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Reflections on Reflection on Vision Pro

Posted on February 2nd, 2024

Dave!This week Apple's spiffy new VR/AR headset, The Vision Pro, was unleashed upon the world. And now the videos and reviews of the unit are being released. There were reviews before, but they were all taking place in Apple's tightly-controlled environment. Now they are out in the real world.

And of course my go-to tech guy, Marques Brownlee, is all over it.

First he posted an unboxing video.

Then he posted an experience and introduction video. If you only want to watch one video to get an idea of what Vision Pro is all about, this is it...

Both videos were excellent, as expected, but the one that compelled me to write about reacting to his reactions was when he wore the headset for the entire 90 minutes of his Waveform Podcast. It is fascinating. Mostly because it has conversation about where the technology is now and what it could mean for the future. If you are at all interested in Vision Pro, it's time well-spent to watch it...

At the one hour mark, Marques responds to viewers and makes a point of talking about being excited to taking a his first flight with Vision Pro. He wants to be able to watch videos on a plane. And I relate to this completely. The thing I want to do most when being stuck on a plane is to not being stuck on a plane, even if it's just virtually.

But this touches on the main reason that I want a Vision Pro.

I want to be able to turn the world off and not be stuck in reality.

I want to be able to strap on Vision Pro in my living room so I can watch movies on a massive screen... while sitting in a movie theater... ALL BY MYSELF. I love love love going to a movie theater. I love the experience. But I hate having to endure other people while I'm there. People talking. People using their phones. People eating. People kicking your seat. Which is to say that I loathe going to a movie theater because there's always going to be other people fucking up the experience. Vision Pro will allow me to go to a "theater" and have only a good experience. And that is what makes a Vision Pro worth it. Not for $3,500... but eventually when they drop the "Pro" features I don't care about and release a version that's affordable.

And everything I wrote about watching movies goes double for attending a concert. I have paid a ton of money for tickets to a concert... only to have to listen to people screaming their fucking heads off and talking the whole time. Not to mention having people standing in front of me blocking my view (and I'm tall!). If bands were to start releasing their live shows on Vision Pro... giving you a private concert from the best seat in the house... I would not only buy a Vision Pro, but I would happily pay the full ticket price to the artist to experience it. There are people who love live shows. I used to be one of those people. Maybe it's because I'm old now, but I definitely do not. Being able to virtually attend a concert is a dream scenario for me. I cannot wait for this to become a reality.

Everything else that a Vision Pro can do beyond that is gravy, but I'm going to focus on one aspect: travel.

Being able to explore the world from your living room is compelling, although it's never going to replace of being out in the world and seeing things in Real Life. Mostly because so much of the experience of travel is tied to actual immersion. Sights, smells, sounds, and interacting with all of them. And, unlike with movies or concerts, I find interacting with people to be one of the best parts of travel. So your "experience" with virtual travel is going to be severely limited with current technology. Even tech as advanced as Vision Pro. But let's break down why I still think there's a place for it, even with such severe limitations...

  • Travel is getting more expensive every day. And while $3,500 for the Vision Pro is a huge chunk of change by itself, when that price comes down, virtual travel may be the only option for people who want to travel the world but can't afford to go in person. A limited experience is better than nothing, and a VR experience is better than watching a video.
  • A lot of people don't have the option for travel experiences because of physical limitations or mental barriers that prevent it. Maybe they are confined to a bed for health reasons. Maybe they don't have physical mobility. Maybe they're just old. Whatever the reason, travel is off the table. So, yeah, it would be nice if they could partially experience seeing the world in a way that's better than looking at a photo or watching a video.
  • A lot of top destinations for travel are overwhelmed. The huge number of people visiting are straining resources, driving up costs for locals, and destroying environments. Anything which can reduce this strain is a good thing. No, visiting a Maui beach virtually is not the same as laying on that same beach and experiencing the environment in Real Life, but if the virtual experience is excellent, we might get to the point where you can visit a local beach, lay in the sand, and be in Maui virtually. And, as the technology improves, this will just get better and better.
  • Travel consumes huge amounts of resources and causes a lot of pollution. If virtual travel can reduce the need we feel to travel in Real Life even a little bit, it's going to be a game-changer.
  • And of course there's the time element. Travel takes time away from your life, and a lot of time is wasted just getting to where you're going. Being able to toss on your Vision Pro and go somewhere in minutes is a compelling reason to explore more of the world... especially places you would never think to go to in Real Life.

I am not going to buy a Vision Pro. At $3,500 plus tax and money for accessories, you're easily talking $4,000 and I can't justify that cost in any way. That money could be spent fixing my home, buying necessities, completing my landscaping project, and a ton of other things.

But that $3,500 price won't be there forever.

I don't give a shit about the front-facing screen which shows people your eyes when you're talking to them. Not even a little bit. If I'm talking to somebody, I'll just take the thing off. A version without that has got to chop at least $500 off the price. And I don't need metal and glass quality. I'll take a plastic headset and be happy to save at least another $500. Then there's the mass production savings which will come as they ramp up production of the cheaper version. All of a sudden... the Vision Not-Pro costs $1,500 to $1,800. And I would buy that in a heartbeat. Even if all I did was watch video on a massive virtual screen, that's worth it.

And then there's the future of Vision Pro.

The "persona avatars" are pretty crappy right now. But eventually? When they get better? Virtual meet-ups with my friends would be so cool. I'd love to sit and watch television shows with my friends so we can chat and enjoy the experience together. Or play games. Or just have a chat. That... that... would be insanely great.

I can't wait.

UPDATE: Marques has another video out. A lot of info packed into around 20 minutes...


Dubaya Dubaya Dee See

Posted on June 5th, 2018

Dave!And lo, Apple did unleash another World Wide Developer's Conference this week.

Given my rapidly diminishing enthusiasm for Apple, I wasn't the least bit compelled to drop everything and watch it live. Instead I made it my after-dinner entertainment tonight.

Here are my thoughts on the parts that stood out to me...

If there's a promise for the future of computing that most people can see coming, it's augmented reality. Apple has teamed up with Pixar to create the USDZ file format for AR Kit 2. This is a fascinating advancement, and the fact that Adobe has grabbed it by the throat and promised support for USDZ in Creative Cloud bodes well for the format. Craig Federighi demonstrated customizing a USDZ guitar and dropping it into reality at actual size so you can visualize exactly what it will look like in your space...

Apple iOS AR Kit

Federighi then demoed AR "Shared Experiences" where two people were playing the same game from their own perspective, and it looks pretty amazing...

Apple iOS AR Kit

But the coolest demo? LEGO!!! They've shown how their physical models can be recognized by AR Kit, then expanded upon with virtual "sets" which are interactive in AR space. Then they showed how two people could explore the space with their own characters at the same time as your real-life model comes alive...

Apple iOS AR Kit LEGO

You can even look inside the physical model to see what's happening inside of it. Kids are going to love this. Especially LEGO-loving BIG kids like me!

The future of AR is mind-boggling. You just know that Apple is developing a headset for full VR/AR envelopment. It will be cool to visit the world... real and imagined... from your sofa.

I'm still sore from Apple discontinuing Aperture, but they're adding interesting features to Photos, including search, which I'm assuming is making use of their machine-learning algorithm. This will make it easy to dig through the bajillion images on my iPhone. Other features, like automatic image collaboration between iPhone users are also a step in the right direction.

I use Alexa on my Amazon Echo dozens of times a day because she can do so much stuff. I rarely use Siri because she can't really do much of anything. Apple seems to be aware of this, and is attempting to make Siri more relevant and useful. A big step up is "Siri Shortcuts," which allows Siri to be customized for your life, and even monitor your habits and schedule to suggest ways she can help out. It's all nice, and will probably encourage me to use Siri more, but my primary use of a digital assistant is home automation. Unfortunately Apple is married to their shitty, shitty "HomeKit," which I gave up on. Maybe if they start allowing other automation interfaces... like my ISY... I'd be able to use Siri for many of the things I use Alexa for.

It's kind of bizarre that Apple is advocating not using your iPhone so much, but once they sell you the phone, they probably don't care how often you use it. To that end, they've expanded what "Do Not Disturb" can do, added new features to slow or group Notifications, and even added "Screen Time" which can monitor and limit how much you use certain apps. Parents can use "Screen Time" to monitor, adjust, and allow/disallow apps on their kid's phones remotely... and restrict access to certain apps and sites. It's a great idea... but I wonder how many people will use it. They use their phone when they want to use their phone and it seems bizarre to set limits on that. Our lives are our phones now, for better or worse.

I rarely use Animoji. Apple adding the ability to stick your tongue out or customize Animoji to look like you with "Memoji" is probably not going to change that. It's fun, and very cool... but I don't see it getting much use from me...

Apple iOS Memoji

Being able to put an Animoji over your head and add stickers live for photos is an interesting spin, however...

Apple iOS Memoji

Maybe I'll be more apt to video chat if I can use an avatar like this and not have to worry whether or not I'm having a good hair day.

Group Facetime for up to 32 people at the same time is a pretty incredible technical achievement. The fact that Apple made the feature so smart is what makes Apple be Apple. When somebody starts speaking, they enlarge so you know who's doing the talking. You can also use Live Animoji or Live Memoji during Facetime calls. This would be a complete zoo, but an interesting one.

I always like to see how Apple Watch is maturing but, until they find a way to make it thinner on my skinny arm, I'm just not interested... no matter how many cool and useful features get added. Kinda sad how Apple has resurrected the dreaded "push-to-talk" and is calling it "Walkie Talkie." I frickin' hate push-to-talk because I don't want to hear people shouting to each other over a phone (or watch) in public. Aren't phone calls irritating enough?

I really like my Apple TV, but it's got a lot of problems that no amount of new features are going to fix. I can't tell you how many times I've had it lock up. Or be unable to stream a purchase. Or have the interface go all screwy for no reason. I reboot the dang thing so many times that I finally bought an electrical plug that I can control on my iPhone so I don't have to get up, unplug it, then plug it back in. When I contact Apple support, they tell me the problem is always, always, always my internet. So I switched from cable to fiber, which is ten times faster download speed. Still having problems. If bandwidth issues are such an AppleTV-killer, they need to have their apps be a lot smarter on handling it. None of the other apps on my AppleTV have any problems. Netflix, HBO, CBS, ABC, YouTube, Hulu... all of them just fine. So it's not the AppleTV hardware... it's Apple's software that's the problem. You'd think with billions of dollars Apple could get somebody to fix their shit, but no.

"We love the Mac! — Tim Cook says this every time he presents the Mac at WWDC. He pretty much has to say it because Mac users aren't seeing it. I am almost to my breaking point with frustration at just how bad MacOS has gotten. Printing is so screwed up that it's almost impossible to get work done. Way too many times I end up having to put my work into a PDF and send it to a colleague so they can print it on their Windows machine. Apple can blame printer companies all they want, but it's their OS updates which cause things to break. And lately Apple introduced a huge bug which makes your mouse pointer unable to access menus if you go to the very top of the screen. You have to move the pointer down on the menu bar in order to get a menu to work. WHAT THE FUCK?!?? does ANYBODY bother to beta test this shit anymore? Who the fuck releases such obvious bugs into an OS update? Apple. That's who. They may "love the Mac" but they are constantly shitting all over it, so you'll have to excuse me for not believing them.

Apple has been promising automated file stacking and organization for years... but the only place it was ever implemented was in the Dock. Now it's come to the desktop. This is a nice feature for people like me who make a huge mess out of their desktop on a daily basis. But this is the biggest new feature of the next MacOS X release? Stacks? Really? I don't give a shit how much Apple professes to "love the Mac" they are letting it stagnate to obsolescence, which is pathetic.

Adding handy tools to QuickLook is nice, but they aren't very smart about where they are putting their efforts. What about the third party tool you have to buy in order to modify file dates and manipulate other file data? THAT'S WHAT THE FINDER SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO! But instead we get the ability to trim a video clip in the Mac file manager? WTF? Handy, yes, but is editing video something you really need to do on the desktop? Is opening up iMovie really so difficult? How about adding new file tools to the file manager? Revolutionary, I know.

I actually use News on my iPhone, so I'm happy that Apple is bringing the app to my desktop.

I will say this again for those in the cheap seats... HomeKit is utter shit. Partly because AppleTV is totally inadequate as a hub for it. Mostly because it's so restrictive that anybody serious about home automation just doesn't give a shit about it. I tried HomeKit with my locks and couldn't wait to get rid of it. Unreliable, slow, and not nearly pervasive enough with manufacturers, Apple should just buy a company that actually knows how to do this and give up on their massive failure.

Apple's continuing efforts to protect its users' privacy is admirable. No matter how far they go, it will never be far enough, but I'm grateful for what we do get.

Machine Learning is one of those things that's incredibly useful, and the fact that Apple has been advancing in this area so rapidly is encouraging. And now they've created tools for analyzing datasets which make it easier than ever to get information into a machine learning environment. The possibilities here are mind-boggling, and one of the few exciting things to be happening in MacOS X. Whether it will get put to good use is anybody's guess.

Here we go with "We love the Mac" again. This time in the context of the question "Is Apple merging iOS and MacOS?" The answer is "no," but Apple is bringing more of the tools from iOS to MacOS so that iOS apps can be ported to the Mac. Which is great for developers. If your app can run on a phone, pad, and desktop, then this is a big step forward to making it easier to get there.

I have a long programming history. I've coded in BASIC, Pascal, Modula-2, Assembler, JavaScript, Java, PHP, C, C++, Objective C, Ruby, Python, and probably a half-dozen others I've forgot about. I rarely have time to code now-a-days, but I'm intrigued by Apple's Swift programming language. There's a lot to like. It's relatively simple. It's relatively complete. It's relatively easy to debug. And holy crap is it fast. I definitely like it better than Apple's previous tool of choice, Objective-C, and it's maturing quickly. I don't think I'd want to write an app for iOS without it. Yes, there's a way to go yet, and Apple has shifted some major concepts which require re-coding... but overall it's a great environment to develop in, and it's only going to get better in time.

And that was the end of that. No new hardware released announced for the MacOS X side of things, which is hugely disappointing. Apple used to absolutely rule this arena. Even people who had to run Windows were buying Mac laptops to do it because they were just that good. But Apple doesn't seem to give a shit now... releasing "pro" equipment that's not what "pros" even want. Instead of true innovation we get a "touch bar" or some silly shit slapped on, which is just a weak effort to hide the fact that the base specs aren't much better than they were five years ago. Oh well. Apple had a good run, but I guess it couldn't last forever. Hopefully Adobe will port their software to Linux so I can switch away from Apple before they hit rock bottom.


Where's the ghost of Steve Jobs when you need him?



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