“It was a monster”
On the eve of the launch of Vision Pro, Vanity Fair magazine published an extensive article devoted to the headset. The editors of the magazine spoke with the head of Apple Tim Cook, director James Cameron, engineers and scientists.
The CEO of Apple talked about the first time he saw a prototype of the Vision Pro: according to him, it was a long time ago, six to eight years ago, and the device was not at all what customers saw it today.
The presentation of the prototype took place at 1 Mariani in Cupertino – “an inconspicuous low-rise building with blacked-out windows on the edge of the old Infinite Loop campus,” VF describes. The publication notes that this is a “secret” place in Apple, to which only a few employees of the company have access, and this is where the iPod and iPhone were introduced.
Mike Rockwell, vice president of Apple’s Vision Products Group, showed a prototype of the Cook headset. “It was some kind of monster,” says the head of Apple.
He was asked to sit down and a “huge box-like machine” was placed around his face. Inside the box were about half a dozen screens stacked on top of each other and cameras “sticking out like whiskers.”
“At that time it was not worn,” says Cook. “It was impossible to even imagine.” Fans buzzed on both sides of Cook’s head, and wires came out of the apparatus that stretched across the floor to another room, where they were connected to a supercomputer. At the time, he didn’t know how long it would take Apple’s engineers to turn this huge prototype into a device. But he knew they would make it.
“I knew for many years that we would achieve this. I just didn’t know when.”
Director James Cameron, in a conversation with the publication, called the invention revolutionary.
“I think that this is not an evolution, but a revolution. And I speak as someone who has worked in VR for 18 years.” According to him, the point is the realism of the video, which is achieved due to the fact that Vision Pro sends 4K images directly to the eyes. For people like Cameron, it solves any problem.
But even despite this miracle with 23 million pixels, there are some questions that Apple has not yet resolved, writes VF. First of all, the publication notes the large weight of the device (650 grams). The interlocutor of the magazine, computer engineer Carolina Cruz-Neira, a pioneer of virtual reality, believes that the way the VR headset is placed on the user’s face greatly affects the perception of the technology.
“I’ve been working in virtual reality for over 30 years, and until we can take the scuba mask off your face and make it less visible, we’re not going to be able to make this technology mainstream,” she says. “And the question of the size and weight of these masks cannot be solved in one year.”
As VF tells us, there’s an old story about Steve Jobs that has become folklore in Silicon Valley. About 25 years ago, in the same nondescript house in the Marianas, 1 team of engineers worked on the first iPod. They worked diligently to create the smallest prototype possible. In the end, when all the electronics are squeezed into a miniature case, the prototype is shown to Jobs. Jobs examines the device and says it needs to be scaled down. Engineers answer that less will not work. Then Jobs approaches the aquarium and throws the prototype there. As the device sinks, Jobs says:
“See the air bubbles? They mean you can make it even smaller.”
In many ways, this very question will determine whether Apple Vision Pro will be a financial success, according to VF. While Apple executives told the publication they were “thrilled” with the sales figures, Wall Street analysts said the company sold about 180,000 units in the first weekend of online pre-orders. Morgan Stanley predicts that sales will grow to 2-4 million units per year over the next five years, and Vision Pro will become a new category of enterprise products. Others, like insider Ming-Chi Kuo, believe the headset will remain a niche product for some time. However, many analysts VF spoke to believe the product will eventually become mainstream. As Dan Ives, a senior analyst at Wedbush Securities, said, “In a few years, Vision Pro will look like sunglasses and cost less than $1,500.”