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Could the "Vision Pro" be as big as the iPhone?

BY James O'Malley

5th Sep 2023 Lifestyle

3 min read

Could the "Vision Pro" be as big as the iPhone?
Have you heard of the Vision Pro? Tech columnist James O'Malley argues that Apple's new headset could be the next big thing
Somehow, it is now 16 years since Apple CEO Steve Jobs first unveiled the iPhone. It’s strange to imagine now, but at the time a lot of people were sceptical about it ever being a success. What about the lack of buttons to press? And why would you need a computer in your pocket anyway? 
"Apple recently announced what could one day be the next big tech revolution"
Today, with the benefit of hindsight, we can look back on what a revolution it was. Today, our phones are the most important devices in our lives and we use them for, well, almost everything
But Apple is not resting easy on this success. They recently announced what could—if the evangelists are to believed—one day be the next big tech revolution. 

What is the Vision Pro?

It’s called the “Vision Pro”, and it is a headset that will let you do many of the things you do on a phone—but instead by wearing what is essentially a pair of smart glasses.
Instead of lenses, in front of your eyes are a couple of screens. On the outside of the glasses (which are more like some heavy-duty goggles), there are cameras that relay images from the outside world into your vision. So to you, the wearer, it looks as though you’re just existing normally in the world—but now Apple can also add information digitally on top of the world around you. 
Women wearing the Vision Pro
So functionally, it works a bit like having a big, semi-transparent iPad floating in front of your face, and just like an iPad you can browse the web, make calls, and use apps, all without needing to hold anything in your hands. 
"It works a bit like having a big, semi-transparent iPad floating in front of your face"
Then there are some smart features that only an all-encompassing headset can do. It’ll be able to seamlessly interact with the world around you. For example, perhaps when watching a football match, it might be possible to shrink down the pitch and have it appear as though the match is playing out on the table in front of you, as though it was a game of Subbuteo. Or you’ll be able to blow up the game to have it feel as though you’re sat pitchside in the stadium, with the headset immersing you by making it so when you turn your head, it’s like looking around the actual stadium. 
Sure, it sounds pretty crazy—but these sorts of ideas, and indeed headsets, have been bubbling around for some time (a bit like how before the iPhone it was possible to buy Nokias and Ericssons where you could check your email). But now that Apple is getting involved, it has the heft to make this sort of technology go mainstream. 

How will it integrate into the real world?

What I think is most impressive about the Vision Pro though is that, on appearances at least, Apple has really carefully thought about how such a device might work in the "real" world. 
For example, how do you control it if there’s no screen to touch? Earlier headsets have required the user to carry around a clunky controller in their hand. But Apple has instead figured out how to use a camera on the inside of the Vision Pro to track your eyes, and another camera on the outside to track your hands. This means all you need to do is look at whatever button or icon you want to press, and then to select it pinch your fingers. 
Apple chief executive Tim Cook unveiling the company's Vision Pro headsets
Then there’s the problem of how wearing a computer on your face, covering your eyes, is almost intrinsically weird and antisocial. Are you really going to get back from work, pop on your headset and ignore your spouse all evening? 
And that’s why Apple has built another screen into the Vision Pro. This one faces outwards, and is designed to simply display your eyes, captured by the cameras on the inside. It means that if you’re talking to someone, it’s still possible to maintain eye contact – and for them to tell when you’re not really listening to them, and have been distracted by something on the screen in front of you. 
"One day we’ll realise that the next big thing has been staring us in the face all along"
So when it launches next year, I think there’s a chance that the Vision Pro could be the start of the next big thing. The only downside is the price—which is going to be an eye-watering $3,500, or just over £3,000. 
But give it a few years, when just like smartphones, prices will tumble. Headsets might move from something only tech-experts and specialists use to something that we all use everyday. And then one day we’ll realise that the next big thing has been staring us in the face all along. 
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