After years of rumors, we finally know what Apple’s vision (get it?) for VR and AR looks like.
The iPhone maker formally announced its Vision Pro headset this week at WWDC, lifting the veil off a device that we knew existed for a good, long while ahead of time. At $3,499, it’s incredibly expensive for consumer tech. So, with that in mind, does the thing even work? And if so, what can you use it for?
We haven’t gotten our hands on the Vision Pro yet, but some news outlets got to try it at WWDC. Here’s what they came away with.
How does Vision Pro work?
Based on the 45-minute long product demonstration during the WWDC keynote, we already have a pretty good idea of what the device can do. It’s a mixed reality headset (think of that as a mix between VR and AR) that rests on your face like a pair of futuristic ski goggles. A wire protrudes out the back, leading to a small battery pack that rests…wherever you want to rest it. Its battery life is supposed to be around two hours, but you can plug it into a wall outlet via USB-C for indefinite use.
According to hands-on pieces from Engadget(opens in a new tab) and Wired(opens in a new tab), the Vision Pro headset is more comfortable to wear than something like a Meta Quest. The Verge (opens in a new tab)described it as “a little less than a pound” in weight, though Engadget noted that you can still feel pressure against your face once the device is properly fastened. Wired reporter Lauren Goode pointed out that her face “breathed with relief” upon taking it off, the same as any other VR headset.
In other words, it sounds like Apple has made something that beats other VR/AR contemporaries in terms of comfort, but it’s still not totally invisible.
All three outlets were impressed by Apple’s eye tracking and hand gesture tech. The Verge noted that the automatic eye adjustment when you turn the device on was far quicker than Meta Quest Pro. Engadget compared the eye tracking to “[gaining] a superpower,” as apparently it’s simple as can be to just look at app icons or other elements and pinch with your fingers to activate them.
You can apparently even do hand gestures from your own lap, unlike Meta Quest.
Everyone also complimented the dual 4K displays for each eye, with The Verge calling it “easily the highest-resolution VR display” they had ever used. 3D elements supposedly work quite well, with reporters getting a quick demo via Avatar: The Way of Water. I will point out that Way of Water is a three hour long movie and Vision Pro’s battery life is only two hours.
What’s the point of Vision Pro?
This is where things get tricky, based on early hands-on reports.
Put simply, it sounds like Vision Pro’s tech is very cool, but there isn’t much about its functionality that can’t be replicated or replaced by conventional means. Sure, you can blow up a virtual movie screen to create a fake home theater, but that’s a totally solitary experience; no one else in the room can see it unless they also paid $3,500 for a headset.
The same is true for reading websites, looking at photos, or doing FaceTime calls. These are all things you can already do pretty well on devices you already own. FaceTime calls in particular seem extra strange, as the headset creates a CG replication of the user’s face in lieu of a real video feed. Engadget called this a “cold CG simulacrum” of a person, noting that it’s “stiff” and “robotic.” That doesn’t sound great.
To sum it up, these hands-on impressions basically reached the same conclusion: Vision Pro works and is impressive, but Apple still needs to prove why it’s necessary and worth spending so much money on. Good luck with that, Tim Cook.