Judging my Vision Pro reactions from WWDC

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 6 min read

Once a year or so I seem to write something that gets a good chunk of pushback. In 2023 that article was my immediate reaction to the Vision Pro’s announcement at WWDC, which wasn’t as over-the-moon excited as many other people were. My favorite reaction was from Horace Dediu of Asymco whose only words to me ever are, “On balance, pretty wrong.” Well, it’s been 8 months, the product is out, and I have one in hand, so let’s go through that old post and see how it’s shaken out.

Let's get one thing out of the way: I think Apple's vision for what work could look like in a VR headset is far more compelling than what Meta has shown with its metaverse products so far. Apple's vision feels much more human, and much more about creating a digital workspace in the real world, and that appeals to me.

I’ve used a Quest 3 now as well and I would agree that I still think Apple’s real-world-first headset is more compelling than the PS3-era graphics of Meta’s metaverse concepts.

That said, I still really don't know if this tech is ready for prime time, and I cringed numerous times during the WWDC presentation when people were acting like absolute lunatics.

This is where I think I lost some people, with “lunatics” being perhaps a bit aggressive.

It's also worth mentioning that what we saw today was completely theoretical. None of this was direct capture of real software, it was more of a concept video. Yes, I'm sure the UI will look very much like this, but the fidelity and usability of this isn't proven yet.

So I’m not 100% sure on this, but I have been told that the first-person views in the WWDC announcement video were effectively real, but of course recorded in ideal environments. I suspect Apple had some custom recording software and maybe some other small tricks up their sleeve, but the software experience is basically exactly what they showed, so good on them.

Also, that Disney segment was hilariously CG and the final software simply won't look anything like that (you can quote me on this next year).

Yeah, while Disney was there on day one with a pretty solid Disney+ app, so much of what they showed in their sizzle reel isn’t…real. Again, I have it on good authority that while Apple’s demos were done with real software, Disney’s was very much a CG concept video.

Then I got into the things I expected the product to be good at:

Movies are a great use case, and if the quality of the image I see is about as good as I can get from my 4K TV, then this looks like the killer app for me personally.

Just yesterday I wrote about the movie-watching experience in the Vision Pro and this lines up nicely with my prediction.

Working at my desk on basic things could work really well too. This won't run macOS, and I have big questions about how iPad apps in this environment will function, but if the software is there, I could see some situations where working on this space could be appealing.

Still to be determined long term as there’s not enough software here to prove anything definitively. We need to see how the visionOS software library grows from here, although one thing I didn’t fully appreciate at the time was how compelling using my Mac in this space would be.

Being on a video call where I don't have to be on camera would be fun.

A pretty mild point, but yes camera-off meetings are nice in this thing.

Then I got onto the things that didn’t resonate for me.

I cringed so hard when the dad took a video of his kid playing. I don't care about the digital eyes peeking through, this feels dystopian to me.

I still think this is true, and looking at Apple’s marketing and training videos since WWDC, I do think it’s notable that they have never again shown someone at a social gathering (let alone their kid’s birthday) with the headset on. Adding spatial video capture to the iPhone 15 Pro also lessened the need for them to show this use case, which was a great update that removed the need to capture spatial videos with the headset.

Likewise, the guy walking around the office with the headset made me chuckle. “There’s Phil, he’s on his computer 100% of the time at work. What a legend.”

Again, I stand by this one — you may wear the headset at your desk, but you aren’t going to wander around the office with it on. And as we now know from using the headset, we know this wouldn’t even be useful since all your windows would be back at your desk so you’d be wearing the headset for no reason at all in the break room.

And while I think calling into video calls would work, I would never have my video on with those weird 3D models. We are deep in the uncanny valley, friends.

Here’s what my persona looks like today:

I’m not joining a video call with my colleagues looking like this.

Then I got into my final thoughts:

There’s something here, but a lot of things aren’t fully cooked yet, and the price tag is so astronomically high that it’s going to be a massively niche product for the foreseeable future.

I still agree there’s something real here and that many aspects of the device are not fully cooked yet. That’s not a burn, it’s just the fact of every single 1.0 product ever made. And yes, the $3,499-3,899 price tag makes this super niche.

I think people who buy this in 2024 will get a product that lets them interact with software in a way they never have before, and I think there will be magical moments that turn these people into proponents of the platform as “the future,” even if the utility right now is limited.

Again, yes!

I also think that the actual things people use this headset for will be things they do alone. As soon as you’re interacting with someone in person, the headset is coming off. Wearing this thing at a kid’s birthday party will be seen as borderline psychotic behavior.

Can you tell the birthday party scene bugged me? I may have once again chosen aggressive (“borderline psychotic behavior”) language here, but I do think that if you walk into a room and want to talk to someone wearing a Vision Pro headset and they don’t take it off, I think that’s rude and isn’t likely to change soon.

Finally, this is how I wrapped things up:

Ultimately, we saw Apple’s vision for the 1.0 of this product today. I’m interested to see what it’s like to actually use from journalists and regular users, and I’m excited to see what use cases end up working well and which don’t. Maybe my initial impressions from today will hold up, or maybe they won’t, but it’s going to be an unusually unpredictable time in the Apple space, and that’s pretty exciting.

Leading up to launch I started describing my Vision Pro feelings as “skeptically optimistic,” and looking back on this post from the announcement day, I think that is where I was right from the start. I do believe this is an exciting time and I am enjoying seeing real people use the Vision Pro and I’m enjoying being one of those people trying to figure out what this is good for and how it can improve over time. I do think it’s still very niche and I do think that wearing this at social occasions is not socially accepted, and Apple’s updated marketing seems to agree those aren’t angles to push. Honestly, I worried I was going to have to eat crow on some of these points, but I think I was more on point than I expected. Maybe 10 years down the line things will change and it will be weird not to obscure your face in front of your kid at meaningful moments in their life or when you talk to a coworker at the coffee machine at work, but that’s not what any of this was about (and still color me skeptical we get there with headsets like this).