CUPERTINO, Calif.—Going into the Vision Pro demo room at Apple’s WWDC conference, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The keynote presentation, which showed everything from desktop productivity apps to dinosaurs circling a Vision Pro user in space, seemed impressive, but augmented reality promotional videos often do.
They depict a seamless experience in which the elements of digital space merge with the user’s actual surroundings completely. When you actually put on the headset, though, you’ll often find that the promotional video was pure aspiration and reality still has some catching up to do. That was my experience with HoloLens, and it’s been that way with consumer AR devices like Nreal, too.
That was not my experience with Vision Pro. To be clear, it wasn’t perfect. But it’s the first time I’ve tried an AR demo and thought, “Yep, what they showed in the promo video was pretty much how it really works.”
(Quick note: Apple wouldn’t allow photos of me wearing the headset—or any other photos during the demo, for that matter. The photos in this article are of a headset put on display after Monday’s keynote.)
Getting set up
Before I was able to put on Vision Pro and try it, Apple gathered some information about my vision—specifically, that I was wearing contact lenses and that I’m nearsighted but not farsighted. This was to see if I needed corrective vision inserts, as glasses would not fit in the headset. Since I was wearing contacts, I didn’t.
An Apple rep also handed me an iPhone, which I used to scan my face with the TrueDepth sensor array. This was to create a virtual avatar, called a “persona,” for FaceTime calls (more on that shortly) and to pick the right modular components for the headset to make sure it fit my head.
When the headset goes on sale, you’ll be able to use your iPhone to do all this while ordering Vision Pro online. If you don’t have an iPhone, you’ll be able to go into the Apple Store, and they’ll do it for you there.
As for the vision part, glasses wearers sometimes find it uncomfortable to wear VR headsets because their glasses might not fit comfortably inside. Other headsets are made large enough to accommodate glasses, but then they’re unwieldy. In typical Apple fashion, the company wants Vision Pro users to throw money at the problem. Inserts matched to your glasses prescription will fit magnetically inside the headset, so you won’t have to wear glasses or contacts at all. It seems that this will be part of the buying process for Vision Pro.
Additionally, I was able to confirm that because these magnetic inserts are not permanent, you can swap them out for different people—so if you and your spouse both need corrective lenses and each want to use the headset, you can buy one headset and get different vision inserts. Apple hasn’t said how much this will cost, though.
The iPhone was also used to scan my ears with the same sensors for an optimal Spatial Audio configuration.
Once I was handed a headset to put on, Apple had equipped it with the right parts and data to tailor it to my specifications. After all that, the headset fit perfectly, and it took very little adjustment to get it to settle on my head. It was lightweight; I wore it for about half an hour and did not feel any physical fatigue.
The one stain on an otherwise comfortable fit was the fact that Vision Pro has a battery pack attached by a tether. Shaped and weighted like a thick iPhone, it slotted into my pocket easily, and the wire connecting the battery to the headset never got in my way—but I could still feel it there.