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Having had the opportunity to use a similar high-end mixed reality headset, and to consider some of the use cases of that device, I think I’m now a step closer to being able to at least partially answer that question …
What is Vision Pro for?
So far, I think I’ve come up with nine ideas which seem feasible – plus a tenth one which would be some years down the road yet.
Let’s kick off with something very much inspired by my XR-3 experience …
A supplementary device for enterprise
My Varjo XR-3 experience convinced me that the company is right not to be too concerned about Apple making significant inroads into the high-end enterprise market.
If you’re an automotive designer working for a major car company, and your work is performed in the CAD software SolidWorks, for example, you’re not going to want to switch to a whole new app just to be able to use Vision Pro.
There are a whole bunch of professional and industrial apps in common use in multinational corporations, and none of their users are going to be switching apps anytime soon.
Similarly, if you’re an iOS developer who wants to move into the visionOS market, you’re not going to try to go up against these established apps, hoping to persuade Fortune 500 companies they they should be using your shiney new app instead of their tried-and-trusted solutions.
But … I can see a role for Vision Pro as a supplementary device.
Makers of high-end industrial design apps might offer cut-down versions for Vision Pro, in the same way we’ve seen apps like Photoshop and Final Cut Pro come to iPad.
I could see industrial designers exploring their work in progress on a Vision Pro, at home or on a plane, even if the render isn’t as detailed or responsive. The self-contained nature of the headset makes it practical as a mobile device in a way that headsets like the XR-3, with their tethered link to a high-end PC, could never match.
Maybe the designer’s boss has a Vision Pro on her desk so she can take a look at the latest iteration on demand, without the need to wander into the design lab?
This type of usage would depend on the high-end app developers being motivated to support it, of course, and they may or may not consider the work either worthwhile or financially viable. But I do think there’s at least some chance this could happen.
Small architecture practices, and the like
If you’re a freelance architect, or working in a very small practice, you might not have the budget to create 3D models of your remodelling projects. By the time you’ve married something like an XR-3 to the high-end PC and enterprise software needed to operate in this environment, you’re well into five figures – and that’s before you factor in the hourly costs of creating the models.
However, a self-contained $3.5k device which can display 3D versions of models created in your existing apps could well prove viable.
There’s no doubt to me that an immersive walk-through experience of a remodelling project could really help an architect sell their proposals, even if it’s essentially just a Vision Pro version of something like the Ikea Kreativ iPhone app.
Varjo’s headset interfaces to full-on flight simulator systems. While a headset doesn’t replace multi-million dollar full moving simulators, they can replace some use of static simulators – which are still hugely expensive devices.
Apple seems unlikely to compete in this pro-level sector, but I can definitely see Vision Pro helping train private pilots. Even using Microsoft Flight Simulator or X-Plane on a games console or very ordinary consumer-level PC has been proven to reduce the number of (expensive) hours needed to achieve a private pilot’s licence.
t isn’t just aircraft. VR headsets are used for simulating ships, trucks, buses, and more.
But even ignoring real-world training applications, flight simulators are a popular form of entertainment. I run X-Plane on my Mac, a simulator noted for its realistic physics, but am already finding that the immersive environment of a far cruder Quest 2 sim is a lot of fun (a device I’m trialling to again get a better personal understanding of the sector).
I remember when Google Earth was first launched. For the first time people who didn’t have the budget, or lifestyle freedom, to travel to far-flung places could get at least some kind of sense of exploring an exotic location. It was low-res, but still offered a self-guided experience which watching a travel video couldn’t match.
Street View has gotten better and better since then, with 360-degree videos also providing something of the experience of remotely visiting a target destination.
3D video viewed through a headset provides a far more immersive experience, and the high resolution of Vision Pro will only enhance this.
Again, virtual travel isn’t going to be much of a thing when it costs more than actually getting on a plane and flying there, but I do see this as being a massively appealing use of the tech. Especially when it comes to visiting places which entail too much training or risk to do for real – like visiting the summit of Everest or the wreck of the Titanic, for example.
Like many, I cringed when I watched Apple’s video of a dad wearing the headset to capture immersive video of his kid’s birthday party, instead of actually living it in the moment.
But, I’ve used a 360-degree video camera on a number of occasions, and this really doesn’t involve much sacrifice when it comes to living the experience at the time. On a RIB ride along the Thames, for example, all I had to do was hold a selfie stick in my hand. Same with snowmobiling or horse-riding in Iceland (or attending the opening of a new Apple Store).
For me, this is a killer combo. The relative unobtrusiveness of a 360-degree camera with the immersiveness of watching it back on a high-res headset.
I’m already planning on shooting some 360-degree video on every future trip I take, in the expectation of being able to relive it on a future Apple Vision device.
Of course. I’ve left this until next-to-last, both because it’s an obvious use case, and because as someone who doesn’t have the gaming bug at all, I’m the least-qualified person in the world to talk about it!
But yeah, take your favorite game, and imagine yourself fully immersed in that world at a resolution massively more realistic than a current Quest headset, and the appeal is obvious.
The Apple Vision Mac Edition
Finally, I’ve previously described what I would consider the killer app for this type of device – replacing a Mac.
I’m writing this sitting at a fairly large desk, with a 49-inch monitor in front of me. Assuming there’s a way for work to be stored on wirelessly connected external drives, then I could potentially replace my Mac and monitor with one highly portable device.
I’d then need a desk only large enough for my keyboard, and could have as many virtual monitors as I want, of any size or shape, and change my configuration to suit my current needs.
Instead of having to travel with multiple devices to create a three-monitor setup for working away from home, I could have the virtual monitor setup of my choice without carrying anything more than Vision Pro, keyboard, and an external drive. Even, as Apple’s video suggests, on a train or plane.
The closest we’ll be able to get to that at launch is mirroring a single 4K Mac screen, and supplementing it with a bunch of visionOS apps.
Of course, there are lots of practical barriers here, with comfort top of the list. It’s probably no coincidence that Apple limited press demos to 30 minutes, a time short enough that the wow factor completely blocks out any weight and comfort issues, as was the case with my slightly longer XR-3 demo.
Wearing a headset for an entire working day may not be a desirable experience until the tech gets a lot lighter and cooler.
But I do see this as the future. And cost would be much less of a concern with an Apple Vision Mac Edition. Instead of being an expensive additional display, it could be my Mac, my primary monitor, and my secondary monitors. That’s more than $5,000’s worth of kit, and I’d certainly pay a premium of another $1k to $2k for the convenience factor. So there’s money for Apple to play with in developing this kind of product.