I watched with interest on Monday as Apple unveiled the Vision Pro mixed reality headset at WWDC. It’s not really on the same level as the simple Meta Quest 2 I use to play bowling in my living room. Maybe not on the same planet. When it comes out in 2024, it will cost $3,499 — 10 times the price of the Meta Quest 2.
Let’s pause to read that again: $3499. almost four thousand dollars. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to pick one of these up on an empty Saturday trip to Best Buy.
CNET’s Scott Stein is one of the few people who actually got to test the headphones. He says the Apple Vision Pro is amazing, with a smooth interface and stunning cinematic fidelity when watching a movie. Our WWDC recap unpacks the complexities that make headphones so expensive.
“Technically speaking, the Vision Pro is a computer with an M2 chip in Apple’s top-of-the-range computer lineup,” notes CNET’s summary.
I’m old enough to remember a time when the thought of owning a computer was as ridiculous as paying that price for a headset seems to me today. So eventually, I’m sure, production will be perfected and prices will come down. The immersive entertainment looks unreal, and some of the other Minority Report/Star Trek-esque uses of the device are truly impressive.
But in the meantime, I watched Apple’s 9-minute video on the headphones (I feel like I should say “ 3500 dollars headphones” every time). And there are definitely some uses for the Vision Pro that I won’t try, even if the day comes when I can afford it.
Work in Excel
The most common element of the Vision Pro promotion was the fact that Apple demonstrated how Microsoft Excel, Word, and Teams can run on the headset, with your eyes controlling the user interface. Look, there are some really cool things headphones can do, but pushing you face forward into pivot tables isn’t one of them.
“I want Excel pumped directly to my retina” is not something I’ve personally ever considered, cracked one Twitter user.
Talk to real people without taking off your headphones
In the promotional video, a woman wearing the headphones is joined (presumably) by her teenage daughter, who sits on the couch and chats with her, as if it’s perfectly normal for mom’s eyes to be behind tinted ski goggles. They barely say more than one word to each other (it’s sushi, of course), but I keep wanting to scream through the screen and tell the mom to take a second, pick up the phone, and just talk to her kid, face stand up.
Thanks to Apple’s EyeSight feature, you can at least see mom’s eyes through the headset, which you can’t do with the Meta Quest 2. But even that’s a super-creepy feature, as CNET’s Corinne Reichert notes.
Looking at home photos – alone
In Apple’s video, there’s a scene where someone sits down on the couch and starts virtually scrolling through their family photos. Admittedly, it’s great when a panorama of what looks like an iceberg wraps around them, especially if you’ve always wondered what the Titanic saw on April 15, 1912.
But the guy looks kind of lonely looking at pictures alone. If he could share what he saw with his family, it could be a wonderful experience for memories. For now I’m OK looking at digital photos on my phone or laptop where I can share them with others.
There’s another scene in Apple’s video where a guy wearing headphones walks up to where two little girls are blowing soap bubbles (inside the house, but that’s a whole other issue). Instead of sitting next to them to play and interact, he kneels in front of them with a headset to take 3D pictures of the fun. Why use your own eyes to watch your children when you can stay one level removed?
The promotional video shows a woman on a plane watching a movie in luxurious 3D as if she were living in the scenes of the movie. I couldn’t get over the impracticality of it all. There are a million little distractions on the plane – flight attendants offering drinks, pilots reporting turbulence, people in my row asking me to get up so they can pass them.
I can immerse myself in a 3D movie at home, but it just seems rude to immerse yourself in your own personal movie theater at 33,000 feet and expect to be undisturbed. But then I fly coach and people with $3,500 for headphones might fly private.
But if the Vision Pro is your dream device, start saving. There is no exact release date yet, but 2024 is only half a year away.