I wore the Apple Vision Pro. It’s the best headset demo ever.

I just finished a long demo session with Apple’s new $3,499 Vision Pro headset, which the company announced at WWDC 2023 as “the world’s most advanced consumer electronics device.” It’s… a really nice VR headset with stunning displays and video passthrough. And I mean unbelievable Stunning displays and video passthrough: I enjoyed using my phone to take notes while wearing the Vision Pro, which no other headset can realistically provide.

While Apple would obviously prefer people to think of the Vision Pro as a “powerful spatial computer” or augmented reality device, there’s no escaping the thing’s essential VR headset nature, right down to the adjustable ones Headbands that definitely screwed up my hair. It looks, feels and behaves like a VR headset. If you’ve used a Meta Quest, just imagine the best possible Meta Quest running something very similar to iPadOS, and you’ll get it.

The Vision Pro battery
Vjeran Pavic

Apple held Vision Pro demos in a large white cube-shaped building it built for WWDC called the Fieldhouse. Upon entering, I was handed an iPhone for a quick setup process: a scan where I rotate my face in a circle (similar to the Face ID setup, which determined what size face mask I should use) and then another side-side face scan, who looked at my ears to calibrate spatial audio. After that, Apple had me see a “vision specialist” who asked me if I wore glasses—I wore my contacts, but those who wore glasses had to do a quick prescription test so Apple could fit the Vision Pros with the right lenses. (The lenses are made by Zeiss; Apple needed a partner that could legally sell prescription lenses. They snap on magnetically and will be sold separately at launch.)

The headset itself weighs a little less than a pound – it’s connected via a braided white power cord to a silver battery that offers around two hours of use. The cable can be detached from the headset with a mechanical lock, but is permanently connected to the battery. If you want to connect it to the wall, connect a USB-C adapter to the battery.

The design language consists of brushed aluminum, glossy glass and soft fabrics. the vibe is more like the iPhone 6 than the iPhone 14. The glass on the front is obviously a complex piece of optical engineering: it’s perfectly curved, but still serves as a proper lens for the cameras and the OLED screen that shows your eyes, when you i look at people (This feature is called EyeSight; I haven’t had a chance to try it.)

Surrounding the headset itself are 12 cameras, a LIDAR sensor and a TrueDepth camera, as well as IR floodlights to ensure the cameras can see your hands for inspection purposes in dark environments. It all runs on a combination of Apple’s M2 and new R1 processors, which unsurprisingly generate quite a bit of heat. The Vision Pro vents this heat by pulling air up through the bottom of the device and venting it up.

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On the top of the Vision Pro there is a button on the left that acts as a shutter button for taking 3D videos and photos, which I didn’t get to try. The digital crown is on the right. Clicking it brings up the home screen with app icons. Rotating changes the level of VR immersion in certain modes. I asked why anyone would do that want You can set the immersion level anywhere other than “All On” or “All Off,” and it looks like Apple considers the medium level of immersion to be a sort of customizable desktop workspace for apps, while keeping the pages open for you to play with to speak to your colleague.

The digital crown on the Vision Pro.
Nilay Patel

When you put on the headset, there’s a quick automatic eye adjustment that’s much quicker and more seamless than devices like the Quest Pro – there are no manual dials or sliders for eye settings at all. Apple didn’t want to say anything specific about its field of view so long before launch, but I was definitely seeing black in my peripheral vision. The Vision Pro isn’t as immersive as the marketing videos suggest.

The display itself is absolutely killer: a 4K display for every eye, with pixels that are just 23 microns in size. In the short time I’ve tried it, it’s been perfectly usable for reading text in Safari (I loaded it). The edge, of course), look at photos and watch movies. It’s by far the highest resolution VR display I’ve seen. There was some green and purple fringing around the edges of the lenses, but I can’t say for sure if that was due to the quick assembly or early demo nature of the device, or something else entirely. We’ll have to see when it actually ships.

The video passthrough was similarly impressive. It appeared with no latency and was crisp, clear and crisp. I happily chatted to others, walked around the room, and even took notes on my phone while wearing the headset – something I could never do with something like the Meta Quest Pro. That means it’s still video passthrough. I could at times notice quite a bit of compression and a loss of detail when people’s faces fell into shadows. I could see the IR light on the front of my iPhone blinking in vain as it tried to unlock it with FaceID in vain. And the display was dimmer than the room itself. When I took off the headset, my eyes had to adjust to how much brighter the room actually was.

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The Apple Vision Pro home screen

Likewise, Apple’s ability to implement mixed reality is really impressive. At one point in full VR avatar Demo I raised my hands to gesture and the headset automatically recognized my hands and superimposed them on the screen. Then I realized I was talking to someone and made them appear as well. reader, i gasped. Apple has come a long way with eye-tracking and gesture control, too: eye-tracking was pretty solid, and thanks to the IR illuminators and side cameras, you can touch your thumb and forefinger at the same time to select things while they’re on your lap or with you Pages. You don’t have to point to anything. It’s pretty cool.

Apple has clearly solved a number of major hardware interaction problems with VR headsets, primarily by overtaking and spending more on all other devices that have tried it. But it emphatically didn’t really answer the question of what these things really are for Still, the main interface is essentially a grid of icons, and most of the demos were basically projections of huge screens with very familiar apps on them. Safari. Photos. movies. The Freeform Collaboration App. FaceTime video calls. There was a 3D dinosaur demo where a butterfly landed on my outstretched hand, but that was as much augmented reality as I really experienced. (Yes, mapping the room and projecting the displays is very complex AR work, but after years of ARKit demos at WWDC, there wasn’t even a measurement app. It was weird.)

I saw a quick FaceTime call with someone else in a Vision Pro using an AI-generated 3D “persona” (Apple doesn’t like them calling them “avatars”), which is both impressive and profound was strange. It was immediately clear that I was talking to a person in an eerie way, especially because most of the person’s face was frozen save for the mouth and eyes. But even that won over after a while, and it’s definitely a lot nicer than your average Zoom call. You set up a persona by holding the headset in front of you and having it scan your face, but I haven’t been able to create one myself, and that obviously needs a lot of refinement, so I’ll reserve judgment for later.

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It was basically a collection of greatest hits VR demos, including some old standard versions: Apple showed 180-degree 3D videos with spatial audio in what’s called the Apple Immersive Video format, which the company appears to be using proprietary Cameras did not share. (They looked like the 3D videos we’ve always seen in VR demos.) I looked at a 3D photo of some cute kids captured by the headset’s cameras and watched a 3D video in which these children blow out a birthday candle. (Same thing.) I did a one-minute mindfulness meditation in which a voice commanded me to be thankful as the room darkened and a sphere of colorful triangles expanded around me. (That looked great, but Supernatural exists, has millions of users on the Quest, and has been offering guided meditation since 2020.) And I’ve been watching avatar into what looked like a cinema, which is, well, one of the oldest VR demos out there.

Was this all done? better by the far superior Vision Pro hardware? Without question. But was more made of it? mandatory? I don’t know, and I’m not sure I can know with just a short time wearing the headset. I Do I know it felt strangely lonely wearing that thing. How to watch a movie in a Vision Pro with other people? What if you want to collaborate with the people in the room? And People on FaceTime? What does it mean that Apple wants it from you? Wear a headset with you children’s birthday? There are simply more questions than answers here, and some of those questions concern the very nature of what it means for our lives to be literally conveyed through screens.

I also know that Apple still has a long list of things it wants to refine before shipping the Vision Pro next year. That’s one of the reasons it’s being announced at WWDC: to give developers a chance to act on it, figure out what types of apps they could build, and get started. But that’s the same promise we’ve heard from Meta and others about VR headsets for years. When it comes to hardware, Apple clearly outperforms everyone else in the industry, especially when cost doesn’t seem to be an issue. But the most perfect headset demo ever is still just a headset demo – whether Apple’s famed developer community can create a killer app for the Vision Pro remains to be seen.

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