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Business News/ Technology / Gadgets/  Apple Vision Pro: I Tried the New Mixed-Reality Headset

Apple Vision Pro: I Tried the New Mixed-Reality Headset


Our columnist was one of the first to try Apple’s new headset, which arrives early next year for $3,499

FILE PHOTO: Apple's Vision Pro headsets are on display at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference at the company's headquarters in Cupertino, California, U.S. June 5, 2023. REUTERS/Loren Elliott/File Photo (REUTERS)Premium
FILE PHOTO: Apple's Vision Pro headsets are on display at Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference at the company's headquarters in Cupertino, California, U.S. June 5, 2023. REUTERS/Loren Elliott/File Photo (REUTERS)

Colorful shards of (digital) stained glass swirl around the (real) room. In my ear, a gentle voice whispers, “Remember how valuable every moment in life can be." She tells me to relax and breathe deep as I see the (digital) ocean waves meet the (real) coffee table.

Of course I can’t relax, lady. I’ve got three-and-a-half-thousand bucks strapped to my face. As soothing as the visuals are, I’m trying to remember everything about this experience of wearing Apple’s new Vision Pro headset, so I can relay it all to the dear readers of this column.

Moments after Apple announced its first mixed-reality headset on Monday at its Worldwide Developers Conference, I was shuttled into a golf cart for a short ride to an indiscreet structure on the company’s sprawling spaceship campus. Nope, Apple’s people didn’t put a bag over my head—but they did put the aluminum-and-glass face computer on me, and tucked its included battery pack in my pocket.

The Vision Pro will be Apple’s first entry into the headset market when it launches early next year. It bridges virtual reality—where you are fully transported to a virtual world—with augmented reality—where you see virtual objects in your real world.

Even forgetting that unforgettable price, it’s not for everyone. It’s not even for most people. During my 30-minute demo, it weighed down on my nose and made me a bit nauseous. (Apple says these will get better by the time it ships early next year.) But wow…the interface and hand gestures are intuitive, 3-D movies are finally making sense and it really felt like a huge dinosaur broke through a wall right in front of me.

Apple wouldn’t let me take photos or video of the experience, but here’s my attempt to bring you inside the headset.

What is it like to wear?

It feels like Apple stuck a giant Apple Watch on my head—in a good way. Like Apple’s wrist wearable, its sock-like headband wraps gently around your skull. Meanwhile, the goggles themselves, where all the tech lives, have the fit and finish of something made by Apple.

For the first 15 minutes of the demo, I couldn’t believe how comfortable it was—far more cozy than the Meta Quest Pro or Quest 2. But it’s still a lot of tech on your face. By the end, the top of my nose and forehead started to feel the weight. Apple says that discomfort was because the device wasn’t perfectly fit to my face. Also, when I touched the rim around the front screen it felt warm.

Did you feel like you were going to puke?

The Vision Pro is different from any other headset I’ve tried because of how easy it is to toggle between seeing the real world and the digital world. An Apple Watch-like Digital Crown on the right brow allows you to control the immersion: To go more virtual, you scroll in one direction; to see more reality, you scroll in the other.

It meant that I could see my hands clearly when I looked down—far clearer than with other headsets with similar pass-through capabilities. I could read my notebook on the table. But if I didn’t want to see them, I could quickly get rid of them. It’s very cool, but the more I did it, the more queasy I felt.

Did you miss having controllers?

Controllers for other headsets seem like the styluses of the smartphone world before we got touch screens. With the Vision Pro, your eyes are the cursor and your fingers are the buttons.

Even in my short time wearing it, navigating became second nature. I’d press down on the Digital Crown to get to the familiar-looking home screen. To select, I’d pinch my fingers together in the air. To scroll, I pinched and dragged in whatever direction. For the most part, things worked fluidly. In a few instances, I’d try to select a smaller target and miss.

What did you see inside there?

Apple showed me a selection of demos. To me, there are really just two compelling use cases for this thing right now:

Working: Maybe the office is actually better in a face computer. I was able to scatter a few apps in the space over the coffee table—Messages, Notes and Safari. Instead of having multiple monitors, you could just put these virtual screens around your room. Apple showed it working with a keyboard and trackpad in its keynote, but I didn’t get to try that.

I was also able to have a FaceTime chat with an Apple employee—except it wasn’t just video of her, it was a 3-D version of her. While some parts of her face didn’t move quite right, she was able to stick out her tongue, hold up her hands and make many different facial expressions.

During the call, she was able to launch a presentation for us to work on together. The experience was more immersive than having two windows open on a Mac.

Watching: After decades of 3-D TV promises, the time is…now? Believe me, I’m skeptical. I never opt for 3-D showtimes but I was surprised by how into the 3-D clip of “Avatar: The Way of Water" I got.

Even cooler was the 3-D spatial photos and videos Apple had captured using the headset. (A dedicated button on the top left of the headset will allow wearers to snap these photos, though I couldn’t try this myself.) In one short video, 3-D kids blew out candles on a 3-D birthday cake while sitting on a 3-D couch. Eventually these experiences will be interactive, too. In one demo, a 3-D butterfly flew over and landed on my finger. Just like with the iPhone, what app developers do with this device will define how we use it.

Did you see the future? Is this a hit?

At the end of the demo, I took off the headset and felt two things:

1) Wow. Very cool.

2) Did I just do drugs?

Apple is differentiating itself with an experience that is fully grounded in reality. This is not virtual reality where you escape your surroundings. Instead, it’s all about bringing the digital world to your real world. What Apple calls “spatial computing."

Except, when I took the goggles off, I felt like I had been away somewhere, and that I was only now back in reality.

Maybe it was getting the weight off my head. Maybe it was that when I was finally able to see again with my own eyes—looking at my notebook, or my hands or the other people in the room—I realized I was no longer staring at the world through a screen. Even Apple’s crisp 23 million pixels can’t replace standard vision. Maybe that’s the long-term challenge, getting us to forget that difference.

As the narrator in the meditation demo said, “Remember how valuable every moment in life can be." Apple wants us to spend more moments of our lives in these things. Will those moments be valuable?

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