Define “success” and then we can talk about the Vision Pro (a year from now)

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Define “success” and then we can talk about the Vision Pro (a year from now)
It’s not exactly common knowledge — and with the XR industry’s state, that’s no wonder — but a lot of the problems, described by early Vision Pro adopters, already practically exist on some of the best VR headsets on the market. So what is the difference?

No, it’s not the $3,500 price point. It’s the application of an idea. It’s the limitations, which with time, may expand to include more and through that may become a form of freedom. Sure, the Quest 3 will get more updates and things like augments — as in, MR widgets, just like on the Vision Pro — but I don’t see myself using it for work now or in the foreseeable future.

While the Vision Pro? Well, I can certainly see a future where that is the go-to choice for multiple types of users. Sure, the experience is far from complete today. But so what? It’s like that on modern VR headsets too.

But we don’t talk about that, because so long as a VR headset ticks a couple of boxes, we give it a green light. Maybe Apple’s trying to change that with the Vision Pro. And if so, I think that it’s a great idea.

I don’t like gaming in VR

And I think that you don’t either

Here’s the deal: I’ve played very few VR games that have managed to be enjoyable and most of those, I could’ve easily enjoyed in flatscreen too. Not to mention that in the majority of cases, they are janky, jittery and way too easy to “break”.

And it’s not like I have an issue with gaming as a whole. I’ve studied game design, made numerous games, survived two gaming startups and I still play games daily. So this is purely about VR games being too involved for my personal and subjective taste.

Given the current context, I still play VR games on the regular and I do my best to appreciate everything about them. When I say I don’t like them, I mean it on a purely subjective level and I believe that I’m emotionally intelligent enough to separate my ego from my professional attitude.

But even if a lot of VR games make me go “Wow, that’s unique” I always find myself defaulting to other — flat screen — experiences that I enjoy more as soon as I can.

So how is that an issue? Well, I don’t think that I’m alone in this. Think about it: none of us are seeing AAA publishers pushing high-fidelity VR games year-round, right? I mean, the industry is growing and that’s great, but VR gaming is nowhere near as popular as conventional gaming.

I think that the way through which we associate VR — and when I say that, I include AR and MR too — with gaming, is disruptive for the XR industry.

And there is the issue: most modern headsets utilize gaming as some sort of major selling point. So when you combine someone like me — and my imaginary like minded army counting in the thousands — with a gaming-centric VR headset, what do you get?

You get a dusty box sitting in the corner.

The Metaverse is cool, but how about “outside”

Virtual grass is great, but I can’t touch it

In the same vein that I can appreciate gaming in VR, I can appreciate metaverse apps like VRChat. But still, they are quite the complicated affair.

On the one hand, apps like this open the doors to nasty, predatory behavior, which I’d rather not delve into. Trust me, you can find more than enough examples online. On the other hand, that same level of anonymity is giving people an outlet to share in a way, which can’t happen for them in real life.

Or, in other words: just another classic case of humans being, well, human.

There’s a kicker too: for certain types of individuals with limited physical capabilities, I imagine that these sorts of apps can be a godsend and I’d never want for that to be taken away.

But these sorts of apps — a very solid, uneven mix of qualities and factors — have become a staple of VR tech. Especially after Zuckerberg’s Meta shenanigans, the concept has become even more prominent. Sometimes for the sake of memes, but still.

And I can’t help but wonder: who is this selling point selling to? I can’t imagine that these social hubs are for everyone and if we had the numbers to compare, I’d wager that Instagram is exceedingly more popular than any metaverse alternative out there.

Sure: there’s a vocal group of VR fans, who are in it for this — maybe even on top or beside gaming — but I don’t think it would be fair to say that most VR enthusiasts are interested in social hubs. I’m not, for sure.

And if you're like me, then your headset is maybe sitting in its box, gathering dust in the corner.

Immersive Entertainment (in VR, obviously)

boomer like screen

I can’t help but wonder what part of a typical cinema experience isn’t immersive. From the chatter in the foyer, to the smell of coke and butter on the counter or the specific low-key chill of the theater itself and the roaring thunder of the soundscape; how is this not immersive?

In what world is a YouTube video, HBO movie or Netflix show on the Quest 3, which I can only watch alone and experience in a surreal bubble of darkness, better or more immersive than the ambiance of an actual room and the real bounce-off of sound from the walls?

Well, I can actually think of a couple of examples: long, lonely flights or train rides or sessions where you just want to lay down and not move a bunch while enjoying that one documentary you’ve been eyeing for the past six months.

Again, I’m sure that the topic of accessibility here is way more impactful than I can even start to imagine.

But I still don’t feel like this is enough for VR, AR or MR — as a type of technology — to become en masse associated with entertainment as a whole. And if you feel the same, then your VR headset may be sitting in a box, collecting dust.

Pause. Is Apple being guilty or clever?

And how about “both”?

I’m not trying to pretend like the Vision Pro is this underappreciated holy gift from god, free from the shackles, forged of the modern concepts of a VR headset. Far from it, given how big of a time slot was given for the Vision Pro’s numerous immersive cinema modes.

I’d bring up spatial video too, but I’m still on the fence on that one. It’s certainly nowhere near as impressive or impactful as I think Apple envisioned it, but I do feel like this is an idea that will continue to expand over the next decade, so we’ll talk about it again in the future for sure.

But allow me to play the devil’s advocate here for a minute and stretch some ideas into a logical assumption:

Apple is targeting professionals from across the IT space — which, by definition, extends to things like video editors, content writers and YouTubers by the way — and a lot of those either need big screens to work or travel a lot. Some, even both.

Oh, and a big chunk of them use Apple tech for one reason or another.

For the part of the crowd that needs a large, multi-monitor setup, the Vision Pro works as a brilliant portable workstation. And for the rest? Well, they’ll need some entertainment when traveling and for such cases, the cinema modes make sense for sure.

So, is this Apple just being very self-aware regarding its target audience? I don’t know, but it wouldn’t shock me if it turned out to be so.

The Vision Pro stands alone

but I’m feeling its sting inside me

Apple didn’t say that the Vision Pro has the fanciest graphics for VR games. And it’s not like the “spatial computer” doesn’t have games — it does and more are probably headed towards the system as you’re reading this right now.

And trust me, Apple realizes the value of gaming to the modern consumer. I mean, the Big A was crazy enough to convince Capcom to port two of the best games in recent years — Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil Village, both personal favorites of mine — to a mobile platform for what seemed to be a flex. But a flex that proves that Apple is hip with the rends.

What Apple actually did, however, is remove the need for controllers. So imagine Tim Cook coming up on stage and being like:

Note: not actual quote by Tim Cook

That game is difficult with controllers. Now imagine not having those. Imagine dodging in real life with a $3,500 piece of equipment on your head.

No. Because the Vision Pro isn’t about gaming. And I believe you get the gist, so I won’t give you examples for social hubs too. Need proof? Well, there isn’t an Apple-made one and I think that gets the point across instantly.

The Vision Pro now

and how owning it in the future may be different

Apple’s game plan, to me, seems to be about changing the populace’s understanding of VR technology. To educate about the impactful nature of mixed-reality and AR through examples of real-life use-cases that extend beyond a hobby and that can actually improve people’s lives in meaningful ways.

Sure, that may come at the cost of sales. The Vision Pro may never break sales records and it may even undersell in the long run. But it has already impressed numerous techies and enthusiasts, giving them a taste of the future, which at this point is — just like Thanos — inevitable.

But here’s the thing: if you aren’t an IT pro, you won’t have much to do with the Vision Pro after the initial wow-factor wanes. Even if you are, it will take time and effort to adjust your entire workflow to include the Vision Pro at all times, and let’s be honest: that won’t always be possible. If you’re not part of the Apple ecosystem, you’ll find it increasingly difficult to love the Vision Pro beyond its concept.

I mean, how many people would sell their entire setup and switch over to Apple’s side just because of a single, albeit innovative, piece of tech?

So, the Vision Pro may also remain in its box. But how much dust the box gathers will depend entirely on what Apple plans to do with the headset in the next nine months or so. And I’ve heard that dusting has a positive effect on mental health, so that’s a thing too.

But there’s one factor that I feel is way more important than that. It is related to your purchasing decision. But not of the Vision Pro, but of any MR headset created in the post-Vision Pro world we live in now. And we’ll talk about that when the time comes. And I’m sure that we’ll have a lot to say.

Queue the Doctor Who intro music!
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