The new Apple Vision Pro, the company’s eagerly anticipated foray into the realm of wearable computing, is under a lot of strain. According to Apple, the $3,499 Vision Pro marks the advent of “spatial computing,” which is essentially the ability to run apps everywhere you look. Additionally, the company’s advertisements for it, which feature people wearing the Vision Pro constantly, do not even somewhat mitigate that pressure. At the office! Laundrying! Having fun with their children! The goal is lofty: to enhance reality by superimposing apps and data on top of the actual world.
Since headset computers have been around for more than ten years, Apple must assert that the Vision Pro marks the start of anything new. In 2013, I tried on the first Oculus Rift development prototype. Adi Robertson from The Verge, who edited this article, has tried on almost every headset that has been released since. Due to all of that development, several really fantastic devices are now available. The original Oculus developed into Meta’s Quest line, which is currently launching the Quest 3, a very good VR headset that costs $500 and has a large library of games and some AR features of its own.
Meanwhile, Apple has consistently maintained—from Tim Cook onward—that augmented reality will be far more useful than virtual reality. And the development of AR has been ongoing for a while: higher-end iPhones and iPads have been equipped with lidar depth sensors for a few years, and developers have access to AR capabilities in iOS.
Using all those concepts, Apple’s first attempt to create a computer that functions in the environment around you is the Vision Pro. The Vision Pro is intended to be a fully functional gadget that can work in tandem with the Mac and iPad within Apple’s ecosystem of gadgets. In addition to using Excel, Webex, and Slack, the Vision Pro allows you to view movies and TV shows on an enormous virtual 4K HDR monitor while relaxing. Additionally, you may utilize the Vision Pro to view a sizable monitor that is floating in virtual space by mirroring the display on your Mac.
Sometimes it really is as beautiful as it sounds. However, the Vision Pro also entails a number of very significant trade-offs, trade-offs that must be disregarded. Some of those trade-offs are extremely evident: Apple decided to use an additional battery pack connected by a wire since packing so much technology into a headset puts a lot of weight on your face. However, there are further trade-offs that are more philosophical.
After using it for a few days, I couldn’t help but ask myself a number of concerns regarding whether the trade-offs were worthwhile.
Is wearing my hair a disaster every time I wear the Vision Pro because it’s that good?
Is it really that amazing that I want to carry it about in its enormous carrying case rather than my laptop bag?
Is it so good that I want to use screens to see my surroundings rather than my own eyes?
I basically constantly wondering if it’s better to use a computer in there or outside. Even while the Vision Pro is intriguing, there is still a long way to go before it can surpass this.
Though the Vision Pro is a VR headset that almost allows you to believe it’s not one, Apple doesn’t want anyone to mistake it for one.
It covers your whole field of view when worn on your head, giving you the impression that you are looking through the gadget to see a 3D video stream of your surroundings captured by the cameras on the front. However, it may also immerse you in virtual reality to varying degrees. I worked for a while totally on the moon and for a significant amount of time in my kitchen, where a number of windows floated around a doorway leading to Joshua Tree.
In computing, defining “reality” is a difficult task. Over the last ten years, there has been a frenetic competition to coin new terms to describe the functions of head-mounted displays. There has even been debate over the exact meaning of these terms. Thus, the following is our meaning of a few terms used in the review:
A virtual banner affixed to a real wall or an automatic translation of a restaurant menu are examples of augmented reality: virtual projections that are closely associated to objects in the real world.
An app window floating about your living room is an example of mixed reality—a computing system that blends the virtual and the real world without requiring direct contact between them.
A computer experience known as “virtual reality” submerges you completely in a virtual environment while purposefully obstructing your view of the outside world.
In contrast to other VR headsets, which are mostly made of plastic and frequently have ridiculous designs, the Vision Pro is gorgeous. The Vision Pro, on the other hand, feels like a logical continuation of Apple’s well-known design language because it is constructed of magnesium and carbon fibre inside an aluminium enclosure. There’s a tiny Apple Watch, a tiny AirPods Max, and a little iPhone 6. It’s the latest in technology packaged in an instantly recognizable way. When compared to some of the enormous VR headsets we’ve seen over the previous ten years, almost everyone I’ve showed it to believes it seems smaller in person than they anticipated.
In an effort to prevent you from feeling alone while wearing the Vision Pro, the front display has been included. In Apple’s images, it appears to be a large, bright screen with a feature called EyeSight that allows people to see a video of your eyes and feel comfortable chatting to you while you’re wearing the headset. It could as well not exist, in actuality. Because of its low resolution and highly reflective cover glass, this low-res OLED actually makes it difficult to see in most normal to bright lighting conditions. A lenticular display in front of it creates a slight 3D appearance. When people do see your eyes, they appear as a ghostly, low-resolution CGI image. It has an eerie impact; you can’t believe you’ll be able to make genuine eye contact with anyone. Furthermore, you can never be quite sure what other people are seeing on this external display because visionOS lacks any controls or indicators for it. It’s strange to converse with someone while staring them in the eyes and not knowing if they can see you!
A vast array of cameras and sensors is concealed under the cover glass. Infrared floodlights allow everything to function in low light. There are two high-resolution front cameras for the video passthrough, cameras that face down and to the sides to monitor your hands, a lidar scanner, and TrueDepth cameras for spatial tracking. Beneath all of it is an Apple R1 spatial coprocessor, an M2 processor, and two fans to disperse the heat generated by all of this technology. During my testing of the Vision Pro, I never noticed the fans, but the headset did get warm after extended sessions.
The top edge of the watch has what appear to be larger copies of certain well-known Apple Watch features: a button on the left that allows you to take 3D images and movies, and a digital crown on the right that regulates the virtual reality immersion level and volume when you gaze through the headset.
The single knit band and the twin loop band are the two headbands that come in the package. They are both simple to attach and remove; simply snap them on and unhook them by pulling the small orange tab. The solo band is definitely more stylish and causes somewhat less hairstyling than the dual loop, but if the dual loop works better for you, then go ahead and get it. The mounting hooks should be on the outside face of the loop so that I can pull the band around my head and clip it on rather than having to pull it over my hair all the time. I also found the solo loop to be much more comfortable.
The headband, available in two thicknesses, and the light seal, available in multiple sizes, make up the remaining two elements. Both attach (you get fitted for them in-store, or if you buy online, by scanning your head with an iPhone) and detach (you want to take this thing up by the frame because grabbing it by the light seal can lead to tragedy).
You can use the Vision Pro to snap in bespoke Zeiss lens inserts if you wear glasses. Apple supplied us reading lenses to see how the process works, but I just used it with my soft contacts on, and it worked just fine.
The speakers of the Vision Pro are placed in the side arms, and they render spatial audio convincingly and loudly. It’s a clever method that makes things sound as though they are actually happening where they seem to be happening. Unless you wear headphones, the other people nearby can hear what you’re doing because the speakers are also rather leaking. You may use any Bluetooth headphones you like, but the most recent AirPods Pro come with a ton of extra features, like decreased latency, lossless 48KHz audio, and Apple’s Adaptive Audio system, which automatically incorporates ambient sound when needed.
After using it for a time, the most obvious thing about the hardware is that it’s just… hefty, since the Vision Pro is primarily used there. This is meant to be worn on your face for extended periods of time while using a computer. The weight of the headset alone ranges from 600 to 650 grams, depending on the band and light seal you choose. I keep saying in jest that the Vision Pro is an iPad for your face, but in all honesty, it is heavier than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (682 grams) and nearly as heavy as the 11-inch iPad Pro (470 grams).
Additionally, the entire weight of the Vision Pro is front-loaded. The Vision Pro simply balances its weight on the front, unlike other large headsets like the Quest Pro (722 grams), which has intricate headbands to distribute the weight. Although switching to the multiple loop strap makes things more stable, the sense of having the headset all over your face remains unabated. After some time, you’re just going to feel it.
Interestingly, the Vision Pro weighs significantly more than the well-known Quest 2 (503g) or even the heavier Quest 3 (515g) headsets—headsets with integrated batteries. Apple informed me that it made the decision to employ an additional battery especially to lighten the headset. The actual battery is hardly worth discussing; it’s just a silver brick that weighs an additional 353 grams and has a USB-C port along with a motion-activated LED that turns orange when it’s not charged and green when it is. It has a pleasing twist connector that attaches to the headset, but be careful—the lovely braided cable is permanently tied to the battery. For $199, you can purchase more batteries, but they cannot be hot-swapped; detaching the battery from the Vision Pro completely shuts off the power.
I don’t really feel strongly about this battery arrangement, mainly because there isn’t really anything about the Vision Pro that seems like it’s meant to be moved around in, so it’s basically alright. It’s amusing that Apple of all corporations released this compromise, but it’s also characteristically Apple that the battery isn’t genuinely larger to allow for a runtime of over 2.5 hours. (The Vision Pro simply runs on wall power for as long as you like if you connect the battery in.)
The headband adjustments are the only manual adjustments needed to set up the Vision Pro. Everything else is sensor-driven and motorized. The headset asks you to hold down the digital crown when you first put it on in order to calibrate the lenses to your eyes; after that, you go through a very conventional eye tracking setup. There is no complicated lens wheel to dial in. The remainder of the setup is nearly identical to that of any other iOS device: if you own an iPhone, you can bring it near the Vision Pro to transfer all of your settings, although you will need to accept a few disclaimers. It will function perfectly as a stand-alone device, but you’ll have to manually enter your passwords and other information if you don’t have an iPhone. You’re computing in the future after all that.
With good reason, Apple is extremely proud of the screens found inside the Vision Pro, as they signify a significant advancement in display technology. With a combined pixel count of 23 million, the two screens are minuscule MicroOLEDs measuring 7.5 micrometres, or around the size of a red blood cell. And according to Apple, each of those minuscule pixels is made up of three RGB subpixels arranged in an S-stripe pattern. It’s astounding to consider how precise these screens have to be made in order for them to function in a device like this.
In general, they also have amazing looks; they are bright enough to accurately portray movies and sharp enough to read text without any effort. At the factory, Apple calibrates them for colour so that they are accurate and brilliant without appearing overly saturated or blown out. Even though they are tiny, their effectiveness makes them appear enormous.
Since the displays are the focal point of the Vision Pro experience and are essential to its operation, it is understandable why the device is so costly. After all, you gaze at them constantly. Nevertheless, when used on a gadget like this, they come with their own set of tradeoffs despite all of their technological marvels.
Viewed from the side, a man sporting the Vision Pro headset displays the speaker and power connection.
The speakers have spatial sounds and are beautiful and loud. Vjeran Pavic/The Verge photo
The main objective is not to see this contraption, which is a passthrough VR headset with an absurd external battery pack and a display on the front that displays spectral images of your eyes. Augmented reality, or AR, is the main objective. Specifically, the main objective is optical augmented reality (AR), in which light enters your eyes through discreet eyewear and is superimposed with digital data. For years now, Apple CEO Tim Cook has talked about how isolating VR headsets are and how crucial he thinks AR will be. AR is a technology that has the ability to truly revolutionize civilization.
“Very few people are going to think that being enclosed in something is okay,” stated Tim Cook in 2016.
“Unlike virtual reality, which closes off the world, augmented reality allows people to be present in the world,” said Tim Cook in 2017.
“I also like that [AR] doesn’t isolate […] I’ve never been a fan of VR like that because I think it does the opposite,” said Tim Cook in 2017.
2020 Tim Cook: “[AR] doesn’t seem to be something that isolates people.” We can use it to supplement our conversations rather than replace human interaction, which is something I’ve always been very concerned about with some of the other technology.
The issue is that there is now insufficient technology to create a real optical AR display that is reliable enough to take the place of a standard computer. Compared to the Vision Pro, the Magic Leap 2 optical AR headset is smaller and less expensive, but it suffers from field of view and image quality restrictions that most users would never put up with.
As a result, Apple decided to design a headset that allows for real-time video passthrough; this is the Vision Pro’s key compromise. It is an AR headgear that is actually a VR headset. And let me tell you, the Vision Pro has excellent video passthrough. It functions! It holds up well. You’re back where you were when you put on the headset, turn on the display, and see a lot of visionOS windows floating around.
While it may seem straightforward, the ability to accomplish that in real time, at high definition, on a computer that can fit over your eyes is an incredible feat of engineering. According to Apple, there is just 12 milliseconds of latency—which takes into account the cameras’ exposure time—between what the cameras observe and what appears on the screen. The processing of the data itself is quicker. Based on mathematical calculations, Apple claims that there isn’t even a single frame of latency, with the subsequent video frame being available before you finish seeing the previous one.
Additionally, you can experience Apple’s amazing video processing capabilities right before your eyes: wearing the Vision Pro, I was able to browse around my phone without experiencing any strange frame rate problems or blown-out screens. I also used the headset to work on my Mac in front of a big window, which is a torture test for dynamic range, and although it wasn’t ideal, it was still functional. It is, without a doubt, the greatest video passthrough ever included in a consumer product.
Cameras are still cameras, and displays are still displays, which is the issue. For example, motion blur is present in every camera. In low light, cameras must either increase ISO at the expense of noise or lengthen exposure periods at the expense of sharpness. The latter requires noise reduction, which results in dull and fuzzy images. Furthermore, there are actual limitations to the colour reproduction of both displays and cameras.
The inherent limitations of cameras and displays cannot be solved by the Vision Pro. When you move your head with the Vision Pro, motion blur is evident; it gets more pronounced in low light and causes strange distortions of straight lines. My iPhone screen became much blurrier as the sun sank, which is another way that low light causes the overall sharpness of the video passthrough to decrease as noise reduction kicks in.
The display brightness will gradually ramp up and down as the system attempts to average out the brightness of everything you’re looking at. For example, if you’re sitting in your kitchen at night with the lights on while writing a review in a Google Docs window floating on a dark beach, you’ll notice that you’re in a medium-lit room halfway immersed in a dark virtual environment with a bright window open. When I stare at my microwave through these cameras, the LCD clock flickers. Furthermore, according to Apple’s specifications, the display offers 92% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut, meaning that just 49% of the colours your eyes can actually see would be displayed on the Vision Pro.
Other disadvantages of the displays include their restricted field of view and the fact that seeing tiny screens through lenses makes them appear even smaller. I’m not sure how much lower the Vision Pro’s field of view is than the Quest 3’s 110 horizontal degrees, but Apple won’t tell me. This indicates that what you are seeing is surrounded by somewhat huge black borders, similar to what you might see while using binoculars.
In addition, there is considerable vignetting and distortion along the borders of the lenses, as well as some fringing in the colours pink and green, particularly in bright areas. The useful field of view appears much smaller as a result of all of this. Highlights will reflect in the lenses if you’re gazing at anything bright or with strong contrast, such as a white text window hovering above a dark desert scene.
That’s how it’s supposed to appear, according to Apple, who I questioned about all of this. Although a mix of hardware and software in the Vision Pro is expressly designed to minimize these diverse impacts, they are undoubtedly present and visible, according to Apple spokesperson Jacqueline Roy.
If you have followed virtual reality for the past ten years, you are aware of these well-known problems with VR headset displays. In order to align someone’s lenses with their eyes—which are noticeably located in different places on other people’s faces—you are projecting light from a screen onto their face through lenses that are attached to their visage. A little strangeness at the edges of the displays is not a deal-breaker or even surprising (our bodies are not made well enough to mount hardware on them), but Apple is charging $3,499 for the Vision Pro and makes it seem as though these displays are good enough for you to wear casually while folding laundry.
When I claim that the Vision Pro offers the best video passthrough on the sharpest VR displays that the average person will ever see, I mean it. However, you are continuously reminded that you are viewing video on screens and that the actual world is far more fascinating. Reviewing consumer electronics is one of the rare situations in which colour gamuts are relevant, but if you want me to see the entire spectrum of colours when I see the world, please do so.
Even if this is the greatest appearance anyone has ever created, it still pales in comparison to what is outside.
Apple also takes great pride in its eye and hand tracking control system, which is far superior to any other consumer-level eye or hand tracking system available. The entire interface is navigated by looking at the objects you wish to manage and tapping your fingers to do so. Instead of reaching out and touching objects, you might think of your fingers as the button and your eyes as the mouse, tapping together to click on what you’re looking at.
When you use hand and eye tracking on the Vision Pro for the first few times, it’s amazing and feels like a superpower. For the Vision Pro to function, its external cameras just need to be able to see your hands, and they can see your hands in a vast area surrounding your body. Almost anywhere the cameras can view them, you can have them draped across the back of the couch, resting on your lap, or up in the air with your elbows resting on a table. It actually takes a minute to learn that you don’t need to raise your hands in the air to indicate something, but once you do, it’s entertaining to watch as other people automatically raise their hands when they use the Vision Pro for the first time.
However, after a few uses, hand and eye tracking ceases to feel like a superpower and, in certain situations, actually makes using the Vision Pro more difficult. It turns out that it can be rather distracting to have to look at what you wish to control.
Consider any other computer you have ever used; the input mechanism works regardless of what you are viewing. Using a laptop allows you to focus on a document while using the keyboard and clicking on controls. You may manipulate sliders in an image editing program on your phone and still be aware of the effects those adjustments are having on your shot.
That is just not how the Vision Pro operates; in order to click on anything, you must be looking at it, which requires you to constantly divert your focus from whatever task you are working on in order to look at the button you need to push next. I spent some time playing the cute little game Stitch, but it quickly got annoying because I couldn’t seem to look away from the piece I wanted to move to the desired location, which meant that when I tapped my fingers, I couldn’t pick it up.
A lot of the controls in visionOS are just a little too small and too close together to allow you to swiftly navigate the system. This gives the impression that the software is intended for an eye tracking system that is just a little bit more precise than it actually is. To avoid clicking on the incorrect item, you must look, confirm that you are looking at what you want, and then tap. Occasionally, turning away completely and trying again is the fastest method to choose what you want.
Up until it doesn’t, it works. Up until it doesn’t, it’s magic.
Consider it this way: A Mac is controlled directly by its keyboard and mouse. An iPod’s click wheel provided direct control over the device. It takes a lot of effort to make the multitouch screen on an iPhone feel like it controls the phone directly, so it’s not nice when it goes off course, as in the case of autocorrect failing or an app not registering your taps.
The Vision Pro is not directly controlled by your hands or eyes; instead, cameras monitor these movements and convert them into input, though occasionally the interpretation is not flawless. The funniest illustration of this is the on-screen keyboard, which you use by henpecking with two fingers at the floating keys in front of you or by looking at each letter and pinching your fingers to choose it. For anything more than inputting your Wi-Fi password, it is not worth your time. Instead, you should use dictation or pair a Bluetooth keyboard. Why? thereby giving you direct control over the input.
Nor is it guaranteed that the Vision Pro will always be able to see your hands. The area where the cameras can view your hands is a fairly huge bubble that essentially encircles the front of your body and extends the length of your arms in a semicircle. It cannot, however, see your hand if you recline in a chair and keep your arm by your side. It might not be able to see your hands if you are seated at a table with them resting on your legs. The cameras may not be able to see your hands if you are lying down in a dark room and the IR illuminators are unable to reach them. It might not be able to see your hands if they move too far back if you’re just standing up with your arms by your sides.
I understand that complaining about a hand tracking system requiring to see your hands is essentially absurd, and you can use Siri and dictation to navigate through a lot of visionOS features, such as managing apps and opening various virtual immersions. You can get an idea of how a computer that you can interact with and manipulate objects in space might operate in the future if you squint.
But the boundaries are clear as of now. Unlike any other computer I’ve ever used, the Vision Pro constantly alerts you to what you are looking at and where your hands are. When it breaks, it aggravates me. (Interestingly, Apple’s most recent watches are capable of detecting pinch gestures, but the Vision Pro does not support using those as control devices.)
On the other hand, a system that is always observing your hands for input will often record a lot of additional inputs, some of which will be amusing. To ensure that everything flows, I chat while composing video scripts and using my hands. I was using the Vision Pro to write the video script for this review when the system continued detecting my hand movements and inadvertently began to scroll and click on objects. The first time I recognized what was going on, I burst out laughing. Ultimately, though, it meant that I had to remove the Vision Pro and finish writing the script on my Mac, which only functions when I ask it to.
I believe that this is the best eye and hand tracking device that has ever been shipped, much like the displays. It can truly seem magical—until it doesn’t. Additionally, the input system must be completely reliable if you want users to perform computations there.
I won’t go into great detail about Apple’s incredibly strange and unsettling 3D persona system here; the best way to comprehend them is to watch the video review above, which shows Joanna Stern of The Wall Street Journal, Marques Brownlee, and myself using our respective personas during a FaceTime call. Personas are both incredibly awful and incredibly impressive, to borrow Marques words. It’s understandable why Apple designated them as beta users; there’s still a long way to go before adopting a character while on the phone isn’t, at best, incredibly inconsiderate and, at worst, irritating.
Making a video call with Joanna Stern and Nilay Patel while utilizing the Vision Pro’s 3D personas
To be honest, Joanna’s persona here pretty well summed up how she felt about personalities in general.
One tiny note: personas are compatible with almost all apps that require the front-facing camera in order for them to appear. While some on the Meet call did not think it was at all fine, I used mine on a Google Meet call in Safari with no issues at all.
If it’s not absolutely necessary, I wouldn’t advise taking pictures with the Vision Pro. A single press of the shutter produces a still image with dimensions of 2560 x 2560, or 6.5 megapixels. To the best of my knowledge, the left primary camera—which the EXIF data indicates has an 18mm f/2.0 lens—is always the source. The images appear to be poor quality 6.5-megapixel pictures taken with a small camera sensor that was designed for video.
Though not as good, the Vision Pro captures 2200 x 2200 square films at 30 frames per second. Although they appear somewhat less grainy than the images, they still undergo a great deal of compression. If you view them on a device other than a Vision Pro, you may also detect barrel distortion when the camera pans around. Nothing about this feels especially significant: since all of these movies and screen captures include a ton of extra motion from your head moving around, I really can’t think of any circumstances in which I would want to be filming while wearing a headset. Additionally, trying to take family photos with this item on your face will make you appear utterly stupid. Let’s face it, most people who purchase Vision Pros also probably possess iPhones, which make excellent videos, so whatever.
Using the iPhone 15 Pro Max to capture spatial films and seeing them in three dimensions on the Vision Pro is one highly convincing method. Like any dad, I could probably watch the movies I took of my kid at the zoo and around Christmastime indefinitely. The entire effect is really bittersweet, as you can relive a fleeting moment while alone in the headset and unable to share it with anybody else. They play back in a sort of ghostly white haze. The other issue is that you can’t capture iPhone videos in both the full 4K resolution the phone offers and 1080p at 30 frames per second. I’m going to continue using the higher-resolution footage for the time being, but eventually it will make sense to film in spatial by default, and that will be a significant turning point.
Running visionOS, which Apple claims is based on iPadOS, the Vision Pro has extensive customizations related to latency and vision in order to make it suitable for spatial computing. Having the iPad as the platform from which to grow is a huge advantage for Apple; it took years for Meta to complete the development of the Android-based Quest OS and fill its app store, which is still primarily filled with games. Apple gets to start with the majority of the vast iPad app store as well as the entire suite of sophisticated iPadOS capabilities.
Although it’s amusing to constantly comparing the Vision Pro to an iPad for your face, it’s also not entirely inaccurate in terms of the apps available right now. The majority of them function similarly to iPad apps, and the homescreen has an iPad app-filled “compatible apps” folder installed. It’s difficult to evaluate the app market for a product that hasn’t even been released yet, but at this point, I feel quite qualified to evaluate the iPad app market, and Apple releasing its own podcast and news apps as iPad apps for the Vision Pro seems very promising.
The world of Vision Pro apps is already fraught with controversy: some major companies, like Netflix, Spotify, and YouTube, have chosen to hold off on releasing their apps for the Vision Pro and have even stopped releasing their iPad apps. As usual, the open web acts as a pressure release valve for political pressure from Apple’s developer base, and Safari on the Vision Pro is a competent rendition of iPad Safari. I had no trouble watching Netflix in Safari, though you can’t arrange the video in a nice setting like you can with native apps. With a few small glitches, I was able to watch the NFL playoffs on YouTube TV on the Vision Pro. However, it kept requesting me to validate my location again.
What’s even more peculiar is that Safari on the Vision Pro seems to be somewhat cut off from web-based 3D applications. Although there are settings in Safari’s advanced choices to enable support, Apple has made noise about supporting the WebXR standard. However, at the moment, support is quite patchy and rarely works.
Let’s give that one a minute and see how it works. When I asked about this, Apple told me that it is actively contributing to WebXR and wants to “work with the community to help deliver great spatial computing experiences via the web.”
However, when I questioned Apple about why the vast majority of the VR video content on YouTube doesn’t function at all on the Vision Pro, the company essentially told me that it wasn’t good enough to support. They said that their efforts were instead concentrated on “delivering the best spatial media experience possible, including spatial photos and videos, Apple Immersive Video, and 3D movies available on Apple TV.”
In other words, don’t expect YouTube VR support anytime soon.
The main distinction between visionOS and iPadOS is that the former is completely free-floating window anarchy, while the latter has strong beliefs on how to arrange apps and how many apps you can run at once. I adore it. Bananas are the item.
You have infinite space to arrange and launch as many apps as you’d like. All of your old windows will be ready for you when you return to the kitchen after opening some more in the living room and leaving the kitchen. I created an art gallery of enormous Safari windows in the spacious open cafe area of our office late one night, and I spent some time browsing through enormous webpages. It really is wild, I assure you.
Unfortunately, visionOS lacks the capacity to share these windows or experiences with other people. For example, two people sitting in the same room using Vision Pro headsets cannot see the same objects floating in space at the same time. Although I’m told by Apple that certain enterprise developers are working on shared view experiences and that you can use FaceTime to mirror the view across two Vision Pros, my large Safari art gallery has only ever had one customer—me. Although it’s incredible that you can accomplish all of this, decorating a room with objects that no one else will ever truly see makes you feel quite alone.
Simply grasp the bar at the bottom of the window and drag it to any desired location in space. You truly can do whatever you want with windows: you may layer them, place them just above your head, or place them on the floor. Simply point your finger at the window you wish to move between, and when inactive windows become slightly translucent, a variety of activities can occur simultaneously across your room.
Moreover, you can run apps from three distinct operating systems simultaneously on your screen: iPad apps, native visionOS programs, and a full Mac display with all the chaotic splendour of macOS floating around in space when you connect your Mac to Wi-Fi.
Window management is one area where visionOS might use some improvement. To arrange your open windows in a predetermined manner or to gather them all in front of you, there is no Exposé or Stage Manager, and the management that is there is not very clear-cut or easy to find. To conceal every app on your phone, simply tap and hold the X button in one of the other apps. Double-clicking the digital crown on the headset itself will reveal everything. You can ask Siri to shut all apps, or you can force quit an app that isn’t working properly by simultaneously holding down the top button and the digital crown. There are numerous thoughts presented simultaneously.
You’ll be thinking about window management more than any other iOS device—possibly even more than a Mac, which has four decades’ worth of window management ideas built into it—once you figure out the moves, which take a minute to master.
Regarding the Mac, I am aware that many individuals are thrilled with the prospect of purchasing a Vision Pro merely to install enormous virtual monitors. Regarding that, there are both good and bad news. The good news is that Mac display sharing functions incredibly well, and in this situation, Apple ecosystem features like Continuity and Handoff are like magic. It is simple to copy on your Mac and paste in VisionOS. Your Mac’s keyboard and trackpad may now control visionOS apps when you open your Mac display in visionOS and drag the mouse off the screen. The functionality is the same as that of an iPad and a Mac. It’s amazing how I was able to make my MacBook Pro appear to have a 50-inch laptop to use Lightroom by overlaying a virtual Mac display over the screen.
Although there is a lot of intricate display scaling going on here, it’s best to just imagine that you’re essentially receiving a 27-inch Retina display, similar to what you’d find on an iMac or Studio Display. Your Mac operates macOS at a 2:1 logical resolution of 2560 x 1440, precisely like a 5K display, and it perceives itself as linked to a 5K display with a resolution of 5120 x 2880. The gadget notifies you that selecting a different resolution will result in a lesser quality image.) The virtual display is then sent as a 4K 3560 x 2880 video to the Vision Pro, where you can enlarge it to your desired size. The net result of all of this is that, regardless of how large you make the Mac display in space, you are not seeing a pixel-perfect 5K image. Instead, 4K content runs at a native 4K resolution — it has all the pixels to do it, just like an iMac — but you have a total of 2560 x 1440 to arrange windows in.
It’s amazing how everything functions with just one button click, however the drawback of all that scaling complexity is that visionOS only allows for one Mac display. Multiple Mac monitors floating in midair are not possible. Perhaps the next time.
The lack of true augmented reality (AR), or the ability to actually interact with digital items in your space, is one of the strangest things about visionOS and the Vision Pro itself.
In all the years that Apple has been talking about augmented reality, I have only ever encountered three items with the Vision Pro that provided a sneak peek at what lies ahead for AR. One: The Vision Pro occasionally displays a “connect display” button above your Mac, which initiates screen sharing. Two: A small text preview window appears above the keyboard so you can see what you’re typing while using a Bluetooth keyboard and you glance down at your hands. These are small features, to be sure, but they represent some of the first real AR computing features ever included in a consumer product, and they offer an immensely alluring look at what could be. They also happen to be very practical.
The Super Fruit Ninja loading screen, which lets you toss a strawberry at a scuttling pig on your floor, was the third augmented reality object I saw. This appears to be a little less historic.
That’s pretty much it. The remainder of visionOS doesn’t do anything to augment reality. A great deal of what could be referred to as “mixed reality” exists: virtual items floating in space apart from anything tangible. The application windows that are floating around are doing so without regard to the surrounding surroundings. And it really excels in the entertainment space, where Apple allows the Vision Pro to return to being the VR headset that it is at its core.
It’s a lot of fun to watch movies on the Vision Pro, especially in the immersive movie theatre that you can choose where to sit from via the Apple TV app. Watching a movie in one of Disney Plus’s virtual worlds, like Avengers Tower, or watching one of Apple’s virtual environments, like Mount Hood, and seeing the colours from the screen reflect into the surroundings, is also quite cool. Additionally, movies appear fantastic on the Vision Pro; when you view something, it’s clear how excellent the screens are. Because Top Gun: Maverick looked so amazing magnified to drive-in movie proportions and floating atop a mountain, I ended up watching considerably more of it than I had planned to.
A woman wearing the Vision Pro makes a pinching motion.
Amelia Holowaty Krales took the photo for The Verge.
The Vision Pro can create true 3D movies since it sends different images to each eye; Disney and other partners have already produced a number of them. The 3D versions are free if you have a sizable collection of Apple movies; simply select 2D or 3D playback when you press play. Additionally, Apple is producing immersive versions of a few of its Apple TV Plus programs. An immersive version is essentially a 180-degree 3D video that resembles the greatest Google Cardboard demo ever. It was really realistic to see someone walk a tightrope in Adventure, but if you’ve never done this before, I’d advise being cautious and getting used to VR motion before watching 3D films. Sadly, I haven’t been able to test any of the immersive sports material that Apple has promised.
As an extremely costly TV, you can argue that the Vision Pro is worth it for a while, but eventually the weight of it makes you realize that you are looking at a really fine TV. It’s also a very pricey TV without HDMI ports, so you’re limited to Apple’s game library, which feels incredibly unfair. (I usually made it about 30 minutes to an hour before taking a break). The Vision Pro can physically DRM your eyes, which sets it apart from other TVs. For example, when you try to take a screen capture while viewing a movie on Disney Plus or the Apple TV app, the content will become black. It’s unsettling to live in a world where large corporations have the power to prevent you from taking pictures of what you see, even if all you’re attempting to do is showcase how amazing something appears in a review. On an iPhone, you can bypass DRM screenshots by just snapping a picture of the screen, but the Vision Pro does not have a similar off-ramp.
In relation to gaming, this Quest lacks any true virtual reality games or fitness applications, such as Beat Sabre, Red Matter, or Population: One. The Quest has benefited greatly from the fitness industry in particular. Chris Milk of Supernatural informed me in 2021 that 60% of his user base is over 40 and that his user base is split 50/50 between men and women. Because of its concern that Apple might purchase Supernatural before it did, Meta decided to buy the game outright.
Even while Apple is heavily emphasizing health and fitness on all of its other devices, there isn’t anything comparable on the Vision Pro at launch. I believe the reason for this is that the Vision Pro seems ill-suited for those kinds of in-person gaming experiences; some of these titles are difficult to imagine working without controllers, and it’s hefty and requires an additional battery. Although I was able to test a prerelease version of Super Fruit Ninja that used a custom slashing gesture in a briefing, that was about it as of yet. Apple tells me that game developers working in Unity are hard at work porting over more games and that visionOS allows developers to come up with custom hand gestures, which might solve for some of the controller issues.
It should be noted that the Vision Pro’s VR motion doesn’t actually shield you from yourself. I’m pretty at ease with virtual reality; my wife and I use Supernatural, and for a short while, I had a great addiction to Gran Turismo 7 VR on the PSVR 2. I can accomplish most things in VR motion without any issues because I am generally aware of my limitations. However, the Vision Pro is so convincing and unaware of your potential limitations that it’s tempting to push yourself too far too quickly and make you feel a little sick. The first consumer gadget to handle high frame rate 3D movies is the Vision Pro, which I used to watch five minutes of Avatar: The Way of Water in 3D on Disney Plus! – and had to stop right away since the motion was simply too much. Early adopters should take it cautiously and be careful to gently discover their boundaries. That initial VR motion sickness attack is no laughing matter.
What a fantastic product the Vision Pro is. With its amazing display and passthrough engineering, its seamless usage of the ecosystem, and its ability to make everyone pretty much overlook the whole external battery scenario, it’s the kind of first-generation product that only Apple can truly build. A part of me believes that Apple is so strong, resource-rich, and talented that the firm just engineered the hell out of the most difficult issues it could come up with to find a challenge, which is why the Vision Pro exists.
That’s excellent! The Vision Pro has a lot of ideas, and each one is carried out with a level of consideration and thoughtfulness that very few other businesses can match, much less accomplish on the first try. The startling thing is that Apple might have unintentionally exposed the fact that some of these fundamental concepts are essentially nonsensical and will never be implemented well enough to gain traction. Given that this is the greatest video passthrough headset available, camera-based mixed reality passthrough may not be the way forward after all. The mouse, keyboard, and touchscreen feel like they will continue to be the best devices for years to come—this is the best hand- and eye-tracking ever. This device is packed with so much technology that, when it works, seems magical, and when it doesn’t, it utterly annoys you.
Another way to look at the Vision Pro is to assume that although Apple is aware of all of this, it lacks the technology necessary to create the real AR glasses it has long suggested. In this case, the Vision Pro is more akin to a simulator or developer kit. A real optical AR glass that allows you to share digital experiences with others is a dream factory for developers creating apps and compelling use cases for the unimagined technology yet to come. Within that framework, the Vision Pro is the hardware that Apple can release immediately to stimulate thought while it dedicates all of its resources to developing the hardware that it wants to make. Perhaps! It’s entertaining to consider that scenario, and many individuals have already come to that conclusion.
Nonetheless, one of our most enduring policies at The Verge is that you have to examine the product that is arriving right now, not the prospect of future updates. And so, ever since I initially put the Vision Pro on my head, I find myself returning to all the questions I asked myself. Naturally, let’s start with the most crucial:
Would you like a computer that causes hair damage each time it is used?
If you wear makeup, would you want a computer that smears it every time you use it?
Would you like a computer that gives the Walt Disney Company the ability to stop you from snapping photos of what you see?
Would you like to use a computer where it’s easy to hide what you’re looking at from other people?
Do you believe HDMI inputs should be available on your most expensive TV?
Would you rather utilize a less functional computer in a dimly lit room?
Would you like to use a computer that is constantly staring at your hands?
That is a significant number of trade-offs, not minor ones. Despite the peculiar ghost eyes on the front, the worst drawback of all is how lonely it is to use the Vision Pro. There you are, alone in your sensations, able to have no one else join you. I now agree with Tim Cook’s long-held assertion that headsets are intrinsically isolating after using the Vision Pro for some time. That’s OK for conventional VR headsets, which over the past ten years have essentially become disposable game consoles, but far more strange for a primary computing device.
I’m not interested in working in the Vision Pro. I’d much prefer be out here with them doing my work than anywhere else.