Reviewing the Apple Vision Pro: Is it Worth it?

The Good, the Meh, and the Bad of Apple's New "Spatial Computing" Headset

Apple's Vision Pro has come into the picture and shaken the field of Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) (Even though they would love to remove the term "AR" in favor of calling it "Spatial Computing"). In truth, it is nice to see another big tech company get their hands into the AR field, specially Apple, as they turn a niche market into a mainstream one and attract new investors into development projects. However, the steep price point of this new apple product leaves consumers questioning, "Is it worth $3500 - $5000 to experience the future of AR? Or this nothing but a gimmick?".

I had the chance to test out the new Apple Vision Pro thanks to our friends at The Ion Prototyping Lab. They hosted the Houston VR Meetup, in which they gave the chance for people to test out the headset. After having the opportunity to experience this new " tech of the future", I have some really good things to say about it, but also some things that might really annoy some (And anyone who dislikes the usual Apple practices). Now, lets get into it!

Apple Vision Pro 2024 Apple's Vision Pro released in 2024. Copyright Antemodal LLC 2024

Apple's Vision Pro released in 2024. Copyright Antemodal LLC 2024

The Amazing 

My first thoughts were that of shock. It's incredible what we have accomplished in advancements towards AR technology. The screen is especially nice as it's display has a resolution probably never seen before (no pun intended) in an AR headset. On the official Apple website, they advertise "custom micro‑OLED display system features 23 million pixels" which "creates the feeling of a display that’s everywhere you look." And honestly, they are right. The display is so crisp that you will not have any issues with reading anything on screen. Similarly, the passthrough is clear enough that you can read through to your phone, book, or other things (However, it might drop in quality as you look at things further away). Overall, the quality of the display is great and you will have a clear UI and a (less) clear passthrough.

Another good point is the user experience, if Apple is good at anything, it is polishing the user experience (for the most part). And there, they really nailed the experience of interacting with your spatial workspace using your hands. The ability to move things around, scale them up and down, and just overall play with things using a pinching motion with one or both hands just feels natural. Most of it I was able to pick up on a few minutes to become almost natural, and things like pinching and expanding a picture with both hands to go into "immersive mode" really show how much thought they put into making it as natural to you as possible.

The eye tracking, another point that is indisputably superior to the competition (Even Mark Zuckerberg of Meta/Facebook had to give in to this point in his "Quest 3 vs Vision Pro" video release on Instagram). The truth is, after a few minutes, you even feel like a psychic controlling your workspace with your mind. The combination of "look to select" and "pinch to click" just works! As you become more comfortable with it, it becomes second nature and you stop thinking about it. Looking at things and slightly pinching your fingers to interact with the things you look at must be one of the coolest feelings you can currently get on any "Augmented Reality" experience (Or Spatial Computing, if you are Apple).

The Meh - Not Ideal

Now we move on to the things that are… not ideal. This is not necessarily bad, but could be improved. The first point we can mention on this section is the 3D scan for facetime calls. As you might guess, when facetiming someone, you cannot show your face as it is covered by the headset. To combat this, Apple came up with their 3D scan models. However, these turned out to be controversial as they have a sort of "ghostly" look to them as the borders of the model become blurry and low resolution. There are some other issues like the lack of tracking of elbows (no shrugging sadly). And there are issues with certain expressions such as laughing. However, there have already been improvements and they have fixed some of the look with the newest patch, so it is definitely something that can be improved through updates, and not everyone will feel weird looking at the models.

Another point to note is the hand tracking. Honestly, it is not the best out there. The Quest 3 definitely has better tracking, and the pro has had some issues with overlaying my hand on top of certain applications. For example, when watching their dinosaur experience, I was able to notice bad crop outs around my fingers that would affect the look of the "screens" behind my hands.

Lastly, I would like to mention on this section the lack of support for gaming related features. I refrained from adding this to the list of flaws directly since it is more of an Apple decision than an oversight. Truth is, Apple has never been fond of associating themselves with the idea of "Gaming", as we can review all their other products and notice their lack of support for videogames on the Macs, and now we can see the same with the Apple Vision Pro. There is no support for VR gaming on it, or even AR gaming. Yes, some people have gotten it to work on Steam and PC gaming, but it is not an out-of-the-box feature. They seem to want to associate their headset, not as a "VR/AR" headset, but as a "Spatial Computing" headset. Which relates to their goal of making this a device for working and interacting with the world around you, a "serious" device, not a "game".

The Bad

Although we have to admit that the Vision Pro has some incredible breakthroughs on some aspects that completely blow away the competition, it has also some flaws that are honestly difficult (if not impossible) to ignore. And we can already talk about the obvious elephant in the room: pricing. The staggering **starting** price of "just" $3500 is an obvious deterrent for the majority of people. As it is clear, this is not a consumer product, but a product targeted towards early adopters and those who want to be at the front of what the future of AR and Spatial Computing will bring to the masses in a few years, when all this technology becomes standard and its price more palatable.

The second point is a bit more controversial as some might not consider it a "flaw" but as Antemodal's "Vision" (No pun intended, again) is privacy and openness, it is impossible not thinking of it as a flaw. And that is, the Apple ecosystem. Truth is, it's not surprising what they have done, but it still leave a sour taste in my mouth. The fact that you have so many points of friction when you are not completely immersed into the Apple ecosystem encourages you to buy their other products if you have not already, making it harder to leave their products later on. Yeah, it's cool to have a virtual desktop for your mac that is shown through your headset, but the tradeoff is that it only works with Macs. Do you want to use a keyboard? That will be another $100 for the "Apple Magic Keyboard". Do you want a mouse? That will be another $50.

Somewhat related, is the vision that Apple has for their "Vision Pro" being that of a single user device. They have established multiple barriers to prevent you from sharing your headset with others. They scan your face and setup the headset and strap to fit only you. Same with the iris recognition, and the eye see-through scan (if another person is using your headset, you will see your own eyes through the display, very uncanny). Similarly, the "collaborative" aspect of the Vision Pro is nonexistent. Even you go through and buy one headset for you and your significant other, it will not have much in terms of experiencing things together. Want to watch a movie together? Tough luck. Want to share a 3D workspace? Not possible.

Last but not least, comes concerns about privacy and trust. As we at Antemodal take privacy as a core value to protect, it really becomes difficult to accept Apple's decisions in the name of "Safety". The fact that you need to get a full-on face scan when you buy the device and the iris scan used for authentication can be a cause for concern for folk that do not like biometric authentication. In truth, although many people might not really care, it is a valid concern as you give apple a peek at every little detail of your eyes and face for them to "safekeep". It is somewhat disappointing that there is no way to avoid such privacy compromises if you decide to buy the headset.

Final Thoughts

Well, we might be putting the Vision Pro under a lot of scrutiny. At the end of the day, the Apple Vision Pro is the current top of the line when it comes to consumer AR headsets available currently on the market. It has a lot of cool features that will make you feel like a child with a new toy. Their display system boasts unparalleled resolution and clarity, offering an immersive experience that brings AR to new heights. The intuitive user interface, polished by Apple's expertise, enables seamless interaction with spatial workspaces using natural hand gestures.

However, it is also undeniable that, at a price point above the $3500 mark, it might not be overpriced, but it is certainly not worth the value it brings for most people. I think the Vision Pro is the ideal product for Apple users that are already immersed on their ecosystem and already have many of their other products, and those who are looking to take a sneak peek at what is to come for the future of augmented reality. If you have $3500 to spare and will not flinch at the possibility of throwing it to waste, you can also take the leap and try them out. However, I do not expect to see the Vision Pro become a mainstream device for Apple users.

Nonetheless, it does open the door for other companies to take advantage of the renewed surge in AR investments brought by Apple's introduction into the market. It makes one excited to think of a time when these same features can be obtained for a fraction of the price, and it makes me hopeful of the infinite possibilities that technologies that combine reality and fantasy can bring to not only enhance our work and productivity, but also bring with it a wave of new experiences through a medium that is only just starting to show its potential.

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