The Apple Vision Pro is basically a PC you can wear on your head. With two hours of battery life per battery pack (you can hot swap battery packs for nearly unlimited power), the Vision Pro is a unique offering in the market that outperforms the Meta Quest 3 albeit at around 5x the price (so you’d expect it to outperform the cheaper product). Two areas where the Meta Quest 3 is better is in battery life (6 vs 2 hours) and in VR support, which the Apple Vision Pro lacks.
But looking at the Apple Vision Pro as a way to revolutionize and obsolesce traditional PCs is far more interesting than talking about its shortcomings with VR given VR really isn’t cooked yet.
Let’s talk about head-mounted computers this week.
Goovis and Rokid
One of the ways to get perspective on head-mounted computers is to consider the Goovis or Rokid head-mounted displays. Both companies’ products work with PCs or smartphones and can do many of the things the Apple Vision Pro does even though they aren’t self-contained. This means being able to watch movies by yourself with an experience similar to watching a huge TV, not having people look at what you are working on or watching when in close quarters (like when you are traveling on a plane), being able to watch TV, browse the web, or even work in bed without disturbing your significant other (if you have a quiet keyboard), and being able to eliminate the laptop display to allow for smaller, portable PC form factors that are in the offing.
However, by incorporating the compute power into the headset, Apple has created a much more simple and elegant design, albeit at a far higher price (both the Rokid and Goovis headsets are under $1K). With these less expensive headsets, you can get a sense of how a head-mounted display will work without incurring the high cost and risk of a first-generation product like the Apple Vision Pro.
The Future of Wearable Computers
One of the unique aspects of the Apple Vision Pro is it’s far better passthrough capabilities when it comes to video. The Goovis headset doesn’t have passthrough. The Rokid does but uses an AI glasses form factor which results in a lighter, less expensive solution. But Apple’s passthrough, similar to the Meta Quest 3 (but with much higher quality), uses cameras which opens the door to using this class of device for other vision-related purposes, like eventually being able to see better when the device is used outside, being able to translate hand signs from those who are hearing impaired, navigate when walking or riding (head-mounted GPS), or route you to safety when vision is impaired (like in a fire).
While these capabilities aren’t available yet, the implementation makes them possible. As this device evolves, the ability for it to become a much more comprehensive interface opens up significantly to provide use cases we can’t yet explore with other types of head-mounted displays.
In short, this could eventually redefine how we see and interrelate not only with the virtual world, but with the real world, as well, making it potentially, in some future form, the most useful PC ever created.
Wait Until Version 3
First versions of products like the Apple Vision Pro are more like proofs of concept. When done right, like Apple appears to be doing, they are more about creating interest and introducing the evolution of a more useful product. Once in the market, the vendor gains feedback as to the features and experiences people want. By the time the third version rolls out, it will incorporate those features into what will become a less expensive and more useful offering. With products like this, the safest path is to wait for the third version in order to avoid the teething problems of the first two versions where the vendor is still discovering what the market wants, or sometimes whether there is a market (I believe there is) for this class of offering.
Apple has done an impressive job with the Vision Pro but, for most of us who don’t enjoy version one product shortcomings, it is too early to buy one yet. We’d be better served with either a Rokid or Goovis headset for now. Assuming Apple executes like it used to, once Apple Vision Pro’s third version hits, it could spin both the PC and smartphone markets on their heads and forever change the computing landscape, making this product worth watching very closely.