Refining the Future: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of the Apple Vision Pro and Spatial Computing


Austin Mace

Austin Mace
Emerging Tech
Spatial Computing

Refining the Future: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of the Apple Vision Pro and Spatial Computing

Embracing the New Frontier 

I’ve had the opportunity to work with the Vision Pro almost daily since its launch earlier this month. My ambition is to best understand how Spatial Computing will start to influence and impact our daily lives for years to come. And while the Vision Pro isn’t perfect, there are interactions and use cases that have simply left me awestruck. 

While I am optimistic about the opportunity for how the era of Spatial Computing will revolutionize most aspects of how we interface with technology well into the future, today it still comes with its fair share of shortcomings. In addition, there are undoubtedly a handful of longer-term implications that must be grappled with and understood as this technology finds its footing in the mainstream. 

To get a better understanding of how Spatial Computing will have an impact in the short, mid and long-term, I’ve broken my thoughts up into the facets of how the future of Spatial will unfold. Let’s take a look at the Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of the Apple Vision Pro. 

The Good: Unleashing Potential 

The Promise of AR/VR, Finally Delivered: As someone who has been working in the immersive space since the introduction of Oculus’s first development kit to the launch of the Microsoft Hololens, comparatively the Apple Vision Pro is hands-down the most incredible and highest fidelity way I’ve experienced spatial technology to date. While nothing is entirely new, Apple has a knack for successfully combining and advancing a broad array of disparate technologies from across the industry into one incredibly intuitive, easy-to-use, premium device. 

There is a clear demarcation of a new inflection point in the technology that finally delivers on the promise of what the medium can be. It seeds developers with an amazingly capable device, yet we still don’t fully comprehend its possibilities and limits. This leaves plenty of room for innovation and disruption, sure to drive the industry forward and strengthen competition from competitors like Meta, Google and Samsung. 

Redefining Productivity: The “Killer App” at launch may very well be how well the device integrates as a peripheral device for getting work done. Besides being a fully-functional standalone computer, it also mirrors the desktop of your Mac computer as a virtual display that can be positioned and reconfigured anywhere. It’s completely untethered me from my desk to get work done, as now I can bring a virtual large screen wherever I go and still be as productive as I would in my home office. I’ve also started to use it for what I would normally be reaching for my iPad for as a companion work device, which may end up being what consumers compare the Vision Pro to as future iterations are released.  

Elevating Entertainment: While developers are catching up on creating more spatial and dimensional native apps that fully utilize what dynamic 3D content unlocks, it’s hard not to recognize how stunning flat 2D content looks on the Vision Pro’s dual displays that deliver more pixels than a 4K TV. 

I recently completed a home theater build as a winter weekend project, and it’s hard to put into words just how much better the same content looks in the Vision Pro compared to even the top-of-the-line OLED TVs out there. The video is incredibly sharp, and stereoscopic 3D movies are simply breathtaking. It almost makes 2D content in the real world look like black and white TV, making watching movies on the device one of my favorite features, especially while traveling. 

The Bad: Challenges to Overcome 

Design Quirks: While the Vision Pro is one of the most comfortable headsets made to date, the tradeoff for packing in all of this new technology meant a slightly heavier than average headset. While the included Dual Loop Band improves comfort for longer sessions, this can be straining during extended use. Expect to see third-party accessory companies attempt to solve this problem with alternative head strap options. 

The other aspect that has received a lot of attention is the design decision to use an external battery pack to drive the headset. While some have complained about this choice, I think the tradeoff for lightening the overall weight of the headset was well worth it. The included external battery is about the same size and weight as a cell phone, and can easily fit in your pocket. While in use, it’s barely noticeable. 

Personas- Deep in the Uncanny Valley: When you hop on a video conference call while wearing the headset, instead of seeing a real-life video of yourself, others will see a 3D representation that was created during the setup of the device. While the technology behind the Persona system is cutting-edge (and technically in beta), it still leaves much to be desired. The current iteration of the Persona system has rendered the feature almost worthless in professional settings because, let’s face it, no one wants to see an uncanny valley version of you especially when trying to be productive. While Apple has shown promising research geared towards improving the fidelity of the capture system I’ve opted to take most of my calls from within the headset with the camera off until they make the system markedly better than it is currently at launch. 

Cost Barrier: One of the biggest and most talked about factors holding the Vision Pro back at this moment is the cost of the device. As the “Pro” name denotes, this device is very much positioned towards early adopters, developers and professional users. When I told family members of the price, they balked and couldn’t believe it.  While the device seamlessly integrates into my work and personal life by providing a lot of utility, it’s hard for me to recommend it to friends and family until subsequent versions come down in price. 

The Ugly: Potential Societal Impacts

Misuse and Social Norms: Lots of cringe-inducing posts are out there on social media of early adopters misusing the device in a variety of ways not intended. From being dumb to downright dangerous, undoubtedly people will find ways to use the technology that defy public norms and common sense. As spatial computing devices enter the public sphere with increased frequency, it will be interesting to see what establishes as a new norm versus what stays as a taboo. 

Isolation Risks: As highlighted in Casey Neistat’s viral video wearing the Vision Pro riding the subway and in Times Square, spatial devices have the ability to completely isolate and disconnect you from the real world and what’s happening around you. It raises the question of what it means to be truly present and in the moment and being somewhere. Think about how much the cell phone has already renegotiated how we divide our attention when in the presence of others. 

Now consider the potential for how much more divided our attention will be when using a spatial device in public. While it may sound somewhat far-fetched now, just as with cell phones this will be something that will vary from person to person on what their own boundaries are with using spatial technology.

Hyper Reality. As spatial computing inevitably makes its way out of our homes and offices and into the rest of the world, it begs the question of if we can be too connected to digital realms. The provocative concept film Hyper Reality has been a benchmark reference point of what can happen if spatial devices oversaturate our experiences and interactions with media as our physical and digital worlds become more intertwined. 

Looking Ahead: Navigating The Spatial Era 

The Apple Vision Pro exemplifies the dawn of Spatial Computing, a field brimming with promise and challenges. This device not only showcases the potential of augmented and virtual reality but also serves as a catalyst for future innovation. Its integration into our daily lives as a productivity enhancer and entertainment revolutionizer underscores its transformative impact.

Yet, the path forward is dotted with obstacles that require attention and action. By addressing these challenges and promoting responsible use, we can ensure that Spatial Computing evolves in a way that benefits society as a whole.

The journey into the Spatial era is complex, but the promise it holds is undeniable. As we venture further, the fusion of our physical and digital worlds offers exciting possibilities, heralding a future where technology amplifies our reality, enriching our lives in ways we've yet to fully comprehend.