I just tried the new Apple Vision Pro – and I’m absolutely blown away. They say you only get one chance to make a first impression and my first impression of Apple’s new device is amazing.
When Vision Pro was announced at the 2023 Worldwide Developers Conference, we were given a sense of what we could expect and what it could do.
But until you’ve placed it on your head and experienced it for yourself – you truly can’t appreciate the experience.
Apple has deliberately avoided using letters and terms like VR and AR when they named the product – and that’s for a good reason. It’s all of that and so much more.
The idea of using your surroundings as your virtual desktop without disconnecting from others and the objects around is an entirely new way of doing things.
Apple calls this spatial computing.
Vision Pro gives users the choice to be in touch with their surroundings and with others or to dial up the immersion to a point where the outside world can completely disappear.
Before my demo experience with Vision Pro I had to run through a couple of tests.
The first was like setting up Face ID in the iPhone. I had to hold an iPhone and turn my head in a circle to establish the size and shape of the seal.
The Vision Pro screens and lenses are hosed behind t a single sheet of glass that merges into an aluminium alloy frame.
The seal is a soft and flexible piece that’s meant to mould to the outside of your cheeks and around your eyes and nose
That little test would determine the size of my seal.
Next, I used the same iPhone to look at my ears and it was a case of having to turn my head left and right.
I was also asked if I wore glasses and explained I wore glasses to read and that my distance vision was perfect thanks to my laser surgery back in 2006.
I handed them my glasses and they used a machine to test the level of correction to allow corrective lenses for the Vision Pro. These are made by Zeiss and attach magnetically to the microOLED lenses inside.
So they had my head size, ear shape and my optical information – I was told this is pre-purchase information so the unit fits you perfectly.
It was now time to put on the headset that has been fitted with strap seal and lenses for me.
It fit easily on my head, and I was able to adjust the strap to make it more secure by twisting a dial behind my right ear.
There was also a strap that went across my head which could be adjusted by Velcro like an Apple Watch band.
The Vision Pro has a little weight to it – I was told it weighs “about a pound” which is about 450g – but it didn’t feel too heavy on my head and, thanks to the large thick strap, the weight felt evenly distributed.
There is a cable running out the back of the headset that’s connected to a battery about the size of an iPhone that will run for about two hours. There is also a USB-C port on the battery which can pass through power for longer sessions.
I could see right through the Vision Pro and clearly see the room and the furniture and the people around me and there was no distortion. I could reach out and touch objects and judge the distance like I wasn’t wearing the headset.
When I turned it on I the displays were being centres in front of my eyes and then a large “hello” greeted me – it was floating in space in front of me.
Next, we did a quick eye and hand calibration and then another press of the digital crown on the front right edge revealed Home View and an array of apps were floating before me.
They were all sharp and colourful and look even sharper than they would appear on a Retina Display.
Now here was one of the many amazing features. All I needed to do to select the app was look at it – the eye tracking is that precise – then I tapped my index finger to my thumb to open it.
The cameras on the lower edge could pick up these minute movements with my hands down by my side.
There are no controllers required – and there never will. The precision with which it could pick up my hand gestures was remarkable. And it already uses your eyes as a controller and you can also use your voice.
The first app we opened was the Photos app and images appeared on front of me with stunning colour and sharpness. I could even select them to go full screen, which with Vision Pro, was even larger with the rest of the room dimming.
To scroll through the photos I just had to tap and hold my finger to my thumb and move it right to left. It smoothly moved along.
I opened a panorama image that we can all create with an iPhone and the image wrapped around me – I was transported to that spot.
In the demo I was standing in Iceland and the Oregon coast.
Vision Pro has a 3D spatial camera to capture pictures and videos.
I saw some examples – a 3D like image of kids eating cake, a video of kids blowing out candles on a birthday cake and a video sitting around campfire.
These were so sharp and realistic it felt like I was present in that moment – that I was there. It was simply stunning.
Apple Vision Pro is a spatial computing platform so you can open multiple apps and arrange them in the space in front of you.
I opened Safari, Messages and Photos and was able to move then left and right and in and out. On the Safari website I was able to easily scroll the page and read the text which was exceptionally sharp and easy to read.
To the left of the tab bar I was able look at and expand a section that said Apps, People, and Environments.
I choose Environments and was standing beside a lake near Mount Hood and I could see light rain falling on the water and by moving my head I could take in even more of my surroundings.
I could also see the carpet of the room when I looked down but with a twist of the digital crown I could extend the image to expand and completely cover the room and expand the level of immersion.
Next up I used the Mindfulness app which faded out the room and I could see a colourful object made of leaf-shaped pieces expand and fill the entire room and shrink back to its original size while a woman’s voice guide through a meditation.
The audio was also crisp and was being directed towards my ear from the speakers built into either side of the strap.
I could see an alert that a FaceTime call coming in and I answered it. I was greeted by a digital recreation of a man’s face – he was calling from a Vision Pro – so this was his digital representation that looked fairly real – his lips were moving in sync and I could see all his facial expressions.
That’s how he would be seeing me as well. When you first set up Vision Pro you can use the spatial camera to scan your face like it would for Face ID and use that information to create your persona.
If someone was calling from an iPhone, iPad or Mac I would see their video feeds in front of me and I could arrange their tiles how I wanted.
Part of the FaceTime call was to demonstrate collaboration and we were able to see the same Freeform board which also included a 3D model of a house that I was able to inspect from different angles.
Now it was time for some entertainment and I fired up Apple TV and watched scenes of Avatar: The Way of Water in 3D.
It was brilliant 4K quality and the 3D was spectacular. The picture was floating in front of me and I was able to choose backgrounds for complete immersion.
I chose Cinema and it felt like I was sitting in my home theatre watching a 150-inch screen with impressive spatial audio as well.
I asked if other near would be able to hear the speakers if they were sitting near me and was told they probably would.
But there is the option of using your AirPods Pro earphones to give you active noise cancellation, spatial audio and you won’t disturb others around you.
If you were to use this on a plane that’s what you’d do. In fact, during the keynote they showed a woman using it on a plane and she was wearing AirPods.
But perhaps the most jaw-dropping demonstration was a new format called Apple Immersive Video that offers a truly immersive view into a 180 degree video.
When it started, I was sitting in a piano bar listening to a singer, then I was flying through the air, and sailing across the ocean.
Next, I was courtside at a basketball game then ground level at the baseball and behind the net at a soccer match.
It was absolutely like being there. If I can watch sport like that with Vision Pro – shut up and take my money now.
Imagine watching a concert or a stage show – it will be like being there without being there.
Sure I’d rather be there but imagine if you can be transported to places where you could never normally go.
The potential for just that aspect of Vision Pro is tremendous. But the downside of that is that Vision Pro is a single player experience unless you choose SharePlay.
But even so I couldn’t imagine myself sitting with my mates in a room all wearing Vision Pros watching South Sydney play.
Half of the fun is the shared experience watching the same screen.
The last experience was an app called Encounter Dinosaurs which opened in front of me like the walls of the room were being pulled apart.
I was now looking in a 3D prehistoric world. A butterfly appeared and I was told to hold out a finger – seconds later the butterfly landed on it and I was able to turn it around and look at it.
Then a larger dinosaur appeared and it looked like it walked into the room – the 3D dinosaur looked real. I stood and walked right up to it and I could see the texture of its skins and its claws.
Then the wall in front of me closed again.
And that was the end of the demo. And it was fantastic.
It’s obvious that Vision Pro is not a one trick pony – it’s capable of doing so much and developers will be climbing over themselves to develop for the platform. It was a great idea to introduce it at the Worldwide Developers Conference.
I’ve used plenty of headsets over the years and they’ve been great – but they don’t hold a candle to the Vision Pro.
Apple has typically paid a lot of attention to detail and created a product that offers an incredible user experience.
For a pre-release product it is remarkably polished and put together in a way that only Apple can do.
I can’t wait to see what developers come up with for Vision Pro – it has huge potential for them to create amazing applications and experiences.
While my favourite parts were the VR-like experiences like watching movies and sport – one word kept coming into my mind – presence.
The demos of the spatial images and videos made me feel like I was present in that moment like a time traveller suddenly appearing at a point in our memories.
The elephant in the room when it comes to Vision Pro is the high price – at $US3,499 that’s about $5,300 Australian dollars.
There are passionate gamers and creative professionals who wouldn’t blink dropping that sort of money on a laptop or tower.
So if the Vision Pro, which is also a standalone computer, can offer an amazing experience you’d assume people would be willing to pay the price.
But it is still outside the reach of the average customer.
Would I buy it? After that short 30 minute demo I’m sold – I would buy it. And not for what it can do today but what it will be capable of in the future.
* Stephen Fenech travelled to the Worldwide Developers Conference as a guest of Apple