Apple Vision Pro review - a deep dive into its user experience
Jan 31, 2024
Apple's Vision Pro, unveiled in June 2023, is more than just a mixed reality headset. It's a revolutionary device that redefines how we interact with technology, blending the digital and physical worlds seamlessly.
There are some crucial aspect of the device from a user experience point-of-view, which people will care about the most. We are taking a deep dive into these aspects.
Finger gestures to navigate
Apple is calling finger gestures - "micro gestures" which can be used to interact with spatial interfaces, press buttons, zoom-in or out of photos and videos, and even switch between content.
From all the review content we've seen, the gestures seem very smooth and intuitive. The headset does guide you when you first put it on, showing you how the gestures are done. The "tap" gesture has been changed to two finger tap, pinch and drag is used to scroll or move elements around in space, and even some double hand gestures for more complex tasks.
This clearly shows that we would need space around us to use the headset and enough motor function in our hands at all time. However, knowing Apple they would surely include accessibility features that would require further testing.
Voice commands for quick actions
Yup! Siri is on your Vision Pro now too. Users can use the generic hey Siri command at any point of time to open apps, type in messages, start a quick spatial video or click pictures in real time. The functionality however, is limited to what the headset is capable of and whether you have internet connectivity or not.
Marketing productivity & multi-display views
A HUGE point apple has marketed is the multi-screen view for multitasking and productivity. So instead of buying multiple physical screens, users can have one headset to replace them all. This does counter the fact that for some activities, users will be connecting their Macbooks to the headset to extend functionality.
Spatial Video Calling
There are two ways the Apple Vision Pro wants to improve video calling. One way is to view others on a 3D space in-front of you in the physical environment. The other way is actually very controversial.
Apple are calling these talking heads, "Personas". This feature requires you to scan your face with the headset's camera, and it proceeds to create a virtual 3D model. If you choose this option, the 3D model will talk for you instead of showing your face live. On one hand this seems fun and useful, since you won't have to fix your hair, or ensure there is good lighting in the room. On the other hand, early reviews show that the 3D models are not very accurate and also look a little weird to talk to.
At this point one can say that this feature will take some time to develop and improve, following the iterative design methods that we often use in UX design as well.
Apps designed specially for the Vision Pro
Apps like Zoom (the one shown above) are already available on the Vision Pro app store, designed and developed specifically for the Vision Pro. These apps seem similar in some ways to the desktop experience, specially when the overall layout is considered. The controls are visibly simpler and more spaced out in order to avoid clutter in a physical space.
A big feature of most of these apps would be sharing and viewing 3D objects on real time, which however will be limited by size and complexity of the 3D object, and pinning screens to parts of your actual physical space.
A great example of pinning is the built in timer app. You can intuitively add timers above certain objects in your room, and they will stay there even when you are not looking. This is a seriously good use case for a spatial experience in day-to-day usage.
(image courtesy - The Wall Street Journal)
The harsh truths of the Apple Vision Pro
Apart from the wonderful ways the Vision Pro can improve our tasks, there are definitely some issues with the headset according to various reviews across different platforms.
The headset is definitely heavier than other VR/VR headsets that can cause some discomfort if worn for long periods of time.
The Vision Pro is also prone to heating if using certain demanding apps, which could possibly be improved over time with software updates.
The external battery pack is the only way you can get some longevity from your device.
The headset will not support all apps, which means you might have to use some apps in a general window like on the desktop.
Some features including the "external display" does not work as well as advertised. Reviewers were not able to see their eyes on the outside display very well.
It's worth $3,500, which could be more in some countries. This is a huge leap if we compare it to the Meta Quest which can be bought for around $500.
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