Spatial Invaders?

Techies of Planet Earth, once again, it’s your world; we older farts just hope you’ll let us exist in it a while longer.

Based upon the amount of paid and free publicity that one could not avoid if they tried, that’s certainly the emotional narrative that Apple was hoping would be extracted as it at last introduced the Vision Pro, which to a sector of those who would like to consider themselves as first movers and visionaries was being treated as the Second Coming or, if they were actually a notch older than what appeared to be the median age of those who charged out to Apple stores around major metropolitan areas ready to drop a couple of months’ rent (or perhaps repurpose some of those trust fund dollars that had been previously earmarked for student loan repayments) to, as they put it, be a part of the future, the Third.

It was forty winters ago when this same company introduced the Macintosh, with a much smaller footprint of cultural influence and branded venues.  The Macintosh was indeed revolutionary, even for people who were early adopters Apple’s IIc or similar prehistoric desktops.  Graphics were crisper.  Processing times seemed lightning quick.  Compared to the IBM floppy disk models that I put up with at work, it indeed was the future.  And a now-iconic Super Bowl ad that used George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 as a backdrop for how personal computing was going to save the world from the fate of the fictional future Orwell portended.  And indeed, when founder Steve Jobs introduced the commercial during a keynote address the year before, he made it clear he personally saw IBM as Big Brother itself:

It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers initially welcoming IBM with open arms now fear an IBM dominated and controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?

I had one upscale friend at the time who had enough spare change to be one of the first buyers.  When he had it set up he invited me and a mutual female friend we both wished we could date (neither one of us had doctorates, so we were both non-contenders) to see it in action.  Yes, it was impressive.  I had never born witness to a more compelling game of solitaire.    Was it worth the price–$2,495 then; the equivalent of $6,695 in today’s dollars?  Ask him.  I was more than content at the time to play my card games with a far cheaper physical deck.

Well, today’s counterparts to our little troika were apparently more blown away by what they saw from the Vision Pro.  Many were empowered to write about it.  Take FORBES’ Cathy Heckl:

As someone who has been working in the XR industry for a long time, I know this day was years in the making and will be a catalyst for future experiences to come.  The demo wrapped with an immersive video montage that included hot air balloons in Turkey and above a soccer field somewhere in the African continent where kids played soccer in a field and rhinos hung out in the periphery. The video included footage of a woman petting a baby rhino and ended with a video of a grizzly bear in a river.  At that point, I started to cry—really didn’t think I would get emotional as I’ve worn many devices and had experienced the Apple Vision Pro before, but that moment made me reflect. Like hundreds of other professionals, I have believed in the promise of spatial computing and have worked in the XR industry for almost a decade.  This was a moment many of us have been working towards and had hoped for, and here it was. As I stared at that bear in the water, probably the closest I will ever want to be to a grizzly bear, it hit me, once again, how powerful this technology will be in changing not only human-computer interaction, but also human-to-human communications.

It all depends upon what her generation defines as human-to-human, which clearly is a far more liberal definition of such a phenomenon than how I would qualify it.  I currently live with someone who considers himself a tech fan himself, and he recently ponied up for Meta’s Quest 3 headset, and he’s downright evangelical about it.  I often come home to see sights like this; it’s a good thing I already knew what he looked like previously.  And as a far calmer Kimberly Gedeon of MASHABLE opined, he’s arguably justified to feel as strongly about his investment as those who were becoming Apple’s de facto publicists yesterday:

Apple Vision Pro has a starting price of nearly $4,000, and yet, some of its best selling points can be found on the $500 Meta Quest 3 headset.Of course, according to journalists who have reviewed the Vision Pro, its cutting-edge internals deliver crisp and clear visuals that the Quest 3 can’t compete with — as well as top-of-the-line eye tracking.  However, for just a fraction of the price, the Quest 3 has a slew of similarities that it shares with the Vision Pro that may surprise the average Joe.

One feature Apple pushes with the Vision Pro is its ability to mirror your MacBook display. Would you believe me if I told you that the Quest 3 can do the same?

— You may not be aware, but the Quest 3 does, indeed, support hand tracking. By pinching your fingers together, you can drag virtual windows inside the headset, moving them wherever you want in your simulated environment.

— Thanks to a new software update Meta rolled on Feb. 1, Quest 3, like Vision Pro, now officially supports 3D spatial video.  Users can now upload captured spatial 3D footage through Quest’s mobile app. Consequently, Meta will auto-convert your content and send it to your headset.

That sounds like it’s plenty, and my roommate would likely be the first to tell you that.  I have experienced a few demos of my own and my experiences were enjoyable, if not to the level of “blowaway” that folks like Hackl described.  As someone who has difficulties even navigating the apps on my Apple Watch, let alone financially incapable of even dreaming about any sort of spacial computer of my own at this point, I’m not exactly the target.

And all indications are that Apple’s strategy behind this was exactly aimed at results like this–find the sliver of a sector with the finances and capacity to act as evangelists, push software developers to provide more different content in the form of apps capable of interacting with spacial computers, drive demand and then, particularly as the holiday season draws closer, allow Apple to bring down the price point to a somewhat more palatable number.

And then that might mute even those who had things to complain about, such as BUSINESS INSIDER’s Jordan Hart:

Although the demo lasted less than 30 minutes, the headset was a bit heavy despite having an external battery pack. Toward the end of my session, I was adjusting the Vision Pro for some relief on my face.

Yet, of course, in the same breadth, Hart couldn’t help but rain her own version of emotional gratitude on Apple:

I was most blown away by the Apple Vision Pro’s potential to elevate my weekend TV show binges. Its immersive mode — controlled by the exterior crown dial — transported me to a dark lakefront to watch “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” trailer. (I)t’s exciting to think about hanging out in bed with my favorite show playing on the device. It’s the kind of future Apple is banking on.

A future where human interaction is secondary to the kind of priorities that Hart’s socially distanced, text-obsessed, theatre and restaurant-shy generations consider worthy of four-figure investments, not to mention all the lattes, sushis and vegan pastas from DoorDash to provide fuel for those binges.

Perhaps in hindsight the Big Brother world that Apple would like to believe they began to save us from 40 years ago might have had some better ideas?

But I suppose if I am fortunate enough to get to a point where the opportunity, need and price point are more in line, I’ll eventually reconsider.  I did spring for an IPad and a Watch when I could, at the urgence of someone I respect who said “If you’re going to be taken seriously as someone who wants to work, you need to upgrade your game”.   And I do hope that technology helps Vision Pro and its brethren evolve much like its phones and tablets have where size and weight are less significant.  I do hate having heavy weights on my face that I can’t interact with in certain ways, and that doesn’t involve pinching.

Sure, Joey, you know what I mean.

Until next time…

1 thought on “Spatial Invaders?”

  1. Steve:

    The Leblanguage piece “Spatial Invaders?” Is spot on! Love your captivating exploration of the technological wanna be marvel that is Apple’s Vision Pro, juxtaposed against the backdrop of the company’s historical innovations and societal shifts in technology adoption. GREAT use of personal anecdotes, industry insights, and a critical perspective on the evolving relationship between humans and technology. Your storytelling illuminates the impact of spatial computing on personal and professional spheres, while also pondering the broader implications of such advancements on human interaction and societal norms.

    In a tone that balances nostalgia with a keen eye on the future, your article not only reviews the Vision Pro but also delves into the cultural and emotional resonance of technological progress. Your artice is a must-read for anyone intrigued by the intersection of technology, culture, and human experience.

    Reply

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