Apple Vision Pro and virtual reality: is this really the future ? 🥽

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The Apple Vision Pro, the spatial computer as Apple likes to call it, is finally available for sale in the United States. Initial feedback from the press across the Atlantic has been mixed. But it raises a more fundamental question about the future of technology and its impact on our society.

A true technological gem, but full of flaws🥽

Before going any further, if you’ve never heard of Apple Vision Pro, you can click here to read our previous article, which discusses its nature and use cases in greater detail.

All the press agree that this headset is a real technological gem. It’s a concentration of all Apple’s craftsmanship in terms of design and technology. When you see the Vision Pro, you immediately know it’s an Apple product. It’s nowhere near what other virtual reality headset manufacturers offer.

© Apple

If Apple was keen for its headset to stand out so much, it’s not just to fit in with the brand’s ecosystem. Apple doesn’t want its new product to be seen as a virtual reality headset, but rather as a spatial computer. Except that, in fact, it’s an ultra-premium virtual reality headset, disguised as an augmented reality headset thanks to excellent video passthrough. It is thanks to this video passthrough that the user can « see » through the helmet.

And like all virtual reality headsets, Apple’s Vision Pro faces a number of compromises. The first is weight. The Vision Pro weighs between 600 and 650 grams, depending on accessories. And according to early feedback, it’s uncomfortable after less than 1 hour of use. Secondly, as with any virtual reality headset, your eyes are practically glued to screens that retransmit the real world as seen by cameras. Except that cameras and screens have their limits: reduced field of vision, only 49% of the colors you can see are reproduced, poor quality once the brightness is reduced, etc.

© Apple

VisionOS, the Vision Pro’s operating system, uses hand and eye tracking to navigate its interface. As some users report, the first use is almost magical, since the tracking is so accurate. But after a few moments spent pretending to be Tony Stark, it’s quite the opposite. In addition to the controls not always working as desired, you always have to look at what you want to control. And according to early feedback, it’s very distracting.

Think about every other computer in your life: the input mechanism is independent of whatever you’re looking at. On a laptop, you can click on controls and use the keyboard while keeping your focus on a document. On a phone, you can do things like drag sliders in a photo editing app while keeping your eyes focused on what those changes are actually doing to your photo.

If we had to sum up the experience of Apple’s Vision Pro, we’d take the title chosen by the media outlet The Verge for its article on this product:

Magic, until it’s not

Is this really the future of technology ? 🤔

When you look closely at Apple’s communication around this new product, there’s one element that stands out every time: users are isolated, alone in their bubble, cut off from the world. In none of Apple’s presentation videos do we see two users in the same room using these headsets simultaneously. You can check for yourself.

And that’s the heart of the matter. The Apple Vision Pro is sold as a spatial computer for work and play. When you’re working on your computer or smartphone, all you have to do is turn your screen towards the person you’re talking to if you need to show them something. When you want to watch a video with someone, you sit down on the sofa, or just position your phone so you can watch it together. Well, none of this is possible with the Vision Pro. Whether Apple likes it or not, you’re completely cut off from the world once your headset is on. So how can you enjoy time with your loved ones?

What’s more, is it really interesting to hold a conversation with someone wearing a helmet like this over their face? I’m not sure. It’s true that the main promotional image for the Vision Pro highlights the feature that allows you to see through the headset. But in reality, it’s not all that convincing. Take a look for yourself. On the left, Apple’s official visual, on the right a photo taken in real-life conditions.

But if there’s one company that can change the way things are done, it’s Apple. It remains to be seen whether or not the magic will happen.

However, beyond social uses, the Apple Vision Pro and virtual reality headsets in general pose a real question about what we want for our future. 2018 saw the release of Ready Player One, an American science fiction film co-produced and directed by Steven Spielberg. It is an adaptation of Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel Player One. The film gives us a brief glimpse of what our future might look like with the democratization of virtual reality headsets. The synopsis of the film is as follows:

In the year 2045, the world is in the grip of many troubles: energy crisis, disasters caused by climate change, famine, poverty, war and more. In this chaotic world, the Oasis is a global virtual reality system, accessible via virtual reality headsets and haptic devices such as gloves and jumpsuits. Originally conceived as an MMORPG, over time it has become a virtual society used by all humanity as an escape.

If you can’t picture it, take a look at the trailer below.

Is this really what we want for our future? To abandon real life and take refuge in a completely virtual world? To cut real ties in favor of a totally virtual life? To possess nothing in the real world and take refuge in the virtual one?

It’s true that Apple’s ultimate goal is augmented reality, not virtual reality. But for now, that’s just a promise, whereas the Vision Pro is a reality. It’s certainly the best virtual reality headset on the market, but is it worth the reality outside? Come and discuss in the comments.

Source : The Verge

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