The Vision Pro is a real high-end take on the AR/VR headset, Apple’s first foray into a potential post-iPhone world, and probably the flashiest way to set fire to $3,500 I’ve ever seen. Especially so if you’ve been enticed by Apple’s video packages that flaunt the device as some sort of all-day, every-day wearable that’ll be ideal for tackling your daily workload.
Because it won’t be that. It won’t be close to that. It won’t be some dreamy wonderland of floating windows where you crab-pinch your way through Excel spreadsheets, and drag Photoshop brush strokes with the glance of an eye. It’ll be a sweaty, living nightmare of eye fatigue, headaches, neck ache, myopia, dizziness, and nausea.
Pay no mind to those at Apple who want to lure you in with their sales pitch on how productive you’ll be. You won’t be. There are better working conditions at Foxconn than for those expecting to go about their day while wearing Apple’s headset. How do I know this? Because it’s not exclusive to Apple. It’s a problem all AR/VR headsets have to varying degrees, and Apple hasn't made any fantabulous claims indicating that they’re going to do any better.
So before you get lost in the fantasy of an augmented workality, pay close attention to the following things you can expect to enjoy if you strap yourself into a headset expecting to toil away hours of your life working for the man. Spoiler warning: It’s not good.
It’s vomit inducing
I don’t care how high resolution or responsive the Vision Pro’s dual screens are. You’re still staring up close at two flickering display panels that cause all sorts of mayhem with your eyeballs. The slightest interference, abnormality in frame count, or tracking glitch and your eyes are going to be racking up more mixed signals than a Morse code operator with tinnitus.
The eyes are a funny old thing — our windows to the world do a great job at processing the information seeping into them from the natural world. But when you start beaming inconsistent imagery into them through an array of blinking lights, then it’s goodbye breakfast burrito and hello to a migraine the size of Manhattan.
What a fantastic way to start the day! I bet you’re glad you gulped that double mocha espresso latte on the way into the office now. The increased blood flow must feel incredible as your cranium swells and throbs with each caffeinated beat of your heart.
Apple’s primary focus being on AR over VR will, no doubt, ease these sensations. Though, I highly doubt it will eliminate them entirely. You can sit in a near meditative state in most VR headsets without too much motion at all and your eyes will sense trickery and start to page your gag reflex in a panic.
It’s a one pound weight for your face
There’s no official word on how much the Vision Pro weighs, but those who’ve had the chance to take one for a spin suggest that it’s similar in heft to the Meta Quest 2. The Quest 2, which I own, weighs about a pound, most of which protrudes from your face and acts as a handle for gravity to wrap its mitts around and subtly pull at the muscles of your neck over time.
I’m not saying half a pound of weight is enough to simulate the gravity of Jupiter tugging at your trapezius, but it’s certainly noticeable. Relax your neck while wearing one and your head will fold faster than if your vertebrae were made of molten marshmallows. It’s not so bad short term, but an hour or two in and it’ll begin to work its magic.
If you haven’t already ditched the headset to top up the toilet water with your morning coffee you’ll no doubt find yourself getting accustomed to the burning twinge of a cramp, as it slowly begins to settle in.
That’s your life now. That’s the pain you’ll feel everyday in between your work-sanctioned retching breaks. A constant inflammation, and wear and tear on your synovial joints as you spin your head back and forth answering emails from June in logistics in the haunting visage of the Apple Mail app floating to your left, and generating pie charts in the looming intrusive specter that is PowerPoint to your right.
My advice? Get over all of that “freely turning your head” hype now, because by the time you get your golden handshake you’re going to have the neck mobility of Michael Keaton’s Batman.
It’s alienating to others
It used to be the case that if you wanted to be ostracized in the workforce you had to be entirely unlikable or come to work smelling like a hamster cage.
In the near future, it seems it’ll be easier than ever to alienate yourself from your colleagues as you don your mixed-reality helm and dive into the cyber-realm. What an obnoxious sight to behold. Can you believe that we as a society once shunned Google Glass for being “ugly.”
Just take a few moments to give “Google Glass” a good old fashioned Google and look at it. You wouldn’t bat an eye-lid at something like that nowadays. Conversely, look at Apple’s headset. It looks like you’ve just walked in on someone half way through a fitting for a stormtrooper helmet. Can you imagine having a conversation with somebody like that?
Imagine trying to talk to Greg from accounting while he sits there with a pair of dark shades on staring blankly in your general direction. You wouldn’t stand for that – it’s weird. Take off your glasses Greg – a little bit of human interaction goes a long way. At least let us know you’re mindlessly phasing in and out of mental existence while looking in our general direction.
Then imagine, in response, Greg’s glasses spawned little pictures of Greg’s eyeballs on them. Can you imagine anything more bizarre and irritating than having to look at that? I don’t even know Greg. I’ve just made him up, and I already want to punch him.
Nothing quite emits “go away heat” like an OLED panel displaying your own creepy eyeballs, and it’s a guarantee that your coworkers, family, and friends will appropriately react.
Its heat. My god, the heat
Some people say that augmented reality isn’t as immersive as virtual reality. Thankfully, Vision Pro owners can tune reality in and out with a dial, blending seamlessly between the two functions.
Of course, if you want the most immersive experience possible, any AR/VR headset owner will tell you that you want to customize your virtual location to that of a bayou – because after about 30 minutes of wearing one, half of your face will be encountering the humidity of a Louisiana swamp.
The problem with affixing a mask to your face is that it gets a little stuffy in there after a while. Strap a computer onto the front of said mask and you’ll quickly find things start to get a somewhat warm. Toasty, in fact. But don’t worry, let that glowing heat radiate upon you and enjoy the clammy hellscape of wearing a convection oven on your face as you exchange pleasantries with middle management over Microsoft Teams – leaving your puppeteered Vision Pro avatar grimacing uncomfortably as if trying to pull off its best “Hide the pain, Harold” impersonation.
And all this just describes what it’s like wearing a headset in the cooler months. I daren’t even describe what it’ll be like during the warmest months. A sauna for your face, a sweatbox strapped to your forehead. A roasting radiator dangling in front of your eyes, boiling your brains and baking in short sightedness. But look, Jan from HR just sent you a little Memoji, that’s cute.
We’re just not quite there when it comes to longer spans of time spent in either AR or VR. Even if you’re among the lucky ones who won’t suffer so harshly with motion sickness, the heat, weight, and potential long-term myopia-inducing damage done by the exposure to the screens inside the headset are unavoidable.
Apple’s Vision Pro will be much like other headsets in many regards – meaning great for short bursts. Don’t be sold on Apple’s marketing that this is some sort of high-tech visual aid to be worn throughout your day, because it’s quite the opposite. You won’t be spending hours in a virtual editing bay, or augmentedly adminning from 9-to-5 without paying the price for it.
Keep that in mind, and you might not just save yourself $3,500 from buying into Apple’s marketing hype but you might just save the use of your eyes too.
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Rael Hornby, potentially influenced by far too many LucasArts titles at an early age, once thought he’d grow up to be a mighty pirate. However, after several interventions with close friends and family members, you’re now much more likely to see his name attached to the bylines of tech articles. While not maintaining a double life as an aspiring writer by day and indie game dev by night, you’ll find him sat in a corner somewhere muttering to himself about microtransactions or hunting down promising indie games on Twitter.