Unless you've been living under a virtual rock, you've probably heard the news that Apple announced a brand new augmented reality headset yesterday. After years of rumours, Vision Pro is finally here. And it's a lot to process.
While the launch of WWDC also saw Apple announce incremental updates to iOS and MacOS, as well as a new 15-inch MacBook Air, there's only one thing Apple fans are talking about. Vision Pro is arguably the company's first brand new category of product, the implications could be huge for both work and entertainment – basically, anything we use a computer for right now. And like any potentially game-changing new tech, it's both exciting and a little scary. (For slightly more charted territory, check out the latest iPhone 14 deals).
First let's look at the good. It would seem that Apple has, as Apple does, watched a nascent industry for a while before swooping in with a class-of-its-own take on the tech. Of course it's too early to critique the thing in any depth, but Vision Pro is the first headset that's made me think this whole VR thing could be as transformative as people claim.
Apple's demos (below) of the interface in both a work and entertainment setting are incredibly impressive. From browsing multiple huge windows on a collaborative project to watching a movie in a brand new environment, the sheer immersion on offer looks like nothing we've seen before.
The design is also as Apple as you'd expect. From the aluminium alloy frame to the laminated glass, it's certainly sleeker than the likes of the plastic-y Meta Quest. And much like how the iPhone did away with the stylus in favour of the finger ("who wants a stylus?" Steve Jobs famously asked – a few years before the Apple Pencil arrived), Vision Pro doesn't require handheld controllers, just hand gestures.
The sheer specs of the thing are also hugely impressive. Two displays, each the size of a postage stamp, feature 23 million pixels ("more than a 4K TV for each eye") while the brand-new R1 chip offers a virtually lag-free, real-time view of the world.
But perhaps my favourite aspect of Vision Pro is that it isn't designed to entirely cover the eyes. This is AR, not VR, and as Apple says, it's the first product the users looks "through, not at". Vision Pro features EyeSight, which turns the glass transparent when a person approaches. In a world of opaque rectangles glued to people's faces, Vision Pro feels decidedly less anti-social.
Let's get the obvious one out of the way. Starting at $3.499, Vision Pro is more expensive than any of us expected. That price will prove a roadblock for many, and hinder the devices chances of going mainstream any time soon. Sure, Apple will probably release a cheaper model without the 'Pro' moniker in a few years' time. But for Vision Pro to reach any kind of iPhone-level ubiquity, the pricing is going to need to become a lot more accessible.
And to ask perhaps the most cliche question of the 2020s, isn't it all a bit Black Mirror? Apple was at pains to make wearing Vision Pro look natural to wear and use, but there's no getting around the fact that it actually looks pretty lonely. From removing surroundings while watching a movie to working on projects from home, Vision Pro is definitely designed to be used alone. As if we hadn't already disappeared enough into the digital world through our phone screens, Apple's headset definitely wants us to shut out the outside even more.
And then there's the visual aspect. Notice how there aren't any photos of Tim Cook or anybody at Apple wearing Vision Pro during the initial demonstrations? We can read into this in a number of ways, but I can't help but think it's because AR goggles, no matter how sleek Apple's own interpretation, look daft at best, and dystopian at worst. Vision Pro, especially with its trailing charging cable, still looks kind of ridiculous to wear. There, I said it.
For sure a calculated move. There is no reason other than meme control for Tim Cook to be standing next to the biggest product of his tenure rather than wearing. In fact, it just looks strange to not be wearing it. https://t.co/NaGV8dSCys pic.twitter.com/SOXZ2GRuinJune 5, 2023
Time will tell with Vision Pro will indeed change the game and finally drive VR into the mainstream. But one thing's for sure, when the thing finally drops, there'll be plenty of people queueing up to give it a try at the Apple Store. Until then, remember the iPhone? Take a look at the best iPhone 14 deals below.