Why walking around in public with Vision Pro makes no sense


If you’ve spent any time in the tech-enthusiast corners of Instagram of TikTok over the past few weeks, you’ve seen the videos: so-called tech bros strolling through public spaces with confidence, donning Apple’s $3,500 Vision Pro headset on their faces while gesturing into the air.

Dive into the comments on those videos and you’ll see a consistent ratio: about 20 percent of the commenters herald this as the future, and the other 80 mock it with vehement derision. “I’ve never had as much desire to disconnect from reality as this guy does,” one reads.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going all-in on trying the Vision Pro in all sorts of situations to see which ones it suits. Last week, I talked about replacing a home theater system with it—at least when traveling away from home. Today, I’m going over my experience trying to find a use for it out on the streets of Chicago.

I’m setting out to answer a few questions here: Does it feel weird wearing it in public spaces? Will people judge you or react negatively when you wear it—and if so, will that become less common over time? Does it truly disconnect you from reality, and has Apple succeeded in solving virtual reality’s isolationist tendencies? Does it provide enough value to be worth wearing?

As it turns out, all these questions are closely related.

The potential of AR in the wild

I was excited about the Vision Pro in the lead-up to its launch. I was impressed by the demo I saw at WWDC 2023, even though I was aware that it was offered in an ideal setting: a private, well-lit room with lots of space to move around.

Part of my excitement was about things I didn’t see in that demo but that I’ve seen augmented reality developers explore in smartphone augmented reality (AR) and niche platforms like HoloLens and Xreal. Some smart folks have already produced a wide variety of neat tech demos showing what you can do with a good consumer AR headset, and many of the most exciting ideas work outside the home or office.

I’ve seen demonstrations of real-time directions provided with markers along the street while you walk around town, virtual assistant avatars guiding you through the airport, menus and Yelp reviews overlaid on the doors of every restaurant on a city strip, public art projects pieced together by multiple participants who each get to add an element to a virtual statue, and much more.

Of course, all those ideas—and most others for AR—make a lot more sense for unintrusive glasses than they do for something that is essentially a VR headset with passthrough. Nonetheless, I was hoping to get a glimpse at that eventuality with the Vision Pro.


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