Current AR glasses literally make me hurl, but I’m a believer thanks to the Vision Pro

Current AR glasses literally make me hurl, but I’m a believer thanks to the Vision Pro
YOU! Yes, you. You need a history lesson and some etymology thrown in for good measure. In order for me to get my point across — namely, why I shouldn’t be throwing up for the sake of tech — you need to understand what “AR” is and why Iron Man is important.

I’m certain that most — if not all — of us have watched films and played games that have some sort of AR element, like a map being projected in front of the characters or maybe some sort of HUD — heads up display — that enhances a user’s view with more information.

Well, that is AR right there! Still, I felt like I needed to reiterate what it means, because at this point, everyone is using AR/VR in conjunction as if it's the same thing — or very, very close. But I’d really like to take this moment and remind you all:

It is not.

VR puts you in an entirely virtual world with the ultimate aim of convincing you that you are not in your own reality. While AR is trying to “upgrade” your reality with extra stuff, as to allow you to be, do, understand and achieve more.

Now, I think that the difference between the two is pretty… Stark. I mean, it’s no wonder that Iron Man chose to have an AR component to his vision instead of viewing the world through a VR visor, while rocking his billion dollar superhero suit.

Consider this: would Tony’s adventures be at least half as thrilling, if he was sitting around in his garage and wearing a VR headset, while his tin-can-super-armor was just flying around, doing his bidding? Sure, it could be just as effective, but it would be nowhere near as fun or enriching to the man with the… complicated heart.

In all honesty, he has done the VR bit, both in the comics and on the big screen, but still: he’s not made a habit of it for good reason.

And I’m willing to bet that said reason is the very same one, due to which Apple is aiming to enhance what AR means to the XR crowd with its Vision Pro headset. So here’s the twist:

The Metaverse — and VR — is cool and all, but it doesn’t help us do anything about our effective reality. While AR? Well, that’s where the potential is at.

Allow me to provide two examples:

  • Small scale: working from anywhere, without the need of anything beyond the headset/glasses, without the reliance of cables and a dedicated power supply
  • Huge scale: helping workers in real time complete incredibly difficult tasks through AR guidance

You can’t tell me that those don’t sound awesome! The idea itself has so much untapped potential too, because we’re yet to enhance it in ways that improve the quality of the experience, like allowing the technology to be worn longer and exhibit a better graphical fidelity.

But let’s be honest: in order for that to happen, more AR-first products need to get made!

But then, here is the problem: that can’t really happen while we’re walking around calling glasses like the Rokid Max “AR”. Because that’s not AR! Well, at least not in its fullest potential. Because a static image that can’t interact with the real world in a way that truly augments it, isn’t really the aim here, right?

Oh, and also, because whatever AR is, it shouldn’t be making me throw up.

I spent quite a bit of time above in order to make certain that you and I, dear reader, are on the same page when it comes to understanding what AR means as a type of technology and what its potential applications are (and thus, how impactful they may be).

So, if I’ve done my job, then pray tell me: how is strapping a portable monitor to my face anything remotely close to AR?

Sure, it has its benefits. Having a portable monitor with a reasonable quality can make flights more enjoyable and playing games on portable consoles less straining on the neck. Still, it’s not quite AR, because it doesn’t augment my reality.

Or, said even more plainly:

No quality passthrough that results in real world interactivity = not really AR

My experience with the Rokid Max “AR glasses” was very weird. It took quite a bit of effort to get them to run. And while I was expecting to be able to set up virtual monitors for work — at the very least — passthrough was so blurry, that I wasn’t really able to see my screen.

Hence, even if I were to set my screen up with a couple of additional, virtual ones, I wouldn’t really be in AR. I’d be in a blurry virtual void with an X amount of screens. The real world around me would have no use to me, as I wouldn’t be able to place them to match specific surfaces, for example.

Because, you know, that would literally augment my reality.

So I ended up putting on the shade panel, which removed passthrough altogether, turning the experience into a flat VR experience. Then I proceeded to attempt working for about three hours in that environment. It took some getting used to, especially considering the fact that all the edges of my field of view were blurry and basically useless to me.

Now, before we proceed, I need to clarify something about me: I despise throwing up. To me, it feels like I am obliterating myself in real time. I hate it so much that I literally plan out my life activities in a way, which prevents the possibility of this to an absolute maximum. Risky foods? Too narrow. I don’t eat seafood, period.

So, can you guess what followed when it came the time to take a break? Well, I took off the glasses, placed them next to me and proceeded to puke my guts out.

Yeah, who would’ve thunk that all those warnings from grandma about not sitting too close to the TV had something to them?

What I did do, however, was go to the doctor, who then sent me to an ophthalmologist to help me figure out what exactly had happened. And, basically, it’s something pretty common for how we humans work.

The AR projected screens were so close to my eyes that they basically didn’t need to move much. And that, as it turns out, is pretty important to eyesight health and how our brains interpret information in general.

While wearing Rokid Max, I was effectively taking away the miraculous concepts of “light” and “depth” from my brain. As such, when I opted to re-introduce them, Mr. Brain couldn’t adjust quickly enough and it interpreted the change as “wildly rapid movement”.

Hence, puking. Neat!

Consider it as so: it’s the same reason we get nauseous on fast roller coasters, but instead of it happening because we’re going too fast, it’s happening because our brain becomes convinced that, in all actuality and as far as it is concerned, we are moving fast, while we’re really just re-emerging into the real world.

What sucks most is that I was hyper-excited about trying out a pair of AR glasses out, because I truly expected something like Google’s now (sadly) retired Glass project. You know: something that was closer to Iron Man than spilling my guts out.

To me, Google Glass was the proof-of-concept of what AR should truly be for the modern, everyday user. Something small and compact that could just enhance the world around us, providing the info we need, urgent messages and helping us stay connected in those ways that are important to us.

To me, AR should be about being able to:

  • See my notes on the side, while writing this article.
  • Search for the wildlife around me, while on a nature trail
  • Check the weather while looking outside on my coffee break

The little things! Because that is what makes tech feel like magic, right?

But also because if manufacturers nail those — especially if the operating system for such a theoretical pair of AR glasses was open source — then the users would get creative in their stead. And I firmly believe that progress would be stable and rapid from there on out.

Now that Google is working on a new AR platform in the form of Betty and Barry — which are codenames for monocular and binocular AR bases — I am still hopeful that we may get that in the future.

Here’s the thing: I love what Apple has shown of the Vision Pro. Having that much power over my workflow is something that a productivity nerd would adore. But that device is a headset. It's big, clunky, and difficult to move around… It’s portable enough, yet its brittle nature and price would absolutely prevent me from being comfortable with traveling with it.

But something like a pair of AR spectacles, that can just fit into a small case and then fit into my bag? Sign me up!! Especially if they play nice with my phone and don’t need a laptop, which at this point they absolutely should be able to do. After all, most of the best phones on the market are absolute power houses!

So in a way, thanks to the Vision Pro, my passion for seeing my AR-related hopes realized has been reignited. And while I will certainly appreciate using the headset, I hope that Google and other glasses manufacturers are taking notes.

And while we’re on the topic, I’d like to make another thing clear: I don’t really hate the Rokid Max and all of the other myriad “AR glasses” like it. But I do think that these companies are doing a disservice to themselves with marketing these as AR glasses.

Simply because, they are not AR. And saying so is just fooling ourselves into belittling what the concept is truly capable of. So the next time you hear someone say “AR/VR”, make sure to ask them if they know the difference between the two.

But to people looking for portable monitors? Yeah, that is a top-tier deal! Because they offer other extra features too, which is always appreciated. In fact, if Rokid can fix the issues with depth perception, I’d love to take a pair of glasses like the Max and, say, a Galaxy Z Fold 5 and a keyboard, and then just head out into the woods to work on my next novel.

That right there is pure bliss.

But still, it won’t get me any closer to feeling like Iron Man. And while I know that it will take time for us to truly get there, I’m glad that this entire experience hasn’t taken away my hope that we’ll get there some day.
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