Using the Apple Vision Pro

For the past 10 days I’ve been using an Apple Vision Pro (AVP) headset. Thanks to a loan from a friend, I was able to put it through its paces and try pretty much everything that’s available for it.

The product is very well designed, from its aesthetics to its functionality. It’s solid, beautifully finished, and does what it does flawlessly. But after using it numerous times, the novelty has worn off and I ask myself if it can it do enough to justify its high price?

The AVP consists of a large goggle-like unit that goes over your eyes and is held in place with an adjustable band around the back and top of your head. A knob on one side adjusts the tightness of the band. I never found it uncomfortable even when I wore if for more than an hour at a time. Directional speakers on the sides provide the very good audio. The second part is a battery with a cord with a small metal disc at its end that clicks onto the headset. When you turn the disc to lock it in place, it turns the AVP on.

The process of onboarding – setting it up- is somewhat elaborate and requires about ten minutes of effort. Once you put the AVP over your head you will be asked to push a button and wait while it adjusts to your eyes’ position and ask you to move the unit up or down on your face. You also are required to go through a process where you look around the periphery at a series of dots, without moving your head, to calibrate your eyeballs with the cameras that detect where you are looking. All interaction with the device is done by looking at an icon or button on the display and then touching your two fingers together, replicating moving a mouse and clicking a button. So it needs to figure out precisely where and what you are looking at.

This unit was not customized to my eyesight and there is no way to use it with glasses, so the efforts was a little bit more difficult than for a purchaser who gets a unit with lenses that corrects for their specific near- or far-sightedness (but not for astigmatism.)

You then set up the device as you would a new phone or iPad. Sign into your Apple account and have it download all your apps and data. It creates a desktop akin to an iPad or iPhone with apps displayed on several screens that you swipe to access, much like an iPad.

One of its best features was opening my Photos App and looking at my photos in 3D. You select a photo and then select the 3D icon above it, and it magically turns the photo into three dimensions. (You need do only once per photo – when you go back it’s in 3D).

You can also select to be immersed into the photo which enlarges the photo as its expands around you. Most of my images were taken with an iPhone 15 Pro Max, but it also worked with images taken with my Ricoh GR IIIx digital camera, which is quite a remarkable trick.

The Apple Movies App has some 3D demo videos that were also quite amazing. They included putting you in the studio during an Alicia Keyes performance, sitting you at the edge of a basketball court, and positiong you on a soccer field, as well as the usual dinosaurs romping through a forest. These show the potential of the product as more content becomes available.

I also tried using the device to do email and send text messages using a virtual keyboard that popped up in front of me whenever I was using a text box. Typing was very different from using a real keyboard. It was more like pointing or punching in the air with no tactile feedback.

I was also able to go onto the web to read news and visit all the websites I would do from a phone. One of its features is the ability to have several screens open at once and to move the screens anywhere within my peripheral vision. You simply drag and drop the windows; at one time I had movies playing in front with my email off to the left and a web browser off to the right.

As impressive as all of this was, the most remarkeable feature is the quality of the display. It was bright, extremely sharp, startling contrast, and almost better than life. (And that’s without it being optimized for my eyesight.) That allowed me to look at my photos in a way I never saw them before, almost as if they were under a magnification glass. Movies were just like real life with no artifacts, fringing or any degradation at all.

As I get ready to return the AVP, I will miss it as an entertainment device. Watching movies, even in 2D is much like being in an iMax theater. You can easily do it lying in bed or on an airplane. It’s totally immersive and very enjoyable. And I’ll especially miss seeing my photos in 3D.

But in spite of how good the product is, it’s hard to justify its high cost of over $4000 for what it does now. Its greatest potential is still yet to come and probably includes gaming, multi-screen applications, and learning with realistic models. It’s an amazing piece of hardware that now is waiting for the software to show its full potential and to justify its high cost.

by Phil Baker