First Impressions With the Apple Vision Pro

Published February 15, 2024

As the co-founder of a medtech that utilizes mixed reality and artificial intelligence to improve surgery, I have been extremely passionate about head-mounted displays since the release of the Oculus Dev Kit 1 back in 2013. I would carry around my laptop and the clunky first-generation Oculus headset with its million wires and hard-to-use interface to countless ad agency meetings in hopes of selling them on immersive content. I would ultimately help National Geographic and AOL launch their virtual reality platforms. My partners and I would eventually evolve into augmented reality when we created Jeep’s award-winning AR car configurator and countless other mixed-reality brand campaigns. Finally, my partners and I would start a MedTech company to create our own mixed reality intellectual property that positively impacted the world by improving surgical workflows for hospitals across the world. So, you could say that in the past decade, I have had a lot of personal feelings about the evolution of head-mounted displays.

Despite some notable leaps and bounds in AR and VR headsets in the past decades, namely the Magic Leap platform, Microsoft Hololens 1 and 2, and Oculus/Meta’s various affordable and powerful offerings, mass consumer adoption has been an issue, so the hardware space has been slower to evolve than other industries. I always believed that once Apple entered the fray with a headset, the public would finally listen. Even at a hard-to-swallow price tag, Apple has managed to sell over 200,000 units in the past few weeks of its first generation headset. You better believe competitors and mixed reality enthusiasts alike are taking notice and ready to take the industry more seriously.

I was lucky to receive one of the early units on the first days of its release. I awaited the mail person with anxious delight until it was finally in my hands. After years of rumors and speculation around Apple’s super secret headset, the time had finally come.

At first glance, this headset is impeccably built. It feels solid in my hands, with a solid heft. The first question most of you are wondering is, yes, it is heavy on your head. I quickly discarded the cool-looking by ineffectual single headband with the optional dual strap that goes on top of and behind your head. With the dual strap, the weight is more evenly distributed on your head and MUCH easier to enjoy. Once in Apple Vision’s immersive world, the weight concerns melt away and are replaced with the splendor of the two (nearly) 4k screens.

I’ve never seen a head-mounted display with greater detail than the Apple Vision Pro – it’s a show-stopper. The displays are amazing and it’s impossible to see a single pixel. I feel compelled to watch every high-definition movie I can get my hands on. I’m not exaggerating that Avatar 2 in 3D will melt your mind, it’s so detailed. There are also some really cool 180-degree field-of-view 3D experiences, and Apple offers a series of short films in this unique format. It’s almost like what spherical VR was intended to be – with its immense detail, depth, and clarity. I barely miss looking behind me as I would in a true 360 spherical experience.

There’s an app called Amaze VR Concerts, which utilizes 8k 3D 180-degree films to bring you into the craziest music videos I have ever seen. Trust me, you’ve never experienced a music video like this.

My business partner also picked up his own Vision Pro, and he’s spending literally 8 hours a day in the office with his Vision Pro. One of the unique features is the ability to link to his Macbook Pro, and project his monitor in 4k to any size of his choosing, while still retaining the ability to use his keyboard and mouse with the help of a high-definition pass-through camera that allows him to see the real world around him. He finds the interface, displays, and ability to shut out distractions when he wants to, by dialing down the worldview around him into darkness a perfect recipe for productivity.

It’s worth also mentioning that Apple Vision Pro connects to your iCloud ecosystem, so I can receive and respond to my email, facetime, and texts/iMessages while wearing the headset. I think this is the first head-mounted display that has incorporated your communication tools so effectively into its ecosystem.

Downward-facing cameras to better track your hand movements

Speaking of the interface, it takes a little bit to get used to. Apple Vision Pro is configured to each user’s eyes and you actually look at where you want to click. You have to train yourself to look at something and make a clicking motion with your fingers to select an object or push a button. You can also use external keyboards and mice, as aforementioned, and push floating holographic keyboards with your fingertips if you so choose. After a while, it becomes second nature, though.

Being a first-generation product, I know Apple Vision Pro, as innovative as it is, has lots of room to grow and evolve. Remember how awesome the first-generation iPhone was at the time? That thing didn’t have GPS and couldn’t send photo texts. Look how far we’ve come!

Battery pack included with the Apple Vision Pro.

So where do I see Vision Pro improving in time? The two biggest items in my mind would be improving the weight and the battery life. The belt or pocket-carried battery can only power the headset for up to 2 hours, but you can plug it into AC power or another battery pack via USB-C connection. Next, the field of view doesn’t appear to be as wide as the Meta Quest 3, with the dark edges appearing in the corners of your vision, but it’s certainly not a deal breaker. Finally, I am excited to see more content come to the Vision Pro ecosystem. Currently, the entertainment options are fairly limited, outside of the aforementioned 180 VR content, high-definition 3D films, and a handful of immersive yoga, music, and educational apps. It’s rumored that powerhouse brands like Marvel and Disney have signed deals to create unique immersive ecosystems for Vision Pro around their IP.

Overall, Apple Vision Pro is a win on many levels. It’s sold a record number of units, it’s stepped up the game for headsets with its image quality and productivity tools. The world is taking notice and starting to realize that mixed-reality headsets are here to stay and they are only going to get better from here.

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Author: Douglas Sonders

Douglas is the co-founder and CMO of eXpanded eXistence, a medical tech company that utilizes artificial intelligence, machine learning, and mixed reality to improve efficiency and safety in operating rooms around the world. He also co-founded the award-winning production company 8112 Studios, which has produced hundreds of print, web, immersive, and broadcast ad campaigns for over 2 decades.
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