Vision Pro. Note to self.

I’ve written web posts just for me before. The training posts here are logs of my actions, results and mishaps. Written just for me to get the stuff out of my head and perhaps, more importantly to look back to. They help challenge my mindset when it changes.

It’s Sunday 11 June 2023. Apple held their annual developer conference this week and showcased a headset – Vision Pro.

Until I watched the event I hadn’t given headsets too much time in my brain wonderings. This week I’ve been looping thoughts, concerns and questions. Why though? I guess because there is a significant belief system that Apple shapes a large segment of affluent Westerners futures. And, I’m looking at this forecast and I’m in disbelief of its value. Furthermore, it feels worrying. So, here are a few bullets, things I’ve been pondering, thoughts I want to revisit over the years as this plays out.

  • I find that there’s something strangely depressing about a screen being strapped to your head. Why? In design I value control, choice, real world sensations.
  • I’m not a gamer, but I believe gaming to be the only killer use case. I’d like to try a driving game in one.
  • I know that the strategy is about using the next few years as developer innovation to create the killer use cases outside of gaming. But I just keep asking – so what? – I can’t imagine the value, I can only imagine the burdens. I’m stuck on this one. I can’t imagine what will make peoples lives better inside a headset. Let’s see what gets created, let’s see how I feel.
  • I found the productivity, work and communication experiences demoed really irritating. I like to gaze away from screens to think, ponder, compose my thoughts. The notion of being trapped inside a screen feels feverish.
  • I kept on thinking about how many terrible things there are in software design already. Tech capitalism is mostly geared to just add more stuff that makes profit. The terrible things are often left ignored, unless there is money to be made. I’m wondering about how many of these terrible things end up making their way into spatial computing experiences. When I think about the areas we can improve in our sector we have a long way to go to serve people better. Perhaps an analogy that might work is, imagine a car company adding more gadgets to a car but never improving the safety, emissions or comfort. The way we experience software and platforms today can be really damaging and spatial computing appears to be burying our eyes and cortex within it.
  • Am I too old to understand headsets? My dad carried on buying CDs after I gifted him Spotify. In his mind, he wanted to “put music on”, listen to it and easily carry it between his house and car. Spotify was a bit like Google to him, a handy search tool. By contrast, I grew up on the Napster era internet (we had a modem was age 13, 1998), Spotify felt logical and native. Will a younger generation see headsets as native? Perhaps this is just part of being alive in the Industrial Revolutions, innovation won’t always gel with your own default mode and era.
  • A few folks have complained about the price, it’s a rich persons toy. I get that we’re looking at a first generation product, the price will go down, competitors will learn from the engineering and produce affordable rival products. It still will be a luxury item, but no different in price from a computer, tablet or phone.
  • Apple appears to have cracked the latency issues headsets suffer from. John Gruber talked about how windows didn’t jiggle or move when he used it. I’ve been thinking about these breakthrough moments, multi-touch is a good example. Once it exists in the world a lot of changes follow because of what is enabled. This feels to me like a Pandoras box moment, the genie is out of the bottle. As it’s now possible to do spatial stuff without the janky experience, does this force the hand? We’re kinda good at creating things that don’t benefit us but because they are possible and desirable. These things produce juggernaut level systems we can end up trapped in: such as, ultra processed food, credit or property.
  • I’ve kept mulling over what we need vs what they can make. A few folks have reacted in the same way. Why make a headset for entertainment when the world has so many problems? I guess it depends what you’re in the business of. Apple are mainly in computing, entertainment and health. They’ve never stated they are in the business of fixing the planet. It’s a peculiar line of thinking really. It’s logical they will make another device. And it stands to reason that it’s doubtful it will truly benefit the world in a meaningful way beyond entertaining folks. Perhaps there could be some novel productivity increases. But yeah, companies don’t often just make what we need.
  • Companies do make stuff that fails. This could never gain significant traction and we all spend a lot of time thinking and talking about it. Not everything works everytime.
  • Final bullet for today, I’ve been mulling over what all of these thoughts say about my beliefs of ‘what is good design?’. Im in danger of dragging out the cliched Dieter Rams reference here. But pausing for a moment and asking myself, if you’re confused by the industrial and experience design of Apples headset, what do you believe good design is? My previous thought on fixing the terrible things about software comes back around. I don’t have a clear and simple answer. I guess it’s something around not letting capitalism eat the design experience.

No big conclusion. No snappy thought piece. I’m going to revisit these thoughts as things shape up.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *