I experienced the same thing from a technical standpoint as the majority of others who tried it. The headset’s screen is better than other first-generation products, the field of vision is wider and the gesture controls are more natural. It was a bit heavy for me to wear the Vision Pro after a while. And we have only seen controlled demos so far. But there is no doubt that this is an impressive piece of hardware.
This brings us to the second, more interesting question: What is this thing? Apple offers a few different answers: you can use it to take super-immersive video of your child’s birthday, or add more monitors to the setup in your office. You can also stare at a 3D heart beating quietly while it is placed in your living area.
But I’ve got a different idea: it could be a television. This headset is best suited to play movies and TV shows, at least initially. Apple’s big ideas for immersive content and new formats of watching things will take some time to catch on. Netflix on a giant virtual screen would be cool. This will be available immediately. Apple’s Vision Pro may have a lot of potential, but it is still a TV — and incredibly Apple-like at that.
I’d like to say that I don’t believe this is the television Steve Jobs was referring to when he told Walter Isaacson in a famous interview that he had ” finally cracked the future of TV.” I don’t believe this is the television that Gene Munster predicted would be released for years and never was. Apple could still make a large screen for your living room. Apple is always pushing the limits of technology and the way you interact with them. The Vision Pro fits in much better with Apple’s vision. Apple’s vision is a world where you can have an infinite number of TVs of different sizes and shapes, anywhere, at any time.
This is not the TV Steve Jobs spoke about
Apple’s plans to build a television set were widely reported in 2015. This was around the same time that Apple started working on headset projects which would eventually lead to the Vision Pro. It was easy to understand: wanted a high-resolution screen and cameras to allow video calls, but it couldn’t find a way to make this both affordable and compelling enough to compete in the fierce TV market. Munster, ‘s former colleague, wrote : “We incorrectly believed that a combination with Siri, FaceTime and a TV App Store, as well as PrimeSense-based motion control, could be compelling for the device.”
Sounds familiar? The Vision Pro brings all of those things together eight years later. Apple had the opportunity to reinvent itself by focusing on the headset market. Apple was able to charge a lot for the headset because it is so new and not mature. In this case, high-resolution displays, video conferencing and other features were huge competitive advantages. Apple could have put all the features it wanted in its TV into a Face Computer and instantly made it seem more innovative. This is almost exactly what has happened.
Apple’s Vision Pro demo included a clip of Avatar : The Way of Water. To my eyes, it looked nearly — but not quite — like the 3D content I saw in a movie theater. The headset’s 3D content is so good because the depth is simulated on two screens. The default setting was to have a floating screen in front my face that was about three quarters the size of the front wall. I could resize or move the window to bring it closer or further away from my face. If I pressed a button on the Apple TV app, visionOS, the “cinema” mode was launched. This put the movie in a large theater-like screen while blacking out my surroundings.
It’s not a brand new concept. This is a standard demo for many headsets. Netflix’s Meta Quest app lets you watch movies in a virtual cabin with a large screen. Bigscreen has built an entire digital cinema.Even if the content is not optimized, it can be made more immersive with the Vision Pro.
Apple’s demos were also familiar. I was able to see an ultrawide video of an NBA match, taken from above the backboard. I also saw a soccer match from atop a goal. I also saw some rhinos having fun. And I caught a moment when Alicia Keys sang in a studio. The field of view was so wide that I could turn around and see the entire band. Many headsets have these kinds of content, which is why their makers are always looking for new ways to create content that can be experienced only in virtual or augmented reality.
The Vision Pro didn’t offer much that I had not seen before. The Vision Pro is simply… better. Apple’s headset is much like a 4K TV after you have tried the Quests or HoloLenses. It has a 4K screen for each eye and low latency eye tracking. All of a sudden, everything is much sharper and detailed. All those pixels also play a major role in the $3,500 price tag of the Vision Pro. Even though you won’t get spatial audio with most of the content on the Vision Pro device, the stereo audio that is built in sounds great. It was the first time I felt I could actually watch a basketball game from this backboard angle. I didn’t even feel like I watched Alicia Keys via a screen.
The Vision Pro lets you watch movies in 4K, which is the same as upgrading from a standard TV.
The Vision Pro is the best portable viewing device I’ve tried. It’s easy to see how it would appeal to frequent flyers or people who don’t have TVs in all their rooms. It will be a problem in rooms with TVs. Do you really want to put on and turn on your headset every time you turn on the TV? How many times can you watch a movie without missing the end before you give up using the headset? What happens to external devices, such as game consoles that are essential for the TV experience. What happens when someone wants to watch something with you while you are watching it on your headset?
In general, people tend to watch what is convenient in the easiest way. This is why you may find yourself on the couch watching YouTube videos on your phone in front of a big screen TV. The fact that you have to strap a headset on your head is not convenient. This raises the bar for quality.
There are still many months before the Vision Pro ships, so there will be many questions that need to be answered. The streaming platforms will need to decide whether they want to create immersive environments for their apps, or just ship light-adapted iPad apps. Apple will certainly use Apple TV Plus to push the envelope. But in the early stages of visionOS I doubt that many other streaming platforms would devote huge resources to a niche product.
Apple has not done a good job explaining why you would wear the Vision Pro for several hours each day. Apple hasn’t revealed anything about the device’s functionality outside of its very specific and controlled demos. Apple has built its first television: a screen which can be of any size and move anywhere. It also plays almost anything.
Mark Zuckerberg used TVs in 2016 to explain his vision of virtual and augmented realities. He said that many things we consider physical today, such as a television for displaying images, would be $1 AR apps. His vision is still far off — the glasses, the virtual worlds and the lifelike avatars. A half-hour spent with the Vision Pro convinced that I may be giving up my TV set sooner than I had thought.