Apple has unveiled their Vision Pro goggles, meant to usher in "The era of spatial computing" by delivering technology to your eyeballs in a new way. However, unlike previous groundbreaking Apple products like the iPod, iPhone and iPad, the Vision Pro's use cases are not immediately obvious; that and the $3,500 price tag (and 2024 release date) suggest it's a long ways away from gaining the ubiquity of the company's previous hits.
So what should we look at here? I figure the Core77 reader will be interested in 1) The decisions Apple's designers made in order to realize the product, which we'll look at here, and 2) How this device will--or won't--fit into everyday people's lives, and what the social implications are. We'll do that latter one in a separate entry.
Apple has experience in the wearables space, starting with the original Apple Watch (2015) and AirPods (2016) up to the AirPods Pro (2019) and AirPods Max (2020). The Vision Pro most obviously carries over the design team's learnings from the Watch and the AirPods Max.
First off, the seamless appearance of those earlier wearables has had to be jettisoned for the Vision Pro, which thus bears the deconstructed design aesthetic we're seeing in everything from exoskeletons to scooters these days. The device is simply too complicated to wedge into a monolithic form. So Apple's designers have broken it into five separate parts: The display/computing component, the Audio Straps containing the speakers, the light seal required to make the display viable, the adjustable headband required to hold the thing onto your head, and the battery.
The display/computing component recalls the Apple Watch, with an aluminum housing, the laminated glass component—more sharply curved here, obviously—and even the digital crown on the top right portion of the unit for the physical UI.
When the goggles are donned, the default view is transparent, and you're essentially just wearing a pair of tinted ski goggles.
When you press the Digital Crown, it brings up Home View, overlaying a menu of apps in your field of vision. (These are accessed via gesture; at press time specifics on the gestures were light, but we expect to get a closer look at this in the coming days.) Turning the crown increases or decreases the "level of immersion while using Environments," a setting which replaces the view of the outside world with a background image.
Mirroring the Digital Crown, at the top left of the unit is a button for taking photos or starting video recording. (The forward-facing camera arrays are below your eyeballs and behind the glass.)
Inside the unit are a host of face-tracking sensors ringing the display lenses, which reportedly deliver 4K resolution to each eye.
And for those with poor vision, there's an option to have special Zeiss "optical inserts" customized with your prescription. These then magnetically attach to the display lenses.
Apple's previous experience with getting a material to provide a seal on human skin was with the earcups of the AirPods Max, and they've gone with the same woven material for the Light Seal. It is presumably stretched over a layer of foam, as the seal is pliable and conforms to one's face.
These hold the speakers, which Apple says deliver "rich Spatial Audio," close to your ears. It's not clear if these are user-removable, i.e. for cleaning or repair, but given Apple's preferences we'd guess they aren't.
While the AirPod Max's mesh headband has gravity working for it, the lateral force required to hold the Vision Pro snug required a more robust solution. Here they've gone with a "3D-knitted" headband that the designers reckon provides the right balance of snugness, cushioning and breathability. The dial, which looks like a larger version of the Digital Crown, is in fact a mechanical adjustment knob.
The designers decided that with current technology, the battery size required to provide Apple's 2-hours-of-power target was too big/heavy to wear on one's head. Thus it is meant to be carried in a pants pocket, and attaches to the side of the headset via a braided tether. The design language suggests the point of connection at the headband might be magnetic (at press time it was unclear), and there are two dots meant to visually indicate proper alignment.
Users can also opt to plug the battery into the wall during use (we assume with an additional, hopefully long, cord) for uninterrupted power.
Next, we'll look at what this rig is actually meant to do for the wearer.
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