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Embracing Life Beyond Apple’s Vision: A Personal Journey

The moment the preordered Apple Vision Pros were due for delivery, I messaged my boyfriend about an hour after his messages abruptly ceased. Both of us were at our respective homes, working remotely, so I was aware that he had access to his phone. However, I also knew he was eagerly anticipating the arrival of the headset. “Oh no, have I lost you already?” I inquired. Within 10 minutes, a response came through, “Yes, you did,” he replied.

Initially, I didn’t pay much attention when he purchased the Vision Pro in February. I jokingly label him as an Apple enthusiast since he consistently acquires the latest Apple products as soon as they are released. He utilizes the 15 Pro as his primary smartphone, the Ultra for monitoring his fitness metrics, the 24-inch for productivity at his apartment (reserving the 14-inch Space Black MacBook Pro for on-the-go), the Pro for sketching, and the [ppp6] for content streaming. It was inevitable that he would secure what is considered Apple’s most anticipated product in years. However, I never anticipated that it would significantly impact our lives—both virtually and in person.

These devices have seamlessly integrated into our routines and have never had a detrimental effect on how we spend time together or communicate. If anything, they have enriched our interactions. Being an iPhone and MacBook user myself, staying connected is effortless. We engage through iMessage and FaceTime, enjoy watching TV together using SharePlay on our iPads when apart, and track each other’s workouts via our Apple Watches; I even have my profile set up on his iMac and Apple TV. These gadgets have adapted to our needs, blending harmoniously with our lifestyles. However, the Vision Pro has presented a different scenario.

Communication Challenges

The headset swiftly became a staple in my boyfriend’s daily essentials. Whenever he ventures out, he diligently packs the bulky headset and battery pack into his tote bag alongside his MacBook Pro. I am always surprised when he opts to leave it at home. Even when I know he has it with him, predicting when he will use it is a challenge.

Living alongside the Vision Pro has turned into a series of unexpected encounters.

In person, the Vision Pro unexpectedly appears in my peripheral vision. When not charging on the desk, it can be found on the coffee table or dresser. During a recent visit to his parents’ home for the weekend, upon my arrival, I discovered the Vision Pro cover on the kitchen table and the headset in the guest bedroom. It is never far from reach.

Furthermore, it is quite discreet. It operates silently when he puts it on, and due to the proximity of the speakers to his ears, I am unable to discern when he is listening to something. One day, while we were both working remotely, I was seated at my desk while he was on the couch. At one point, I turned around to ask him a question while he was engrossed in his laptop. When I turned back, I found him wearing the Vision Pro, hands gesturing in the air as he edited a YouTube Short in Final Cut Pro. This was particularly amusing to witness as his laptop screen remained blank.

Surprised that I was unaware he had put it on, I gazed at him for what seemed like an eternity until he finally inquired, “What?” It turned out we were both observing each other the entire time. EyeSight, a feature that mimics eye movements to indicate when someone is speaking to you while wearing the headset, is not always conspicuous, depending on the surroundings.

My colleague Julian Chokkattu shared a similar encounter with his wife. In his account, he mentioned that his wife found it “difficult to notice” EyeSight, likening it to “looking at [his] eyes through a screensaver.” Personally, I find it easy to identify the virtual eyes staring back only in ample natural light. However, most of the time, it takes me a few (awkward) moments to discern whether my boyfriend is focusing on me or the content in front of him.

This pattern repeats: one moment he is without the headset, and the next he is wearing it. The transition always catches me off guard—when I step out to shower, do my makeup, or prepare to go out.

Once, after completing my bedtime routine of brushing my teeth, I emerged from the bathroom to find him perched on the edge of the couch, engrossed in a game of chess with the Vision Pro securely in place. Observing silently, I watched as he manipulated imaginary chess pieces through the air—left, right, diagonal—assessing his opponent’s (a computer) next move.

During such instances, I would always inquire, “Can I give it a try?” In an effort to cultivate my appreciation for the Vision Pro, he would always consent. While I am not opposed to owning my headset, I struggle to grasp its current necessity. Apart from the exorbitant $3,500 price tag and cumbersome design, I am aware that I will not reach for it as frequently as I do my iPhone, MacBook, or iPad. I am content with my current setup. Moreover, shouldn’t one suffice for a household if it commands such a high price? Unfortunately, sharing the experience feels more burdensome than enjoyable.

The only thing more challenging than one Vision Pro in a relationship is two.

To begin with, one must log in to Guest Mode each time, compelling me to undergo the 90-second calibration test repeatedly. Additionally, I wear glasses and am expected to purchase the prescription Zeiss Optical Inserts. However, I am reluctant to pay Apple $150 for a circumstance beyond my control. It is irksome to consider the additional expense if multiple glasses wearers reside in the same household.

I have not encountered issues using other headsets, like the Meta Quest 2, with glasses. Out of sheer defiance, I persist in calibrating the Vision Pro with my glasses on. While not foolproof, the internal eye-tracking cameras occasionally struggle to pinpoint my eye movements. Tasks such as exploring virtual Mount Hood, watching Spiderman: No Way Home in 3D, and browsing the web on Safari are straightforward. However, activities requiring precise eye-tracking, such as navigating visionOS or attempting to play a game, prove challenging.

Shared Experiences

When my boyfriend and I attempted to share experiences, we endeavored to cast content on the TV. Regrettably, a simple activity like watching a movie proved challenging. While attempting to watch Mean Girls, the content was blacked out on both the Vision Pro and the TV due to copyright restrictions on a streaming service.

Similarly, engaging in a game like Fruit Ninja on the large screen provided momentary enjoyment. However, switching players necessitated toggling between his profile and Guest Mode. I couldn’t help but reminisce about how effortless this process was with a headset like the Quest 2. A few years back, when my dad, brother, and I played The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners for a few hours, we seamlessly passed the headset among ourselves and delved into the game without the need to switch profiles or adjust settings. Conversely, with the Vision Pro, my boyfriend and I barely played for 10 minutes before the experience lost its allure.

I also had to adapt virtually. Nothing prepares you for joining a FaceTime call with your boyfriend embodying his “persona”—Apple’s digital avatar—while you appear as your human self. Although it is in beta, interacting with it feels unsettling. The avatar fails to capture the fluidity of facial expressions, making it challenging to discern whether my boyfriend is laughing, smiling, or frowning.

Moreover, communication is not straightforward. I often find myself staring at his avatar, struggling to discern whether the FaceTime call has frozen or if his avatar is delayed in reacting. It also fails to detect physical objects like water bottles or food. Whenever he takes a sip or a bite, it appears as though he is holding or chewing on air, necessitating multiple double takes. Similar to in-person interactions, the dialogue feels stilted.

It is worth mentioning that my account predates Apple’s rollout of visionOS 1.1, which facilitates initiating SharePlay sessions via FaceTime with up to five other Vision Pro owners. This feature allows collaborative gaming, movie-watching, and work sessions. While it is commendable that Apple is expanding collaborative capabilities (a feature that should be inherent in such a costly device), it does little to ease interactions for non-headset users—both virtually and in person.

Upon sharing the news of the latest update with my boyfriend, he eagerly suggested, “Oh! We should get you a Vision Pro now.” Without hesitation, I responded, “Absolutely not.” The only thing more challenging than one Vision Pro in a relationship is two.

Isolation and Adaptation

I anticipated that having a mixed-reality headset in our midst would offer a unique experience. However, integrating it into my daily routine has posed an unexpected learning curve—even though I am not the primary user of the Vision Pro. Its presence is impossible to ignore, necessitates a specific mode of communication, and genuinely impacts how my partner and I interact. Gradually, I am growing accustomed to its presence, becoming less startled by its existence. Nonetheless, I am surprised that even the slightest effort is required to accommodate it in my life.

Undoubtedly, it creates an isolating experience for both the wearer and those around them. He often remarks, “This isn’t as fun,” when using the Vision Pro to watch a YouTube video while I am engrossed in a book on the couch.

As a couple who enjoys spending quality time together in the same space pursuing individual hobbies, it is customary to engage with each other intermittently—I often peek at what he is watching or working on, and vice versa. However, the Vision Pro feels like a substantial barrier between us.

Despite the ability to adjust the immersion level by rotating the knob on top of the headset, it is impossible to be fully present in reality and visionOS simultaneously. While crafting this narrative, I recalled insights from my colleagues following the Vision Pro’s initial launch. As one colleague noted, “the Vision Pro is also unlike almost every other modern Apple product in one crucial way: It doesn’t disappear. In fact, it does the opposite.” Another colleague expressed, “It drives home the reality that an Apple headset, no matter how nifty its specs, is still a big honking gizmo plonked between its wearer and the rest of the world, inherently a barrier more than a conduit.”

Whether the headset is directly in sight or only present through a FaceTime call in the form of an avatar, it introduces an uncomfortable dynamic.

The Vision Pro demands acknowledgment of its presence, regardless of one’s familiarity with it—effectively eroding genuine communication. Attempting to engage in a serious conversation with someone using EyeSight or Persona invariably leads to requests to remove the Vision Pro or revert to their authentic self to facilitate a distraction-free interaction. Drawing from personal encounters, I can attest that conversing with someone through the lens of two pixelated eyes peering into your soul is disconcerting.

Lastly, I have observed the novelty of the Vision Pro wane for my boyfriend. During a recent trip to Florida, I braced myself for a three-hour flight anticipating he would wear the Vision Pro throughout. To my surprise, it was absent from his bag. “I didn’t have any room for it,” he explained. Consequently, we watched a movie, took naps, and gazed out the window together instead of him sporting the cumbersome headset beside me on the plane.

The experience harkened back to life before the Vision Pro: devoid of distractions and awkward interactions. Neither of us felt a sense of loss for leaving the headset behind.