The creation and future of the Vision Pro, told by Vanity Fair

In the run-up to the Vision Pro market launch, Nick Bilton from Vanity Fair was able to try out the device several times and use it at home. He also visited Tim Cook at Apple Park. The report, which emerged from the various experiences, shows how and for how long the spatial computer has been worked on, which can now be purchased and used in the USA. In addition, its future is outlined and possible mass use is discussed. Below I have summarized the most important content translated for you; You can read the long article itself in English at Vanity Fair.

Vanity Fair didn't just visit Tim Cook at Apple Park. Journalist Nick Bilton had the Vision Pro demonstrated several times before he was able to test the VR headset at home and write his article with it. The technology is revolutionary, but the conclusion is bleak. Photo: Norman Jean Roy / Vanity Fair
Vanity Fair didn't just visit Tim Cook at Apple Park. Journalist Nick Bilton had the Vision Pro demonstrated several times before he was able to test the VR headset at home and write his article with it. The technology is revolutionary, but the conclusion is bleak. Photo: Norman Jean Roy / Vanity Fair

A monstrous device in a secret building

At the beginning of the article an incident is retold that happened six, seven, maybe eight years ago. At least before Apple Park was built. At that time, Tim Cook went to an inconspicuous building on the edge of the Infinite Loop, Apple's old headquarters. The windows of this building were blacked out and access was only granted to authorized personnel, through several doors that closed behind and in front of you. This is said to be the magical place where the iPod and iPhone were developed.

Tim Cook walks into the industrial design team, which is working on something that almost no one else at Apple knows exists. He sits down and a “monster” of technical equipment is set up in front of his eyes, an enormous “apparatus”. Tim Cook looks at several layered displays, hears the device starting up, its fans roaring. And then he finds himself on the moon with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. And at the same time he is in the secret room, he can see the design team and his own hands - and he knows: this is the future.

From the monster device to the Matrix ski goggles

Unfortunately, the exact career and the intermediate steps and prototypes developed over the years are not described in the Vanity Fair article. Instead, we move straight on to the finished product. The various directors, journalists and other people who have already tried out the Vision Pro and who Nick Bilton asked about their impression of it all gave glowing praise. And in summary he then describes that the monster device from back then now looks like you would want to ski in the Matrix. Then it's time for the practical test.

After ten years of VR there is no interest left. Or is it?

The beginning of the section about our own experiences with the Apple Vision Pro is rather pessimistic. Nick Bilton reports that he tried out the Oculus VR headset for the first time in 2013. This was followed by experiences with its further developments and headsets from other companies - Quest, Quest 2, Quest 3, Vive, Rift, etc. None of them could convince him and in each of them he not only felt claustrophobic, but also cut off from his real environment. He didn't use any of the headsets more than two or three times.

He then reports on the first Vision Pro test, which took place for him in August 2023. He approached the matter without interest or expectations and, after putting on Apple's VR glasses for the first time, felt the same as with the other headsets. But then he could see the space around him, as well as his own hands and the rest of his body. The visionOS operating system showed up, he could operate apps with his hands, watch spatial videos and so on. And now he also allows himself to be praised: “It was as far from a VR headset as a Schwinn children's bike is from a Gulfstream G800 private jet.”

The second test with a real Matrix moment

Nick Bilton has neither the keynote with the presentation of the Vision Pro watched other presentations, reviews or similar material about Apple's VR headset. This also explains his confusion in the second test, which took place a few months after the first. He put the Vision Pro on again and then saw himself sitting in a room with two Apple employees. There was a cup of tea in front of him, which he took a sip from. One of his fingers flickered.

And only then did he realize that the Vision Pro does not show real AR (augmented reality), i.e. the real world is projected through glass with the digital content on top. But camera recordings that are displayed on screens combined with visionOS. When asked, the two Apple employees confirmed that he was seeing camera information processed “in real time.” Due to the high resolution (more than 4K per eye, 23 million pixels in total), which he has never seen in a VR headset, he had not noticed this before.

James Cameron says this is revolutionary

One of the directors interviewed for the Vanity Fair article about the Vision Pro is James Cameron. He said about the high resolution of the displays and the real-time calculation of the camera recordings and VR content: “I think it's not evolutionary; it is revolutionary. And I say that as someone who has been working with VR for 18 years." In the truest sense of the word, it is the large image resolution (and of course the fast response of the R1 and M2 chip for image projection) that in his eyes " solves every problem.”

From the aquarium to diving goggles to sunglasses

While looking at a disassembled Apple Vision Pro together, Nick Bilton was told by Richard Howarth, Apple's vice president of industrial design, that where the M2 sits, where the R1 sits, there's next to no latency, 5.000 patents here, seven Years of development there... But that the device would be state-of-the-art, even if it was basically still far too big and far too heavy. Richard Howarth is described as wondering whether Steve Jobs would have thrown the device into the water and then said: “Do you see the air bubbles? Make it smaller!” – because that’s what happened when the iPod was developed.

The ski goggle look and the weight of up to 650 g (plus 353 g for the external battery) are the main reasons why the Vision Pro will not become a mass product any time soon. Carolina Cruz-Neira, a virtual reality pioneer, said: “I've been working in VR for over 30 years, and until we get the goggles off the face and make them less noticeable, this technology won't take off. The size and weight of these goggles will not be resolved within a year.” 

So it will still be a while before you can get real AR glasses in a compact format from Apple. But analysts said that's where the journey is headed, to a vision model in the design of sunglasses. And only then can one expect that not only the specialist press and incorrigible Apple fans will buy the devices, but that they can replace the iPhone and / or the Mac among a large target group.

Apple and its devices: drug dealers instead of a rehab clinic?

Vanity Fair's Nick Bilton has been using the Vision Pro for several weeks now, far longer than any previous VR headset combined. He used it to consume films and series, watch spatial videos, play video games, write the article for the magazine and much more. In addition to a few small problems, he was mostly enthusiastic.

The biggest problem he recognized is neither the size or weight of the device, nor the lack of major apps (Netflix, YouTube, etc.) or the price, which is still far too high (starting at $3.499). The biggest problem is the desire to use the device and the fact that iPhone, laptop, TV and even the real world feel flat and boring without the Vision Pro.

Apple promises more creativity, productivity, mindfulness and problem solving with its devices and services. But basically these devices are also addictive, they let people scroll through social media and they are necessary for work. Just as everyone now has a smartphone and uses it all the time, optimized “vision” glasses could one day provide everyone with dopamine boosts using augmented reality.

A Silicon Valley analyst said: “Apple is looking more and more like a tech fentanyl dealer posing as a rehab provider.” Nick Bilton concludes the article with the prospect that we will all be subject to the magic of vision. product line will expire, regardless of whether we happily run towards it or are dragged into it kicking and protesting. An interesting conclusion that we may have to return to in a few years.

My tips & tricks about technology & Apple

Did you like the article and did the instructions on the blog help you? Then I would be happy if you the blog via a Steady Membership would support.

Post a comment

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked with * marked

In the Sir Apfelot Blog you will find advice, instructions and reviews on Apple products such as the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods, iMac, Mac Pro, Mac Mini and Mac Studio.