Seeing The (Virtual) World Through (Probably) Rose-Colored “Ski Goggles”. Clearly Not Prescription Lenses.

So while writers handed out leaflets at many physical stores run by the guy doing a global press conference yesterday, said guy was giddily announcing his vision for how he believes we will all eventually want to experience the real world.  Or, should I say, his version of “reality”.

As DEADLINE’s Dade Hayes reported, this year’s WWDC (Worldwide Developers’ Conference) featured CEO Tim Cook giddily channeling his personal WWJD–the J standing for Jobs, not the other one, of course–in announcing this eye-catching (literally) new product:

Apple has entered the virtual and augmented reality arena, announcing a long-anticipated new headset and platform called Vision Pro. CEO Tim Cook called VR and AR “profound technology” with “revolutionary” potential during the climactic minutes of the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference.

 Cook said the product followed in the illustrious lineage of the company’s Mac personal computer line and the iPhone. It is the first major new device launch by the company since the Apple Watch nine years ago.  The company said its “spatial computing” system relies on a fluid interface picking up on signals and movements from a user’s eyes and hands as well as Siri voice recognition.

Those inputs differ from those of many existing VR setups, which require the use of physical controllers along with headsets.  Apple’s entry is premised on a user experience in which real-life activity happening around the headset continues to be displayed to users wearing it, in combination with images pulled up from apps or games. Instead of the hermetic experience generally available on headsets today, the tech giant is positioning the Vision Pro as a best-of-all-worlds solution worthy of its eye-watering cost. “Blending digital content with the real world can unlock experiences like nothing we’ve ever seen,” Cook said.

Tech lovers were curious and agog.  As David Pierce of THE VERGE reported, at first glance, there seems to be something intriguing:

What does the Apple Vision Pro look like? Imagine a pair of ski goggles. The fanciest, most sci-fi ski goggles you’ve ever seen. There, you’ve got it.  Based on the little bit we’ve seen, it’s a dramatically better-looking device than any other AR or VR headset we’ve seen. The actual headset itself is quite thin, and most of the device’s heft and size is from the fabricky shield around it and the big, plushy band around the back. The goggles are slightly curved and should wrap around most faces fairly nicely. The whole thing is a nice silvery color, down to the cable coming out the left side and the iPhone-sized battery pack at the bottom that provides its two hours of battery life.

Sure sounds like fun.  Not that Cook let himself or anyone else be seen actually wearing the damn thing.  As someone who is anything but averse to technology, as evidenced by the last time I could afford an investment in wearable tech with this little gem from Ray Ban, and as someone who actually tested glasses which Sony and Microsoft attempted to foist upon people when they attempted to introduced 4KTV, an ill-fated video venture along with Discovery that quickly fizzled roughly a decade ago, I would sure hope what they portend to be a comfortable experience was actually something beta testers of all ages endorsed.  From those personally experienced and observed results I’m a bit dubious that two minutes, let alone two hours, with a Vision Pro wrapped around one’s head might be truly comfy.  To be sure, Pierce raised those questions himself:

The Vision Pro’s front-facing display was gently pulsing with light, which will be the indication that someone is in the headset but can’t see out; we weren’t able to see the other view, in which the wearer’s eyes are projected through that front screen. That view will either be innovative or horrifying. We’ll see.

The big question, of course, will be how it feels in use. With no overhead band, will it sit too heavily on your nose? Will the cable attached to your left temple, running down to the battery pack, be annoying? Will it get hot after a few minutes? And how will it look from the inside? Apple spent a long time talking about how you could use the Vision Pro to replace your television or computer monitor, but doing that well on your face requires a huge amount of processing power and display prowess. Even the 4K displays Apple announced might not be enough.

But in a manner reminiscent of the groundbreaking announcement that Cook’s mentor and predecessor made when unveiling the video IPod nearly two decades ago, an equally auspiced and more enduring CEO made a guest appearance to further tempt us, as Mint’s Prasid Banerjee speculated:

The 2023 edition of Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) had two key appearances — one from Disney CEO Bob Iger.  Iger said Disney Plus will be available on Apple’s new Vision Pro headset from the day of launch.

Apple emphasized on how the Vision Pro helps watch movies in a new ‘immersive’ manner multiple times during the product’s reveal, and Iger’s the one to supply those movies, with titles like Avengers in his bag.  Iger showed an episode of What If, where the viewer seems to wear a magical bracelet that gives them some sort of power within the show. Another demo seemed to put the viewer on an alien planet (likely Tatooine) as they watched an episode of a Star Wars spin-off. According to Iger, a headset of this kind will allow Disney to provide “deeply personal experiences” that weren’t possible earlier.

Again, that sure sounds pretty cool.

But then, reality reared its ugly, Vision Pro-less head, as Buzzfeed reported.  The entry point for this augmented world:

However, all that amazingness comes at a price…of $3,499!!! Considering the national median rent is around $1,967, this thing costs almost as much as two months rent. 

Of course, people had some hilarious reactions to the Vision Pro’s price tag. So, I decided to round up some funny tweets about it:

i am sorry but strapping a 3500 pair of VR goggles to your face in public is like taping a “Please Rob Me” sign to your chest

— rat king 🐀 (@MikeIsaac) June 5, 2023

i better see Beyoncé and Taylor Swift front row for a $3500 vr headset…

— ᴡɪʟʟ ★ (@beyXwill) June 5, 2023

For $3500 I will personally come to your house and move your couch closer to the TV

— Brian Merchant (@bcmerchant) June 5, 2023

For $3500 Tim Cook and Bob Iger better bring it to my house and whisper sweet nothings in my ears in Mickey Mouse’s voice

And these were the opinions of people who actually might want to be among the first adopters.

Cook announced several other updates and product launches yesterday, many of which even I am a customer and endorser of.  As Hayes reported:

While the headset stole the show, Apple revealed a wide range of offerings, from new laptops and AirPods to iOS and Watch updates. New iterations of Apple TV and iOS will enable users to FaceTime on a big screen and leave video voicemail messages.

But seven times the price point of the Google dud MetaQuest 3, even if the “reality” showcased by the potential of watching Jimmy Buckets literally dribbling right in front of you like a hologram is eminently more captivating than a Mark Zuckerberg avatar, my burning question to Cook is : “Really?”

Perhaps at the salary levels that he and Iger are at, a $3500 price point is nominal.  I assume much like the other products Apple has introduced there will be creative ways to lower that price, potentially with alliances for subscriptions to content or other Apple services.  Much like how Apple TV+ has been able to offer its shows for far less than Disney+, or any other +, for that matter.  Fascinating that Cook chose to showcase ESPN vs. MLS and THE MANDALORIAN vs.., say, FOR ALL MANKIND.

Should we potentially see this as a sign that perhaps the rumblings and speculation that Iger himself raised in his 2019 autobiography The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company”, as MACRUMORS’ Juli Clover reminded at that time:

Iger says that with each Disney success, there’s always a moment where he wishes Jobs was there, and further, he believes that if Jobs were still alive, the two companies may have merged.

With every success the company has had since Steve’s death, there’s always a moment in the midst of my excitement when I think, I wish Steve could be here for this. It’s impossible not to have the conversation with him in my head that I wish I could be having in real life. More than that, I believe that if Steve were still alive, we would have combined our companies, or at least discussed the possibility very seriously.

Perhaps the most upbeat news that arose from yesterday’s WWDC was this, again per Hayes:

In anticipation of the events onstage, Apple stock hit an all-time high, gaining 2% to just shy of $185 before sinking into the red as investors digested the day’s news. Shares ended the day off 1% but they have risen almost 40% in 2023 thus far, several times the increase of the benchmark S&P 500 and within sight of a $3 trillion valuation for the company.

Well, at least we can speculate who Cook thinks will be able to afford a Vision Pro.  People who hold more than a few shares of Apple stock.

It sure won’t be the folks who handed out leaflets at his stores yesterday.  Or me, sorry to say.  Mine was sold off a few years back, around the first of many times Apple executives didn’t hire me.

And I’m sure my net reaction to all of what went down yesterday won’t enhance my chances for any future alliance.  Because when I saw what an avatar looked like wearing these $3500 “ski goggles”, I couldn’t get out of my head this classic image from a show neither Apple nor Disney plusses have in their respective inventories:

I still have too many friends at Apple not to hope that this product isn’t quite as much of a turkey.  But having done way too much actual research in this area, the kind I’d like to think they at least attempted to do beyond the gilded world of a Cupertino campus, I have my doubts.

Tim, if I ever get to a point where I can seriously consider being a customer of Vision Pro, I won’t expect you to cook me a three-course dinner and personally serve it, as some other creative tweeters will.  And I won’t say “I told you so” to anyone who isn’t thinking that you may indeed be telegraphing that with your cash flow and valuation you and Iger might have an even bigger announcement for the next WWDC, one that I hope might be favorable for some of your current employees that I once worked with.

I’m too immersed in reality to think more openly and optimistically about who you really think is going to pony up two months’ rent for two hours of a partial escape from the world we are in.

Next time you do something like this, maybe give that a notch more thought.  Just my two cents.  Which I guess for now leaves me about $3498.98 short.

Until next time…





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