Vision Pro review: Apple’s work in progress has me convinced of ‘spatial’ computing – The Washington Post

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SAN FRANCISCO — I fell asleep watching movies on a Vision Pro, the $3,499 face computer that Apple launched earlier this month.

I watched virtual planes land in Atlanta while listening to air traffic control, then edited a spreadsheet of addresses for wedding invitations. I examined a roast using the helmet cameras and ate it without stabbing myself.

Trust me: life inside that helmet is both fascinating and messy.

Once you get into the groove, using the Vision Pro can be exciting. But when things don’t work as expected — which in my case was quite often — you might wonder why you didn’t just use the gadgets you already own.

To see what “spatial computing” could really do for me, I wore the Vision Pro every day for two weeks. Here’s what you need to know.

Here’s what you can and can’t do with Apple’s new VisionPro

What’s it like to wear the headset for hours

Comfort: I could wear the 1.3-pound Vision Pro for four or five hours before my neck needed a break, but I often had to adjust the fit. (And yes, removing it is always a relief.) I never felt nauseous, and a colleague prone to motion sickness found the experience surprisingly bearable, but she still started to feel uncomfortable after 45 minutes.

Navigation: When you open an app, it floats wherever you paste it in the world around you, even if you move away from it. Bring an app closer to you and you can interact with it like you would on an iPad.

But you will also have to get used to navigating with your eyes. For apps you’re not next to, you can look directly at them and bring your thumb and index finger together to select something. I’ve seen newbies pick it up instantly, but there’s still a learning curve.

Surrounding yourself with application windows can be helpful, but some may find it overwhelming. (Video: Chris Velazco/The Washington Post)

Many times I looked at something I wanted to select and pinched my fingers, but nothing happened. I “clicked” the wrong thing because elements of an app or web page were too close together. I even moved the application windows somewhere else entirely, because I didn’t realize my fingers were touching until I moved my hand.

“Spatial” computing: If the Vision Pro has one goal, it’s to let you put the content and apps you want to use where you need them. You can have 9 or 10 apps running before the headset starts to struggle, and I spent days trying apps in different places to see what seemed useful. Surprisingly, these floating apps have proven to be very useful in dealing with daily chores.

I do a lot of washing up by hand and it’s extremely tedious. But that’s less the case when I have a YouTube video floating above my sink, which I can interact with without dipping my phone or touching my headphones.

The Vision Pro’s live video feed of the world around you is fast enough for cooking. (Video: Chris Velazco/The Washington Post)

Me too always forget the clothes in the dryer. Now when I’m doing laundry, I can hang a virtual timer in my hallway as a visual reminder.

And in a short afternoon During my workouts, I kept Slack and emails floating by my side while (slowly) riding a stationary bike. By spinning a small dial (the “digital crown”), I could replace my apartment with a rugged Hawaiian landscape, accompanied by the sound of a lonely wind. I didn’t even have to look for another device when someone needed me; I just pinched open the application window and went to work.

Silly? Maybe – but now that I’ve tried these things, I really want to keep doing them.

In theory, the Vision Pro can be a portable, private office: just strap it in, organize your work apps, and access them.

I’ve tried this for a few hours each day, and it’s totally doable. It helps to pair a Bluetooth keyboard and one of Apple’s trackpads to the headset, because using the built-in virtual keyboard is a chore.

But to work quickly, I had to rely on the headset’s Virtual Desktop mode, which connects to a nearby Mac and turns its screen into a virtual window that you can resize and paste wherever you want. When I’m editing my photos or tediously formatting all those wedding invitation addresses, it’s hard to beat a big screen version of my computer surrounded by vast virtual environments.

On February 2, Apple’s $3,499 Vision Pro headset went on sale. Help Desk reporter Chris Velazco gave the thing a try to see if it was worth the hype and money. (Video: Monica Rodman/The Washington Post)

But even that has its quirks. If you have an Apple laptop, just look at it and a “Connect” button will appear on the computer. But if you’re using something like a Mac Mini or a closed MacBook connected to a monitor, the Vision Pro may have trouble finding it. (As I sat down to write this article, it took three tries to get the virtual desktop to work.)

The headset’s ultra-sharp displays also mean it’s great for just looking at things. I missed “Oppenheimer” in Imax earlier this year, but watching it on a virtual screen as big as my living room wasn’t a bad alternative. And the sound coming from a set of hump-shaped speakers was so good that I almost left my headphones behind.

You’ll also want to keep the Vision Pro’s battery plugged in during longer movies; I typically got between two and three hours of use on a single charge.

This is arguably what the Vision Pro is best at right now. The Vision Pro App Store could change that over time; for now, it’s a funky mix of the practical (like Microsoft’s Office apps), the gimmicky (like “Day,” which lets you spin VR decks), and the weird but serious (like “Xaia », an immersive AI therapy). tool.)

Apple’s new Vision Pro is a privacy mess waiting to happen

People treat you a little differently when you wear a Vision Pro.

Of course, you can see them almost normally thanks to the helmet cameras. I say “almost” because you’ll see the video feed get a little blurry when you move your head. (Also be careful when approaching them, as the helmet blocks your peripheral vision.)

But assuming you’re looking at someone, they might be looking at a pair of blurry digital eyes on the headset’s exterior display. These “eyes” are powered by the still-in-beta “Personas” of Vision Pro, your virtual support for FaceTime video calls or Zoom meetings.

My traveling fiancée was happy to cut short our nightly FaceTime calls after seeing it.

I was almost ready to write off my Persona until a friend with a Vision Pro FaceTime asked me to catch up. The first half hour of viewing her the fake face was disconcerting. But as the conversation dragged on for an hour, and then another, the strangeness evaporated—I just felt like I was looking at my friend, not a strange facsimile. And he felt the same way.

You can, and probably will, get used to these things. The real question is how quickly and who can avoid you until they get used to it too.

Unfortunately, the Vision Pro also has a sharing problem.

A guest user mode lets your friends see what it’s all about, but two out of three people I tried it with had trouble getting through the setup process. (One person put the headset on four times before even recognizing he wasn’t looking at me.)

And the lack of support for multiple users means that common use at home isn’t possible like it is with a Mac or iPad.

Luckily, there’s at least one way the Vision Pro can make you feel more connected to others: you can use it to view immersive videos captured with an iPhone 15 Pro, 15 Pro Max, or another Vision Pro. (Don’t worry: You can watch them like normal 2D videos on an iPhone.) They don’t always look realistic, but when the scenes were captured perfectly, I felt present — and a little less alone — in the moments and with people. who weren’t really there.

You probably know you don’t need it right now. It’s a bulky, expensive and truly first-generation product. But it’s also a glimpse into a new way of living with technology; I think a lot of people might find it useful if they overcame some inherent weirdness.

You might want to try it out by scheduling a demo at an Apple Store. Better to waste 25 minutes than thousands of dollars.

After these two weeks, I am convinced of what the Vision Pro can do. I want to keep app windows around me in the right places, isolate myself from the world sometimes when I need some alone time, and come back when I’m ready. I just don’t want to wear a big helmet on my face to be able to do these things, nor do I want to shell out at least $3,499 for it.

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