Vision Pro is supposed to be Jobs’ Mob’s move into the AR world with a pair of mixed-reality specs. Apple CEO Tim Cook said the specs were a "new AR platform with a new product" that augments reality by seamlessly blending the real and digital worlds.
While most people have been aware that Apple’s grasp of reality is a little different from normal people, it has been horrendously lucky in convincing people that what goes on in its Walled Garden has at least some relevance. It might ship out-of-date technology, but at least it looked nice.
However, the Vision Pro is unique because it is an over-priced white elephant that looks bad and requires its users to carry a battery pack around like a half-blind turtle.
To make matters worse, the headset will start at $3,499 and be available early next year. Its competition is the $550 PSVR2 (which requires a tethered PS5 to use) and the $500 Quest 3 that was just announced for an autumn release. So in other words, Apple will be competing with better products which are at least a quarter of the price.
The headset, which looks like a pair of shiny ski goggles, has a aluminium frame with a single piece of glass on the front that acts as a lens for a wide array of cameras. A single button lets you capture videos, while a "digital crown" lets you tune how much outside reality is filtered out at any time.
The headset is powered by Apple’s homemade M2 chip combined with support from a new chip called R1. These chips process inputs from 12 different cameras, five sensors (including a LiDAR scanner), and six different microphones.
Apple said that while the M2 "ensures performance," the R1 "virtually” eliminates lag and delivers images to the displays within 12ms, ensuring experiences "feel like they're taking place in front of your eyes."
To get around the fact that all this is rather heavy, Apple has moved the battery away from the glasses and forced uses to carry a battery in their pockets. The battery will be connected with a cable that attaches to the headstrap near the temple and it will work for a perfectly useless two hours.
After that the user will have to plug the glasses to a wall socket, which means that they cannot move about much. This kills off most of what Apple was trying to demo. It showed users walking around and grabbing things from a fridge without taking the headset off. This will be impossible if you are plugged into the mains.
In short, not a lot happening here is remotely worth shelling out $3,499, so why did Apple bother? Insiders said that after years of messing around with the design they still could not get it to go correctly. The Vision Pro Cook demonstrated is a prototype, and some staff wanted him to wait for the second generation before releasing it.
Cook seems to want to release a product which hints that Apple still has some innovation chops – after all, it has not produced a new product since the iPhone. Apple releasing VR and AR specs follow the same idea. Just like Apple did not invent smartphones or iPods, it basically redesigned what was out there and marketed the hell out of it, it would appear that Cook thought he could do the same thing with VR and AR which did not do that well for rivals Microsoft and Facebook.
The only issue here is that Vision Pro cannot match what its rivals have out there and is far too expensive to elbow its way into the market. In short, it will only be bought by rich kids who will get bored with it after five minutes and through it in the closet.