Saturday, February 24, 2024

I’m a VR enthusiast. Here’s why the Vision Pro doesn’t excite me


For over a decade, I’ve eagerly read about Apple AR glasses and VR headset leaks, patent documents, and rumors. I’ve always believed that if any company had the resources to bring us into the future I’ve been waiting for, it’s Apple. But now that the Vision Pro is nearly here, I’ve lost much of my excitement for Apple’s first extended reality device.


  • Is it a spatial computer?
  • Is it a VR headset?
  • The Vision Pro’s value as a VR headset
  • Vision Pro’s bright future

I’ll purposely avoid the easy targets. We all know a $3,500 Vision Pro is shockingly expensive. But that may not be an issue for some people.We’ve also heard many stories of discomfort becoming an issue, even in a half-hour demo of the Vision Pro. That’s a problem for some people, but VR enthusiasts like myself are used to heavy headsets. I won’t challenge Apple’s decision to put digital eyes on the front of the headset.

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My disappointments with the Vision Pro are a bit more nuanced. I had grand hopes for what the Vision Pro would be, and as of now, it’s just not there yet.


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Is it a spatial computer?


One of my problems with Apple’s first headset is the insistence that the Vision Pro is a spatial computer. Computer. Let that word sink in for a moment. It’s a word that means something in Apple’s world. And yet, the Vision Pro won’t get macOS and can’t run Mac apps. That means it’s a “computer” in the same way that an iPad is a computer. This nontraditional solution will fail at tasks your Mac or Windows PC handles with ease.

I’ve tried working in virtual reality with a Meta Quest Pro. It’s possible, but takes longer and requires workarounds. The Vision Pro will provide much better performance, similar to an entry-level Mac. Apple’s headset can also run iPad apps that are powerful enough to meet most computing needs.

A Vision Pro could almost replace my computer … almost. With basic things, you’re fine, but just like iPads, you’re going to run into a problem sooner or later.

I’ll still need a Mac to satisfy all my computing needs.

For me, I use my Mac to connect to other powerful tools, such as my 3D printer. There are iPad apps for 3D printing, but that’s not an ideal solution. Then there’s scanning, which just works on a Mac. It’s easy to capture documents and photos at the highest resolution your all-in-one printer or scanner supports. From an iPad, apps often deliver half the quality.

These iPad app limitations aren’t always Apple’s fault. Third-party developers could make full-featured apps, but there’s not enough interest in using the iPad as a productivity device. The Vision Pro won’t fare any better since this expensive device will have a tiny fraction of the iPad sales volume.

In the end, I’m going to still need a Mac to satisfy all my computing needs. Apple happily pointed out that I can connect my Vision Pro to a Mac. The message is clear — don’t get rid of your Mac, just add a Vision Pro.

The Vision Pro might eliminate an Apple Pro Display XDR or aome other large, high-quality monitor for some people, but you won’t be able to easily share a screen with a client or co-worker, and at 92% DCI‑P3, it doesn’t cover the full-color gamut needed for video and film production.

Is it a VR headset?


It’s debatable whether the Vision Pro qualifies as a computer. Most people, outside of Apple employees, admit that the Vision Pro is closer to an ultra-premium VR headset. It’s definitely spatial, much like the Meta Quest 3 is spatial. Both can scan my environment and display virtual objects that seemingly rest on my table or bounce off my walls.

The Vision Pro, like every other VR headset, can provide complete immersion, surrounding me with sights and sounds that are impossible to create any other way. It’s like I’m actually in another world when I put on a VR headset. That’s powerful, and Apple recognizes this. At the Vision Pro announcement, Apple showcased a T. rex towering over a person wearing the headset.

My issue with the Vision Pro is the lack of focus on the most impressive feature of virtual reality. Where are the immersive games? I expected more than the handful of titles the Vision Pro is launching with, one of which is Super Fruit Ninja. No offense to Super Fruit Ninja, but it’s not exactly a barn burner. Developers haven’t dismissed the potential, and more VR games have been announced for the Vision Pro since Apple’s press release came out, but it’s unlikely to be competitive with Meta’s gaming library anytime soon.

Displaying multiple virtual windows is nothing new. The biggest innovation from Apple is the ability to use the Vision Pro’s eye-tracking as input, which it appears to do quite magnificently. But mixed reality with color passthrough has been around since 2022, even if the Vision Pro claims to do it best. The Meta Quest Pro already broke new ground in spatial computing. I’d also love to see spatial apps that offer something new, and I’m yet to be convinced that any apps on the Vision Pro can deliver that.

The Vision Pro’s value as a VR headset


If I weigh the value of the Vision Pro as a VR headset, it comes up short. It’s a 4K headset with excellent hand-tracking, a superfast processor, and excellent mixed reality. It’s $3,500 raises expectations higher than ever.

That means I need content that takes advantage of those features. I expect the Vision Pro to provide an immersive Fitness Plus experience that puts me right in the gym or perhaps in some beautiful nature retreat. Apple should have had at least one AAA VR game for the Vision Pro at launch, with more on the way. Also, this spatial computer should be able to replace my MacBook fully.

If the Vision Pro could answer those three demands, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy it. Unfortunately, it only partially satisfies the last one. Gaming almost seems to be an afterthought, and the fitness potential went unmentioned.

Vision Pro’s bright future


The Vision Pro is an Apple product with years of research behind it, so my expectations were rightfully high. Perhaps too high.

Compared to the 2020 rumors of Apple Glass, the Vision Pro is as bulky and unattractive as most other VR headsets. I’m not the only one who anticipated a slim, lightweight mixed reality headset. Don’t get me wrong — I love VR, and I’m excited that Apple has finally entered the market. It’s off to a rough start, but it would be a mistake to dismiss the tech giant or second-guess Apple’s long-term plans based on this first move.

Apple has innovated most in visionOS, rethinking interaction by using the wearer’s gaze and a pinch for control. That would make the Vision Pro exciting if there weren’t so many other problems and a deal-breaking price.

The second-generation Vision Pro, rumored to cost significantly less, is the one to keep your eye on, along with rumors of Apple AR glasses, which are still many years down the road.

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