Welcome to Soundbyte! In this issue:
- February Meeting
- Blurred Vision
- Rabbit Rabbit
- 40 Years of the Mac
- Head Cook talks
- London’s Glass Elevator
- iPhone Update
- Dyson farm?
- Offers for member
Join LMUG on Monday, February 12 at 7:00pm (GMT), for our February meeting. This month we will discuss the release of Apple’s Vision Pro, its implications for ‘the rest of us’ and what AI could mean for the future. We will start as usual with NewsByte.
Check the email this newsletter came in for the Zoom link. We will also post the link in our Slack General Channel.
The Apple Vision Pro has gone on sale (US-only) to tremendous interest, excitement and no small dose of consternation. This is due to a tension between the revolutionary operation system, Vision OS and the powerful headset it runs on, the Vision Pro.
A quick reminder, the Vision Pro is a headset you wear over your eyes that is packed with hardware. The outside is robust glass, but you can’t see through it. Inside the headset you look at two Ultra High-Definition screens, one for each eye. In-front of one screen is an M2 chip for software and in-front of the other is an R1 chip. The R1 runs a series of cameras that track your eyes and hands. This is how you control the device. There are also emerging accessories.
The design of the Vision Pro is outstanding. It is made from glass, aluminium and carbon fibre. As mentioned in a previous SoundByte, these premium materials have also come with a premium weight. Apple has made efforts to mitigate this weight on your head with a choice of straps, one stylish and one more supportive. The choice of head strap acknowledges that different heads react differently to the different straps. Fingers crossed that one fits you. Unfortunately, early reviewers have reported that Vision Pro either presses hard on the face or weighs hard on the cheeks. It leaves indentations and red marks on some skin types. Some also report irritated skin. Others seem to have perfectly sized heads for Vision Pro and can wear it in comfort all-day. You throws the dice and hopes for the best. Many stated they could last around one hour before needing to take it off. This is clearly a device with bleeding-edge technologies. In this version 1, Apple is not yet able to escape compromises.
It is heavier than the most popular alternative, the Meta Quest 3. And the Meta Quest’s weight includes its battery while the Vision Pro’s weight doesn’t; it’s just (heavy) glass and metal. The Vision Pro battery is external, and hangs on a long cord. Perhaps it is a blessing that the battery can last only for 2-3 hours, which is longer than many could tolerate wearing the headset. Apple have also priced the Vision Pro well above the Meta Quest, as if it isn’t competing with it! On the one hand it isn’t, as the purpose of the Vision Pro is to run Vision OS. However, the technology needed to run Vision OS in a dream design, (transparent glasses) doesn’t exist. The only way Apple found to make it work with all the chips and screens needed, was to run it inside a powerful VR headset, just like the Meta Quest. Comparisons will be unavoidable; it could be a repeat of Android vs iPhone again.
Weight is the most controversial aspect of the design, but the external facing display is close behind. Cook went on his favourite Good Morning America and was asked about isolation. Wearing a headset, aren’t you disconnected from the people around you? Cook said that you can sit next to someone with the headset on, and you can see each other’s eyes. The Vision Pro has cameras that track your eyes, and it replicates them on the external screen when you are close to someone. But in contrast to Apple’s marketing, the reactions to eyes on this external screen, have been mostly negative. It’s bad quality and frankly, it feels rude. If I am sat next to you about to talk and you have a headset covering your face, surely the correct etiquette is to take it off for our conversation. Is this not similar to please putting your phone away when someone is talking to you? The only exception will be transparent glasses, when you don’t need to take them off, for one to really see you. A commenter on at least one YouTube review, remarked on the emotional release, when the reviewer took off his Vision Pro and showed his face. The comment garnered many thumbs up. This is a serious problem, I think, with all VR headsets.
We need smart glasses for this revolution to work. But the needed technology is new and maybe some years off miniaturisation. Where would you put the big M2+R1 chips in glasses anyway? As with their other devices, I don’t doubt that when they are ready, Apple also will make a custom integrated chip to fit inside the frame of their smart glasses, like they did with the AirPod Pro’s H-series chips.
In hard contrast to Vision Pro, Vision OS appears to be a revolutionary paradigm shift with enormous implications. As described above, you control Vision OS with your eyes and fingers. Apparently Apple has perfected the physics needed and it works like mind-reading magic.
What is the point though? Steve Jobs when he introduced the iPad said that in order to create a new category of device, it would need to be far better at doing some key tasks. What is Vision OS better at? In these early days of the platform, Apple has focused on media consumption: Photos and Movies. Reviewers have been impressed by panoramic photos. When viewed on Vision Pro, these wrap around you, sparking memories. You can finally see them as intended. Movies (including 3D movies) and TV show watching is apparently unparalleled. It’s so good, some fear for movie theatres. Apple commenter John Gruber said “I can recommend buying Vision Pro solely for use as a personal theater“. Apple has additionally, leaned into VR (a temporary cul-de-sac?), by including immersive environments that you can turn on and off with a dial. Beaches, mountains, the moon, all in 4K clarity/reality. This is very different to Meta Quest, which is…cartoon based. There are also some example immersive experiences: watching a singer close up; a game; a high wire act and a 3D dinosaur. The super sharp screens make all of these realistic and dramatic.
This is enough to push the ship off from harbour, but not enough to take sail. Apple has included an App Store with many iPhone and iPad apps that you can place around you, hovering in space. And since it is hard to use your iPhone in the headset (a bad sign for the future of smartphones?), you can at least take your apps with you. And Mac Users aren’t left out, you can display your Mac’s screen inside the headset. This is dramatic for those with small MacBook screens, now they can work on a 100-inch massive screen. But I can’t escape the feeling that these experiences, with apps designed for other platforms might be…legacy. I’m am unclear how using an iPad app on Vision Pro is far better than on an iPad. It is not a question of clarity (which seems good enough) but control. Maybe it is fine with iOS apps with their large touch targets, but the Mac screen targets are so small that you cannot use eyes and fingers to manipulate it. Mac users are limited to specific trackpads and keyboards.
With the Mac in particular, the Vision Pro supports only one screen and Mac apps are confined to the Mac desktop boundary. 1984 in 2024! Other cheaper VR headsets and smart glasses, like X-Real Air 2 Pro have similar desktop/monitor support. The treatment of Mac Apps here seems to be usable, but incongruous to the paradigm shift to Spatial Computing in Vision OS. I wonder where this will go? I recall the first Apple Watches. The apps on those watches had an Apple Watch-optimised user interface, but all the processing occurred on the more powerful iPhone. Could that model be the future for Mac apps?
I think we need developers to create native Vison OS apps that accelerate productivity within Spatial Computing. See some early examples, below the ghost of Windows past:
Algoriddim have created a DJ app that appears to work far better than their iPad app:
Moog, creator of trippy musical instruments, have completed reimagined how to create music:
Is this the future of Air Traffic control? What’s intriguing here is the presenter is aware of other headsets but is excited for Vision Pro and looks forward to Apple Developers making insanely great apps.
So is this the future for all computing? Casey Neistat thinks so:
Finally, on isolation. Is it dystopian loneliness? Maybe not. Reviewers mention enhanced connections possible with others in remote or distant locations from within the device, especially via Face Time. They are also amazed at the ability to transform your environments, improving your wellness. There is a lot to figure out.
Speaking of re-imagining computing. 2024 will also be the year of AI breakthroughs. One innovation, revealed last month was the ability of AI to not just answer questions, but carry out tasks, like booking your taxi or flights. This occurs on the Rabbit device. Presented in the style of Steve Jobs, its highly accomplished inventor showed what the future could look like (and may look like on our devices if Siri gains similar skills in iOS18…).
Another company is also jumping ahead, in a similar way, with AI. The popular Arc Browser. Have a look at what they are cooking up this year, below:
40 Years of the Mac
Speaking of 1984 (and its finally redundant floppy disks), this year is a major milestone for the Mac. 40 Years. A historic reunion with interviews of the original Mac team was captured at the Computer History Museum that you can watch below:
Head Cook Talks
Tim Cook has been giving lots of interviews recently. Apple is now the world’s number one Smart Phone maker (a signal it’s time to move on with the Vision Pro?). Have a look at the documentary made by Jon Prosser about who Tim is and his impact on Apple, below:
Here is Tim in his own words, being interviewed on the BBC by the Apple Music favourite, Dua Lipa:
London’s Glass Elevator
Yes Charlie Bucket, a real glass Elevator is now in London. Sited in the Battersea Power Station along with Apple’s UK HQ. It’s a tourist attraction going up one of the famous chimneys and bursting into the open with “views” of London. But think about that, it pops out the top. How on earth does that work? Have a look below at this remarkable engineering:
Lots of iPhone news this month. First, there is a software update: 17.3, with a significant new security feature in case your device is stolen. Brandon explains below:
In other news, you will have heard about the incident with the plane with the blown out door. Remarkably, an iPhone was sucked out and survived the fall to the ground in-tact and working. Read about it on the Register. You should always be cautious if travelling to authoritarian countries. A new risk from the Government of China has emerged that you should be aware of if you go there, read it on the Mac Observer. The Observer also has some tips for issues you might encounter with your iPhone battery. Beware the dangers of Social Media, its could warp your kids brains. Finally, you might be aware that QI2 as described in September’s Soundbyte is now on the iPhone. Have look at how it fares below.
You might be surprised to learn that Dyson, makers of Vacuums, hair and hand dryers but not cars, owns a quite high-tech farm. Have a look below at their presentation.
Speaking of cars. Tesla has started shipping their remarkable Truck. Maybe not coming to European shores any time soon (looks scary for pedestrians). Have a look at this remarkable vehicle below:
OFFERS FOR MEMBERS
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