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From: Jon Koplik2/14/2024 12:35:23 AM
   of 32563
 
tidbits from NYT / Vision Pro Review: Apple’s First Headset Lacks Polish and Purpose ..................

nytimes.com

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archive.ph

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NYT

TECH FIX

Updated Feb. 12, 2024

Vision Pro Review: Apple’s First Headset Lacks Polish and Purpose

Billed as the future of computing, the $3,500 goggles can’t replace a laptop for work. At times, wearing them also made our columnist feel nauseated.

By Brian X. Chen

Brian X. Chen, the personal tech columnist for The New York Times, has worn more than a dozen tech headsets over 12 years.

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Apple declined to provide an early review unit to The New York Times, so I bought a Vision Pro on Friday. (It costs much more than $3,500 with the add-ons that many people will want, including a $200 carrying case, $180 AirPods and $150 prescription lens inserts.) After using the headset for about five days, I’m unconvinced that people will get much value from it.

The device feels less polished than past first-generation Apple products I’ve used. It’s not better for doing work than a computer, and the games I’ve tried so far aren’t fun, which makes it difficult to recommend. An important feature ­ the ability to place video calls with a human-like digital avatar that resembles the wearer -- terrified children during a family FaceTime call.

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... it’s slightly heavier than Meta’s cheaper Quest headsets, and it plugs into an external battery pack that lasts only two hours.

The ski-goggle aesthetic of the Apple product looks better than the bulky plastic headset visors of the past. But the videos posted by early adopters walking around outside with the headset -- men I call Vision Bros -- confirm that people still look ridiculous wearing tech goggles, even when they are designed by Apple.

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I preferred to see into physical reality most of the time, but I still felt isolated. The headset cuts off part of your periphery, creating a binoculars-like effect. I confess that it was hard at times to remember to walk my dogs because I didn’t see them or hear their whining, and in another session, I tripped over a stool. An Apple spokeswoman referred to the Vision Pro’s safety guidelines, which advise users to clear away obstacles.

When using the headset for work, you can surround yourself with multiple floating apps ­ your spreadsheet can be in the center, a notes app to your right and a browser to your left, for example. It’s the 3-D version of juggling windows on a computer screen. As neat as that sounds, pinching floating screens doesn’t make working more efficient because you need to keep twisting your head to see them.

I could tolerate juggling a notes app, a browser and the Microsoft Word app for no longer than 15 minutes before feeling nauseated.

The least joyful part of the Vision Pro is typing with its floating keyboard, which requires poking one key at a time
. I had planned to write this review with the headset before realizing I wouldn’t make my deadline.

There’s an option to connect a physical keyboard, but at that point I’d rather use a laptop that doesn’t add weight to my face.

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Next I tried the headset in the kitchen, loading a pizza recipe in the web browser while I grabbed and measured ingredients. Moving around while looking through the camera, I became nauseated again and had to remove the headset.

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Video calling is now an essential part of office life, and here the Vision Pro is especially inferior to a laptop with a camera. The headset uses its cameras to snap photos of your face that are stitched into a 3-D avatar called a Persona, which Apple has labeled a “beta” feature because it is unfinished.

Personas are so cringe that people will be embarrassed to use these in a work call. The Vision Pro produced an unflattering portrait of me with no cheekbones and blurred ears. In a FaceTime call with my in-laws, they said the blur conjured 1980s studio portrait vibes.

One of my nieces, a 3-year-old, turned around and walked away at the sight of virtual Uncle Brian. The other, a 7-year-old, hid behind her father, whispering in his ear, “He looks fake.”

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The headset’s two-hour battery life is not long enough to last through most feature-length movies, but in my experience, this turned out to be moot because I couldn’t watch movies for more than 20 to 30 minutes before needing to rest my neck and eyes from the heavy headset.

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Not many games have been made for the headset yet. I tried some new Vision Pro games such as Blackbox, which involves moving around a 3-D environment to pop bubbles and solve puzzles. It looked nice, but after the novelty wore off, my interest fizzled out. It’s tough to recommend the Vision Pro for virtual-reality gaming when Meta’s $250 Quest 2 and $500 Quest 3 headsets have a deeper library of games.

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The Vision Pro is the start of something -- of what, exactly, I’m not sure.

But the point of a product review is to evaluate the here and now. In its current state, the Vision Pro is an impressive but incomplete first-generation product with problems and big trade-offs. Other than being a fancy personal TV, it lacks purpose.

Most striking to me about the Vision Pro is, for such an expensive computer, how difficult it is to share the headset with others. There’s a guest mode, but there’s no ability to create profiles for different family members to load their own apps and videos.

So it’s a computer for people to use alone, arriving at a time when we are seeking to reconnect after years of masked solitude. That may be the Vision Pro’s biggest blind spot.

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