I was watching with interest on June 5 when Apple introduced the Vision Pro mixed reality headset at WWDC. It’s not really in the same ballpark as the simple Meta Quest 2 that I use to go bowling in my living room. Maybe not on the same planet. When it comes out in 2024, it will cost $3,499 — 10 times the cost of the Meta Quest 2.
Let us pause briefly to read that again: $3,499. Almost four thousand dollars. I don’t know about you, but I will not be picking up one of these on an idle Saturday trip to Best Buy.
CNET’s Scott Stein is one of the few people who actually got to try out the headset. He says the Apple Vision Pro is amazing, with a fluid interface and stunning cinematic fidelity when you’re watching a movie. Our WWDC recap unrolls the complex elements that make the headset so pricey.
“Technically speaking, the Vision Pro is a computer, with an M2 chip found on Apple’s highest-end computers,” CNET’s recap notes.
I’m old enough to remember when the thought of personally owning a computer was as laughable as paying this price for a headset seems to me today. So eventually, I’m sure, the production will be refined, and prices will come down. The immersive entertainment looks unreal, and some of the other Minority Report/Star Trek-style uses for the device are truly impressive.
But in the meantime, I’ve watched Apple’s 9-minute video on the headset (I feel like I should say “the $3,500 headset” every time). And there are definitely some uses for the Vision Pro that I will not be attempting, even if the day comes when I can afford it.
Working in Excel
The most-memed element of the Vision Pro promotion was the fact that Apple demonstrated how Microsoft Excel, Word and Teams can run inside the headset, with your eyes controlling the user interface. Look, there are some really cool things a headset can do, but thrusting you face-first into pivot tables is not one of them.
“I want Excel pumped directly to my retinas” is not something I’ve personally ever thought, cracked one Twitter user.
Talking to real people without taking off the headset
In the promo video, a woman wearing the headset is joined by (presumably) her teenage daughter, who sits down on the couch and chats with her as if it’s perfectly normal that mom’s eyes are behind tinted ski goggles. They barely say more than one word to each other (of course, it’s “sushi”), but I keep wanting to scream through the screen and tell the mom to take one second, push up the headset and just talk to her kid, face to face.
Thanks to Apple’s EyeSight feature, you can at least see the mom’s eyes through the headset, which you can’t do with the Meta Quest 2. But even that is one super-duper creepy feature, as CNET’s Corinne Reichert points out.
Looking at home photos – alone
There’s a scene in the Apple video where someone sits on the couch and starts virtually flicking through their family photos. Admittedly, it’s pretty cool when a panorama of what looks like an iceberg wraps around them, especially if you’ve always wondered what the Titanic saw on April 15, 1912.
But the guy seems kind of lonely, looking at photos alone. If he could share what he’s seeing with his family, it might be a neat reminiscing experience. For now, I’m OK looking at digital photos on my phone or laptop, where I can share them with others.
There’s another scene in the Apple video where a headset wearer moves over to where two little girls are blowing soap bubbles (inside the house, but that’s a whole other issue). Instead of sitting down beside them to play and interact, he kneels in front of them, headset on, to take 3D photos of the fun. Why use your own eyes to look at your kids when you can stay one level removed?
The promo video showed a woman on an airplane watching a movie in luxurious 3D, as if she’s living in the scenes of the film. I couldn’t get past the impracticality of it all. There are a million little distractions on the plane – flight attendants offering drinks, pilots announcing turbulence, people in my row asking me to get up so they can slip past.
I can immerse myself in a 3D movie at home, but it just seems rude to plunge yourself into your own private cinema at 33,000 feet and expect not to be disturbed. But then, I fly coach, and the folks with $3,500 to drop on a headset might be flying private.
But if the Vision Pro is your dream device, start saving. There’s no exact release date yet, but 2024 is just half a year away.