Featured Article

First impressions: Yes, Apple Vision Pro works and yes, it’s good

Comment

person wearing AR headset
Image Credits: Apple

After a roughly 30-minute demo that ran through the major features that are yet ready to test, I came away convinced that Apple has delivered nothing less than a genuine leapfrog in capability and execution of XR — or mixed reality — with its new Apple Vision Pro

To be super clear, I’m not saying it delivers on all promises, is a genuinely new paradigm in computing or any other high-powered claim that Apple hopes to deliver on once it ships. I will need a lot more time with the device than a guided demo. 

But, I’ve used essentially every major VR headset and AR device since 2013’s Oculus DK1 right up through the latest generations of Quest and Vive headsets. I’ve tried all of the experiences and stabs at making fetch happen when it comes to XR. I’ve been awed and re-awed as developers of the hardware and software of those devices and their marquee apps have continued to chew away at the “conundrum of the killer app” — trying to find something that would get real purchase with the broader public. 

Image Credits: Apple

There are some genuine social, narrative or gaming successes like Gorilla Tag, VRChat or Cosmonius. I’ve also been moved by first-person experiences by Sundance filmmakers highlighting the human (or animal) condition. 

But none of them had the advantages that Apple brings to the table with Apple Vision Pro. Namely, 5,000 patents filed over the past few years and an enormous base of talent and capital to work with. Every bit of this thing shows Apple-level ambition. I don’t know whether it will be the “next computing mode,” but you can see the conviction behind each of the choices made here. No corners cut. Full-tilt engineering on display.

The hardware is good — very good — with 24 million pixels across the two panels, orders of magnitude more than any headsets most consumers have come into contact with. The optics are better, the headband is comfortable and quickly adjustable and there is a top strap for weight relief. Apple says it is still working on which light seal (the cloth shroud) options to ship with it when it releases officially, but the default one was comfortable for me. They aim to ship them with varying sizes and shapes to fit different faces. The power connector has a great little design, as well, that interconnects using internal pin-type power linkages with an external twist lock. 

Image Credits: Apple

There is also a magnetic solution for some (but not all) optical adjustments people with differences in vision may need. The onboarding experience features an automatic eye-relief calibration matching the lenses to the center of your eyes. No manual wheels adjusting that here.

The main frame and glass piece look fine, though it’s worth mentioning that they are very substantial in size. Not heavy, per se, but definitely present. 

If you have experience with VR at all then you know that the two big barriers most people hit are either latency-driven nausea or the isolation that long sessions wearing something over your eyes can deliver. 

Apple has mitigated both of those head on. The R1 chip that sits alongside the M2 chip has a system-wide polling rate of 12ms, and I noticed no judder or framedrops. There was a slight motion blur effect used in the passthrough mode but it wasn’t distracting. The windows themselves rendered crisply and moved around snappily. 

Of course, Apple was able to mitigate those issues due to a lot of completely new and original hardware. Everywhere you look here there’s a new idea, a new technology or a new implementation. All of that new comes at a price: $3,500 is on the high end of expectations and firmly places the device in the power user category for early adopters.

Image Credits: Apple

Here’s what Apple got right that other headsets just couldn’t nail down:

The eye tracking and gesture control is near perfect. The hand gestures are picked up anywhere around the headset. That includes on your lap or low and away resting on a chair or couch. Many other hand-tracking interfaces force you to keep your hands up in front of you, which is tiring. Apple has high-resolution cameras dedicated to the bottom of the device just to keep track of your hands. Similarly, an eye-tracking array inside means that, after calibration, nearly everything you look at is precisely highlighted. A simple low-effort tap of your fingers and boom, it works. 

Passthrough is a major key. Having a real-time 4K view of the world around you that includes any humans in your personal space is so important for long-session VR or AR wear. There is a deep animal brain thing in most humans that makes us really, really uncomfortable if we can’t see our surroundings for a length of time. Eliminating that worry by passing through an image should improve the chance of long use times. There’s also a clever “breakthrough” mechanism that automatically passes a person who comes near you through your content, alerting you to the fact that they’re approaching. The eyes on the outside, which change appearance depending on what you’re doing, also provide a nice context cue for those outside. 

The resolution means that text is actually readable. Apple’s positioning of this as a full-on computing device only makes sense if you can actually read text in it. All of the previous iterations of “virtual desktop” setups have relied on panels and lenses that present too blurry a view to reliably read fine text at length. In many cases it literally hurt to do so. Not with the Apple Vision Pro — text is super crisp and legible at all sizes and at far “distances” within your space. 

Image Credits: Apple

There were a handful of really surprising moments from my short time with the headset, as well. Aside from the sharpness of the display and the snappy responsiveness of the interface, the entire suite of samples oozed attention to detail. 

The Personas Play. I was HIGHLY doubtful that Apple could pull off a workable digital avatar based off of just a scan of your face using the Vision Pro headset itself. Doubt crushed. I’d say that if you’re measuring the digital version of you that it creates to be your avatar in FaceTime calls and other areas, it has a solid set of toes on the other side of the uncanny valley. It’s not totally perfect, but they got skin tension and muscle work right, the expressions they have you make are used to interpolate out a full range of facial contortions using machine learning models, and the brief interactions I had with a live person on a call (and it was live, I checked by asking off-script stuff) did not feel creepy or odd. It worked. 

It’s crisp. I’m sort of stating this again but, really, it’s crisp as hell. Running right up to demos like the 3D dinosaur you got right down to the texture level and beyond. 

3D Movies are actually good in it. Jim Cameron probably had a moment when he saw “Avatar: Way of Water” on the Apple Vision Pro. This thing was absolutely born to make the 3D format sing — and it can display them pretty much right away, so there’s going to be a decent library of shot-on-3D movies that will bring new life to them all. The 3D photos and videos you can take with Apple Vision Pro directly also look super great, but I wasn’t able to test capturing any myself so I don’t know how that will feel yet. Awkward? Hard to say. 

The setup is smooth and simple. A couple of minutes and you’re good to go. Very Apple.

Yes, it does look that good. The output of the interface and the various apps are so good that Apple just used them directly off of the device in its keynote. The interface is bright and bold and feels present because of the way it interacts with other windows, casts shadows on the ground and reacts to lighting conditions.

Overall, I’m hesitant to make any broad claims about whether Apple Vision Pro is going to fulfill Apple’s claims about the onset of spatial computing. I’ve had far too little time with it and it’s not even completed — Apple is still working on things like the light shroud and definitely on many software aspects. 

It is, however, really, really well done. The platonic ideal of an XR headset. Now, we wait to see what developers and Apple accomplish over the next few months and how the public reacts.

Read more about WWDC 2023 on TechCrunch

More TechCrunch

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

18 hours ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

3 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

3 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies