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Using the Apple Vision Pro

For the past 10 days I’ve been using an Apple Vision Pro headset. Thanks to a loan from a friend, I was able to put it through its paces and try pretty much everything that’s now available to do with it.

First, the product is really well designed, from its aesthetics, to its functionality. It’s solid, beautifully finished and does what it does flawlessly. But after using it a number of times, the novelty has worn off and I ask myself can it do enough to justify its high price?

The AVP consists of a large unit that goes over your eyes and is held in place with an adjustable band around the back and top of your head.A knob on one side adjusts the tightness of the band. I never found it uncomfortable even when I wore if for more than an hour at a time. The 2nd part is a battery with a cord with a disc at its end that clicks onto the headset. When you turn the disc to lock it in place it turns the AVP on.

The process of onboarding – setting it up- is somewhat elaborate and requires about ten minutes of effort. Once you put the AVP over your head you will be asked to push a button and wait while it adjusts to your eyes and ask you to move the unit up or down on your face. You also are required to go through a process where you look around the periphery at a series of points, without moving your head, to calibrate your eyeball with the cameras that detect where you are looking. All interaction with the device is done by looking at an icon or point and then touching your two fingers together, substituting to moving a mouse and clicking a button. So it needs to figure out precisely where what you are looking at.

This unit was not customized to my eyesight and there is no way to use it with glasses, so the efforts was a little bit more difficult than for a purchaser.

You then set up the device as you would a new phone or iPad. Sign into your Apple account and have it download all your apps and data. It creates a desktop akin to an iPad screen with apps displayed on several screens that you swipe to access, much like an iPad.

One of its best features was opening my Photos App and looking at my photos in 3D. You select a photo and then select the 3D icon above it and it magically turns the photo into three dimensions. (You need do only once per photo. When you go back it’s in 3D).

You can also select to be immersed into the photo which enlarges the photo as its expands around you. It also worked with images taken with a regular camera, which is quite a remarkable trick.

The Apple Movies App has some 3D demo videos that were also quite amazing. They included putting you in the studio during an Alicia Keyes performance, being on a basketball court, and a soccor field during action sports, and some of usual dinosaurs romping through a forest. These show the potential of the product once more content becomes available.

I also tried using the device to do email and send text messages using a virtual keyboard that popped up in front of me whenever I was using a text box. Typing was very different from using a real keyboard. It was more like pointing or punching at the air with no tactile feedback.

I was also able to go onto the web to read news and visit all the sites I would do from a phone. One of its features is the ability to have several screens open at once and moving the screens anywhere I wanted within my peripheral vision. You simply drag and drop them, so at one time I had movies playing in front with my email off to the left and a web browser off to the right.

As impressive all of this was, the most remarkeable feature is the quality of the display. It was bright, extremely sharp, startling contrast, and almost better than life. (And that’s without it being optimized for my eyesight!) That allowed me to look at my photos in a way I never saw them before, almost as if it was under a magnification glass. Movies were just like real life with no artifacts, fringing or any degradation at all.

As I get ready to return the VP, I will miss it as an entertainment device. Watching movies, even in 2D is much like being in an iMax theater. You can easily do it lying in bed or on an airplane. It’s totally immersive and very enjoyable.

I’ll miss seeing my photos in 3D. But in spite of how good the product is, it’s hard to justify its high cost of over $4000 for what it does now. Its greatest potential is still yet to come and includes gaming, multi-screen applications, and learning. The hardware is here waiting for the software.