Pro exists or not. But this being a tool with real use does bring up some problems in the short term and over the longer term.
In the short term, the pricing of such devices might widen the digital divide. The early adopters will have longer runway to acquaint themselves with this paradigm and new ways of interacting with a computing device. They might even have substantial influence in shaping how this new paradigm works, in their own terms. If one does not belong to this group, some concepts may be hard to grasp. (Imagine someone without having worked with paper and files while on a desk, to understand the analogy of desktop and folders on macOS.)
Suppose I am a teacher that adopts such technology early and prescribes this for class use. Or I can just use this as a class aid; optional but very beneficial to learning (e.g. imagine learning about linear transformation by immersing yourself in a 3D space and look how the coordinates transform as I work through the matrix operations.) How will this impact the learning experience of students, especially those who cannot afford it? Do we have arrangements in place to address this? This goes beyond the technological realm into politics and economics, but I think it is an important issue to consider.
Over the longer term (and if this indeed becomes something as important as the mobile phone), prices of spatial computing devices will come down and there will be more choices beyond Apple. However, it does seem that performance of such devices (esp. latency and resolution) is a very important factor in usability. Presumably, the more expensive devices will offer superior experience and make them more attractive to users. This is very important for someone who is new to - and might be suspicious of - new technology. The question arises again: While there is greater opportunity to be exposed to spatial computing devices, how does affordability and price-to-performance ratio affect adoption?
As if parenting is not challenging enough, now there is one more device to contend with - and I truly have not considered the fact that one can freely do anything without people around them knowing what they are doing - and the porn issue Do parents and guardians have the appropriate resources (including time) and knowledge to understand the technology, its misuse and how it can be used to beneficial effects, and transmit this to their children/people under their care?
I don’t think that this will be anything like the iPhone - certainly the excitement for the launch of that product is probably never going to be duplicated, and it really seems that there isn’t a lot of excitement for this product (hence this article.) Regarding comments about the initial pricing being too high, though, it reminds me of the people who ridiculed the $499/$599 announced initial price of the iPhone, that it would never sell, etc. We likely all forget that nobody paid that much for even a smartphone back in 2007. Probably most of the questions were from competitors and the anti-Apple tech pundits, but it was there. (Of course Apple and AT&T ended up lowering the price a few months later, but a lot of people still purchased at that initial price.) Then just a few years ago tech pundits also questioned if people would ever spend as much as $1000 for an iPhone when rumors of what became the iPhone X and its initial price started circulating. Clearly many people did and do.
This is like the initial pass at what will probably be a more sophisticated and capable product. I’ve said it before - it’s not for me, but I’m still interested to see where it will go and how fast it takes to get there.
No worries about the person in front of you leaning back in their seat, bringing the tray table to a place and angle that makes it nearly impossible to use a laptop.
Surely not the next iPhone - as I said, we’ll likely never see anything like it again. But wouldn’t Apple love it if it became the next Apple Watch? They sell a lot of those. And of course the Touch Bar was never its own thing - just a part of the MBP.