By now the reviews are out, the first adopters have received their devices, and anybody who wants a demo of the future of spatial computing can walk into an Apple Store and try Apple’s headset.
But it’s worth remembering throughout all of this that the Vision Pro is (hopefully) more than just a gimmicky device; it’s a brand-new platform that’s going to evolve and change as it makes contact with the real world. There are bound to be shortcomings, places where third-party apps will eventually fill in gaps, and areas where Apple will continue to innovate and improve, even before a new version of the hardware inevitably comes out.
Case in point: there are a handful of places where Apple has spent very little time talking about the Vision Pro’s capabilities–in some situations those capabilities are limited or simply aren’t present at all. If you look closer, there’s often a very clear reason why that’s so, but it also means that there’s clearly room for Apple to make forays into new arenas as the platform develops.
Fitness to serve
One part of the Apple Vision Pro story that’s been missing since its announcement is fitness. This has always been a little bit surprising, given that other headsets (like Meta’s Quest line) have definitely put it forward as a key use case. Meta went so far as to buy up the popular VR fitness app Supernatural–reportedly, at least in part so that Apple wouldn’t. And Apple already has a seemingly tailor-made source of content in the form of its Fitness+ service.
And yet, Fitness is nowhere on the Apple Vision Pro. There are no rings to close, no yoga classes to join. The closest concession Apple gives is the Mindfulness app.
But it’s also not hard to tell why this is the case. At close to a pound and a half, the Vision Pro is no lightweight. As Daring Fireball’s John Gruber pointed out in his review: “No one wants to exert themselves with a 650g device strapped to their face.”
Of course, Apple’s spatial computers are going to get ever lighter; the Vision Pro is the probably the heaviest model that will ever exist. At some point, the company will no doubt be able to tout a new version of its device that launches with ready-made content from Fitness+–immersive core workouts with Coach Kyle, anyone?–but until then, Apple’s clearly keeping its powder dry.
Gaming is another area that’s been embraced by makers of other headsets, but from which Apple has shied away with the initial Vision Pro release. The entertainment applications of the Vision Pro, especially in terms of video, have been front and center, but the most Apple has talked about gaming is showing off a few titles from Apple Arcade and talking up the ability to pair a game controller.
There are games on the Vision Pro, of course, including a version of the classic Fruit Ninja specifically designed for the headset, complete with hand tracking. But most games are probably going to require some degree of special tuning for the Vision Pro user interface; the same way that games designed for a pointing device on the Mac didn’t immediately make the jump to the multitouch UI of iOS.
If there’s a surprise here, it may be that Apple didn’t work more closely with developers to have titles showcasing the gaming possibilities of the Vision Pro ready to go on day one. You’d think that a device that completely immerses you in a virtual environment would cry out for games. But that’s par for the course for Apple, a company that doesn’t always seem to get gaming.
That said, Apple has lately been making a new push on Mac gaming, and building relationships with developers there–not to mention easing the porting process as it’s done with its game porting toolkit–could have knock-on effects for the Vision Pro in the future.
You can’t get there from here
Weird as it is, there’s one omission on the Vision Pro that really struck me: Maps. Yes, I know Apple Maps exists on Vision Pro, in the form of the company’s iPad app. But that version apparently lacks one of its most interesting and apposite features: Apple’s AR walking directions. If you haven’t used this feature on the iPhone, it superimposes directions over input from your camera, showing you giant floating indicators over your environment.
In short, it’s perfect for something that you wear on your face.
Again, it’s not hard to see the logic here: the Vision Pro as it’s constituted today is not–despite the many internet personalities you may have seen doing what amount to attention-grabbing stunts–something that you’re really supposed to be wearing while out and about.
Moreover, as evidenced by the fact that Apple’s using its iPad app for Maps on the Vision Pro, it suggests that the company might in the future replace it with a native version that’s more tuned to the Vision Pro; it’s not hard to imagine walking down a street virtually with the Look Around feature, for example. And it seems clear that at some point, perhaps in the distant future, a descendant of the Vision Pro might very well be inconspicuous enough that you can wear it around town as something more than a stunt.