The tech giant officially launched the new $3,500 Vision Pro in-store Friday and I was able to try out the headset this morning, along with dozens of others who waited patiently outside before the doors opened.
But unlike the crowd, I was not expecting to enjoy the experience.
I am somewhat of a Luddite and just could not imagine needing or wanting a mixed-reality headset – much less one that costs more than my month’s rent in Brooklyn.
However, each experience during the 20 minute demo felt shockingly intimate, vivid, and up close – I actually felt self-conscious about maybe having haphazardly stumbled my way into multiple dangerous or V.I.P. locations that I wasn’t supposed to be in.
The flexible straps formed nicely around my head and the immersive goggles laid comfortably on my face as I was transported into the unknown – but it all felt like the calm before the storm, like the first ten minutes of a Black Mirror episode.
The initial demo used images in a Photo app, showing me static memories of someone else’s past, which appeared incredibly vivid through Vision Pro’s lenses – I saw each blade of grass in a backyard photo of a kid’s birthday as if I were there.
In fact, of course, I was standing inside a building surrounded by dozens of people.
I (the author, above, center) was not expecting to enjoy the Vision Pro – and still think of its as a high-tech solution in search of a problem – but the experience was genuinely mesmerizing
It reminded me of the Netflix show’s season one entry ‘The Entire History of You.’
A married couple in this installment of the dystopian sci-fi, horror anthology series copes with their ability to replay any memory from their past, all logged thanks to a consumer-grade cybernetic implant linked to their senses.
The other 3D immersive experiences I participated in were ‘Alicia Keys: Rehearsal Room’ and a vertigo-inducing mountaineering experience watching pro-slackliner Faith Dickey tightrope over perilous fjords in Norway.
Both experiences surprised me by how real they felt.
Unlike some recent super-high resolution experiences, including the 48 frames-per-second fidelity of James Cameron’s Avatar sequel on IMAX, these looked and felt like really being there as opposed to watching a video game.
It was visually and emotionally impressive, and should become an interesting quick-fix for travel bugs especially.
When my Apple store Genius finished guiding me through the demo, he asked me to describe the experience for him in one word. Having just spent 20 minutes, toggled between a crater on the moon, an African rhino sanctuary and a yard from Alicia Keys, all I could say was ‘surreal’
Unlike some recent super-high resolution experiences, including the 48 frames-per-second fidelity of James Cameron’s Avatar sequel on IMAX, these looked and felt like really being there as opposed to watching a video game
But something about it also made me feel like a small dog getting picked up by their owner and whisked off to a new room in the house.
Even selecting these experiences myself gave off this tingling sensation you might get when you’re not in control of a situation, like doing a ‘trust fall’ exercise at some corporate retreat weekend.
At first, I felt silly pinching the air with my index finger and thumb while standing in the Apple Store, but remembered there with dozens of other people flailing around just like me.
The hand gestures let me zoom in and out of web pages, images and other content or expand or reduce each floating window within the Apple headset’s operating system, visionOS.
Apple CEO Tim Cook made a celebratory appearance during the Vision Pro’s launch at an Apple Store in New York, Friday, February 2, 2024. DailyMail.com tested the new headset at the SoHo Apple store further downtown
A small, but dedicated crowd of New Yorkers waited outside the SoHo Apple store for ‘first come, first come’ demos of Apple’s new Vision Pro
It did feel reminiscent of zooming in and out on an iPhone, but at times I felt like I was conducting an orchestra.
My demo guide kept reminding me that I could achieve these operations while leaving my arms in a relaxed pose at my side, but I could not help but constantly reach out ahead of me toward these virtual objects instead.
Others might disagree, but for how much the headset costs I wanted to experience the physical pleasure of Apple’s ‘spatial computing’ – to no longer feel chained to repetitive, inactive ‘desk job’ movements while working.
‘Spatial computing’ feels a little bit like the ultimate end-point of the ‘standing desk’ or other physical rebellions against office job monotony.
Don’t call it virtual reality! Apple calls it ‘spatial computing’ – and you feel that difference from the moment you strap into the Vision Pro’s immersive googles. You’ve traded your flat, desktop wallpaper for one of multiple, stunning 360-degree 3D landscapes – dubbed ‘Environments’
The term is a way to describe the intersection between the physical world around us and a virtual world fabricated by technology while enabling humans and machines to harmoniously manipulate objects and spaces.
Apple’s Vision Pro’s visionOS allowed me to adjust the level of immersive experience, fading in or out of my actual reality and the digital experience with something that looks like a crossfade ‘dissolve’ in a movie.
Often that dissolve expanded and retracted from each app’s window like a fuzzier version of the iris closing at the end of an old cartoon.
The last experience I was treated to during my in-store demo was an interactive experience called ‘Encounter Dinosaurs.’
The headset costs nearly $3,500 with the option for customers to purchase upgrades like storage and $149 prescription inserts. But many basic add-ons will easily run the average consumer an hundreds more – like $199 for a travel case and $499 to add Apple Care Plus
The game-like VR experience is a tie-in to the award-winning Apple Original docuseries from Jon Favreau and the producers of Planet Earth, Prehistoric Planet Immersive, a competent CGI prehistoric nature documentary.
My Vision Pro demo guide told me that if the mid-sized T-Rex adjacent Tyrannosaurid wagged its tale, that meant he liked me, and if it sniffed that meant he didn’t.
It sniffed. But eventually warmed up to me. The guide said I could reach out and pet the apex predator if I wanted, and so I tried.
You cannot pet the dinosaur. But it does get uncannily close.
One day, I am sure, the ultra-wealthy will be gently caressing a real, genetically engineered dinosaur as Jurassic Park | Macau rewards plus members, while the rest of us sit on our couches inspecting these reproductions on our Apple Vision Pro 6s.
While this was my first time using the Vision Pro, it was also the first time for the Apple Genius Bar staffer who guided me through the experience.
‘They keep some secrets from us too,’ he said.
After having spent 20 minutes toggling between Mount Hood in Oregon, a crater on the moon (where I watched a clip of the Mario movie in rich 3D), an African rhino sanctuary, and standing seemingly just one yard from Alicia Keys, the only word I could say was ‘surreal.’
The hand gestures let me zoom in and out of web pages, images and other content or expand or reduce each floating window within the headset’s operating system. It felt reminiscent of zooming in and out on iPhone, but at times felt like I was conducting an orchestra
I traded a flat, desktop computer for a variety of genuinely stunning, 360-degree, 3D landscapes dubbed ‘Environments.
The metaphorical iOS windows, whether browsing via Apple’s Safari or scrolling through the Photos app, were much more like a real window or portal that sits against the real world.
While the experience was genuinely mesmerizing, the Vision Pro (to me) is worth only three times Meta’s Oculus – not five times the price.
Apple’s Vision Pro also hopes to give people similarly immersive trips down memory lane, via their own Photo app rolls of personal pics, panoramas and videos.
The in-house examples were, of course, beautiful and endearing: parents celebrating a child’s birthday with a tastefully decorated cake and a bubble-blowing game in the backyard that you could almost pop yourself.
It took effort to imagine what the experience might look like in actual, everyday use.
For example, picture waiting for takeout food and re-living an eerily real, immersive, wrap-around video from your annoying cousin’s wedding taken with your iPhone 15 or the Vision Pro itself, which the company bills as ‘Apple’s first 3D camera.’
The device’s visionOS too required effort to imagine in the hands us mere mortals.
Picture a pixelated, Rothko-painting-sized screenshot of a SpongeBob meme hovering above the surf of a realistic 360-diorama of the misty Oregon coast as you watch a floating rectangle of TV off your friend’s parents’ Amazon Prime account.
To put it simply, I’m just not sure that the Vision Pro’s peaceful, contemplative ‘spatial computing’ interface will be a match against the messy realities of most our chaotic and un-curated human lives.
Now some basic specs: The headset costs nearly $3,500 with the option for customers to purchase upgrades like storage and $149 prescription inserts.
But many basic add-ons will easily run the average consumer an extra $600 to $800 or more: $199 for a travel case, another $199 for an extra battery, $499 to add Apple Care Plus protection, $99 for a second wrap-around ‘Solo Knit Band,’ etc.
As of today, the device is now on sale in stores, but pre-orders began on January 19, Apple has already sold about 200,000 units with ‘launch day home delivery’ selling out ‘within hours.’