The year is 2025. I am sitting on the couch with my husband. He appears in my peripheral vision every time we speak. When we’re not talking, my husband fades into the background so that I can concentrate on the screens before me. I am editing a work presentation, FaceTiming my family across the nation, learning Spanish and watching cooking demonstrations on YouTube all at the same.
It’s time to meditate. The screen dims and the environment fades so that I can concentrate on a soothing animation and count my breathing. The session is automatically recorded in my journal along with the daily mood I am experiencing: pleasant. It’s the same as yesterday. FaceTime calls come back to focus as my family’s photorealistic avatars laugh at something my mother said. My avatar laughed along with them, even though I don’t know what they were laughing at.
Apple’s new headset may not have the exact future that I see, but it isn’t far away. This $3,500 screen is for only one person. It’s possible that is the future of iPhone. It may usher in an idyllic utopia, where everyone is tuned into their surroundings to the extent they wish. It could be a way to make yourself look stupid in your own comfort zone. It looks like it’s lonely.Vision Pro is designed to put you in the middle of a screen-filled little universe.
The Vision Pro and its purpose have been well-documented over the last 48 hours. But in case you missed out, here is the summary: Vision Pro are state-of the-art goggles with a screen that is worn on the face. Apple doesn’t like to call it VR but the headset is a VR headset with some augmented-reality elements. The headset uses outward-facing camera to capture the outside world. It will display more or less as required. It will show you the person who is talking to you if it detects that. The real world will disappear if you choose to watch a movie during your flight.
Apple wants us to think that we can take part in “the real world” when wearing the headset. Apple is promoting the Vision Pro headset’s augmented-reality capabilities. There’s even a dial that lets you control the amount of real-world content you can see. The external display allows anyone in the room to see your eyes, rather than just a black box. Apple showed a parent wearing the headset while a child played nearby in the kitchen. The child kicks the soccer ball at the headset, and it is returned without missing a step. See? You have nothing to worry about All you need to do is five things with your headset in order to be a fully engaged parent!
It’s not meant to take you completely out of reality. But it does put you in the middle of your little screen-filled universe. This is a more isolated experience than using a screen of 6 inches that you can hold in your hands. How can you share a TikTok that you watched on your headset with someone? How can you share a video of your child with your partner? How can you tell everyone in your FaceTime call your cat has just jumped onto your lap? Apple, please consider the pet moments that we will miss.
Apple is not just selling a screen to put on your face when you want a break from reality and want to watch Netflix. Wearing it, you’re supposed be able walk around the house, get a drink out of the fridge and talk to your spouse. Apple’s video promoting the product shows it as something that you would wear alone at home.
FaceTime is one of the most popular uses. Apple claims that the headset will make you feel like your conversation partner is right in the same room as you. They don’t actually see you — instead, they see a photorealistic image of you that is built using a scan taken by the headset. I don’t understand how FaceTiming with my family across the nation can make me feel closer when they cannot see my face.
It’s important to note that I do not want to declare the product, which will be available in many months, a disaster for society. Even if the headset is a success, no one will come to my home and replace my iPhone overnight. You can opt out of the whole experience by simply not spending $3500 on a headphone.
Apple is pushing for better mental health tools, and I can’t ignore the contrast between the Vision Pro’s self-centeredness and the company’s push to improve the software. Apple announced two new features in iOS 17 that will help users better understand their emotions and moods. In the Health app you can log your moods and emotions at any given time. You can also access a survey used by health professionals to screen for depression or anxiety.
There’s an app for journaling that can prompt you to write a journal based on the things you have recently photographed or the places you’ve visited. You can take a little break from sharing your videos, photos and thoughts to the world by writing something just for yourself.
When you wear the screen, how difficult will it be for you to get away from TikTok?
Apple has also spent years developing features to help you track and reduce your screen time. How hard will it really be to get away from TikTok if you are wearing the screen on your face? Apple will give us a few flimsy gadgets to keep our relationships healthy with our phones. But it also wants to sell us a screen that you can literally strap to your face.
It’s possible that the Vision Pro won’t be a success and we’ll continue to use our pocket screens (both happily and unhappily for the rest time). Apple has the power to influence how we use technology, and their track record proves it. It’s natural to wonder when Apple releases a new product, if it represents the future of how we will interact with one another and ourselves. If Apple’s Vision Pro represents a large part of the future, I wouldn’t be surprised to find it a bit lonely.