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Who is the Apple Vision Pro for?

Apple's Vision Pro is the company's most ambitious product in more than a decade. More importantly, it embraces a technology that still hasn't found too many use cases or users even with billions of dollars poured into its development. Can Apple outdo the competition and make AR/VR a part of our daily lives?

I have a 3D TV at home – a Sony Bravia 3D TV that’s long due for replacement. A tiny minority of people have a 3D TV today. These things were all the rage in the late 2000s and early 2010s, but interest died out over time even with sizable buy-ins from the largest TV manufacturers in the world. I remember watching a couple of 3D movies on my television. You had to wear something resembling the Apple Vision Pro on your head and you could see stuff happen in three dimensions – well, sort of.

The Apple Vision Pro headset reminds me of 3D glasses

Trouble was, at least for me, putting the 3D glasses on with my prescription glasses wasn’t the most comfortable thing to do. Heck, I even got terrible headaches after an hour or so of having them on. More importantly though, no one really wanted to watch 3D movies. As a result, while TV manufacturers went overboard with their marketing, film studios, sports broadcasters and the like, for the most part, didn’t produce a lot of 3D content for audiences. In cinema halls, 3D survived for a bit longer. A number of super-hero flicks and big-budget films employed 3D cameras. But still, audiences were slow on the uptake and ultimately it was the wider, more immersive screens of IMAX that stayed.I haven’t thought about 3D for years now. But Apple’s announcement of the Vision Pro brought back memories. Now, this piece isn’t a criticism of Apple’s newest product, instead I am more concerned about AR/VR altogether. Let me explain.

The Apple Vision Pro is packed to the gills with tech; and happens to be extremely well-built too

Apple Vision Pro with its battery
The Apple Vision Pro is lightweight at less than half a kilogram, but it does have a battery pack that you have to carry along

Apple’s Vision Pro seems to have it all – excellent build and design that’s typical of Apple, an array of five sensors, 12 cameras to capture motion and track your eyes with a 4K display for each eye. On paper, the Vision Pro easily outshines every other AR/VR headset. And then there’s more. For people like me, there’s lenses by Zeiss that can be magnetically attached so you don’t have to worry about your glasses. Something called EyeSight displays your eyes on the front of the Vison Pro to tell people that you are looking at them (can’t decide if that’s genius or plain spooky) or hide them and instead display an animation when you are engrossed in any of the full virtual reality content that you have on. A dial allows you to switch between augmented reality and full virtual reality. Your eyes will be supplied passthrough video by the cameras and you will see everything around you in 4K. You can then proceed to position any apps you might have as 3D objects around you. You can then interact with the objects using hand gestures, voice or just by looking at them. Reports coming in from journalists who have tried out the Vision Pro say that Apple has nailed down the eye-tracking and gesture control. First impressions are very, very positive indeed.

The Apple Vision Pro announcement was unlike other Apple announcements

Everything from Meta, Magic Leap and Microsoft (HoloLens) appear low-rent when looked at after the Vision Pro announcement. And there’s a reason for that. No one has expended the amount of time and (presumably) resources at AR/VR that Apple has. Its large cash reserves have allowed it to pursue the Vision Pro through a particularly challenging time in tech – a time Apple seems to have handled without any major worries. The hugely profitable iPhone line-up and the revitalized Mac line-up have ensured that Apple’s first entirely new product in a decade outshines every other mixed reality headset out there.

But, this Apple announcement was unlike any other way in one key aspect. If you have been watching Apple keynotes for years, like I have, you’d notice that every Apple product is offered as a solution to an existing consumer pain point. Except, the Apple Vision Pro. Sure, the product demos were magnificent. But, despite the ‘Pro’ moniker, the Vision Pro as it exists right now seems to be geared more towards consumption than creation. And that leads me to question if the Vision Pro is purely a way to consume off of multiple displays…without multiple displays?

Apple Vision Pro is for… media consumption?

Apple's Vision Pro used for productivity
Apple’s Vision Pro could be great as a tool for collaboration, but much of the heavy lifting would have to be done by the Mac

I mean, what are the use cases here? Beyond just having an array of AR/VR displays you can project anywhere. Sure, the ability to project and engage with content that’s not bound by the boundaries of a TV monitor is incredibly cool. But, how long will it stay cool for? Would we want to use it over our much cheaper multi-display workstations or 4K TVs once the novelty wears off? I don’t know. And I think no one really knows. Apple’s keynote didn’t focus much on how you could expect to get work done with the Vision Pro. Yes, Microsoft has announced support for Office apps, and Apple did go through how you could use the Vision Pro to look at sheets and presentations, but that was it. When it came to actually making changes, it went back to computing’s humble but versatile input tools – the keyboard and the mouse.

The biggest tech companies in the world are hedging their bets on mixed reality being a permanent part of our lives, and an enriching one at that, while permeating all spheres. It is somewhat science fiction in the way that it promises to blur the boundaries between our analog, in-person lives and our digital ones. And I am excited to see how it unfolds.

Apple’s dev community could help

From the looks of it, it seems like Apple wants its rich developer community to take stabs at finding what the Vision Pro could be put to use doing. That’s precisely why Apple introduced the Vision Pro during its annual developer conference. To make things easier, Apple’s headset uses the same software frameworks available on iPadOS and iOS for visionOS, the operating system that powers the Vision Pro. That means that hundreds of thousands of apps will be available to early adopters on day one. How Apple developers adapt these apps for the Vision Pro will be interesting to see. It has to be mentioned that Apple did something similar with the iPad almost ten years ago. The ‘Pro’ tablet in Apple’s line-up was supposed to be a productivity tool and eventually replace the laptop for some people. Apple’s accessories for its iPad Pro models and Apple silicon have helped make the iPad Pro extremely powerful, but the limitations of a mobile OS have still held it back from being a creator’s primary productivity tool. The Vision Pro, I hope, ends up entirely differently.

Also, it has to be mentioned that, unlike every other Apple product launched in the past two decades, the Vision Pro is an experimental, new piece of technology. This generation of the Apple Vision Pro could be just a teaser to what AR/VR tech can achieve. And maybe, we are looking at this all wrong. As Henry Ford once said (and Steve Jobs often quoted him on this), “If you ask my customers what they want, they’d say, a faster horse.” A car wouldn’t even come up. Maybe, the Apple Vision Pro is just like that.


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