Camcorders Were Weird Too

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read
Camcorders Were Weird Too

The biggest criticism I’ve gotten about my reactions to the Apple Vision Pro have been around my suggestion that wearing a visor all day, including during your kid’s birthday party, is weird and no one is going to find that normal. Of note, several times in the article I said these feelings were all about “this device,” but that may not have been clear to everyone who read it.

In response to my post, several people have brought up camcorders like this from the 80s:

The argument is that people eventually got used to video being taken of them and now it’s totally normal, so this will happen with headsets as well.

While I do agree that of course taking video at things like family events has gotten more normal over time, it took decades to get there, and the tech to do it changed a ton since then. My dad got a camcorder in the early 2000s and he only used it briefly because every time he took it out, the whole room tensed up and people didn't know how to act. Now that our phones have cameras in them, people seem to widely be more accepting of being filmed (although many people still don't like it).

So when someone says that things are always weird at the start and they get normalized over time, sure, I agree! The question is, what's this going to be like:

  1. AirPods, which many people thought looked silly at first but then people got used to them.
  2. Camcorders, which took decades to go from kinda awkward to mainstream over decades and massive advances in the tech.

I feel quite confidently that it's option 2. I don't think the digital eyes (which disappear when you're recording, I think?) remove the fact that you're wearing a big old headset and other people around you will be weirded out by you when when using this version of the product. As the tech gets meaningfully better over time, the math changes, but I'm talking about what Apple showed people using this device for, and I simply don't think this device will ever be used by people this way en masse.

Also, maybe I'm completely wrong! This is a new product and there are a ton of questions to be answered. I shared my impressions, and looking back on them 24 hours later, I still feel the same about what parts just aren't going to click for people, but this is all gut reactions. We should acknowledge that we're all sharing opinions, and that no one is objectively wrong yet. my post will be up for years to come, so save the URL and roast me next year when everyone is constantly shooting video like this and wearing their headsets around the office all day long. I'm skeptical, but I'm not 100% sure I'm right.

Bonus: Horace Dediu said I was plain wrong, so that's fun 😉