I just did my first Apple Vision Pro Zoom call using my Persona — and yikes!

Apple Vision Pro on head next to screen shot of Persona during Zoom call
(Image credit: Future)

Over the past week I’ve been showing people what the Apple Vision Pro can do here in our New York office, at home and even on TV, and the general reactions have been mostly positive. As I’ve demoed the eye- and hand-tracking interface, the immersive environments and first wave of Vision Pro apps, I’ve heard things like “Wow!” and “That was the coolest demo I’ve ever seen.”

But there’s an aspect to the Vision Pro that is downright creepy. And the reactions to it have been far less positive. Like, "That's ridiculous." "You look stupid." and "It looks like you've been put through an old age filter." I’m talking about Persona, which is essentially a 3D avatar of you that can appear in FaceTime calls as well as Zoom, Webex and Microsoft Teams apps. 

Here’s what Personas are, how they work and what I (and others) think about the not-so-real me based on my testing. 


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What is a Persona and how do you make one?

Apple Vision Pro

(Image credit: Future)

Persona's are supposed to be an authentic spatial representation of you that enables others on a call to see your facial expressions and movements. And it all happens in real time. 

You create your Persona using the Vision Pro headset by first sitting through a very helpful walkthrough that describes the process. Then you're invited to take off the Vision Pro and scan your face using the front of the headset.

You'll actually see your face in the Vision Pro's front display and it will help you center your face and then turn right, left up and then down. Then you'll be asked to smile with your mouth closed and with your mouth open showing your teeth, as well as raise your eyebrows and then close your eyes.

And that's it. From there, the Vision Pro takes over, leveraging machine learning to create your Persona in about a minute. Then things get really interesting. 

Viewing and personalizing your Persona

Apple Vision Pro Persona customize

(Image credit: Future)

After the Vision Pro does its processing, you'll see your Persona in a floating windows. And more likely than not you'll be displeased. For me, the Vision Pro seemed to accentuate my forehead wrinkles, and I also seemed a bit pale.

But there's some good news. Apple lets you tweak your Persona using a number of tools. Similar to how you'd edit a portrait selfie on your iPhone, you can start by choosing from multiple lighting effects, including Natural, Studio and Contour.

From there, you can select from a couple of skin tone options, including Temperature and Brightness, and I went warmer and brighter in a failed attempt to make myself look younger. Last but not least, you can choose from various eyewear options if you're someone who wears glasses. 

It's nice that you can customize your Persona, but I do wish you could accessorize a bit more by tweaking your hair, adding jewelry etc.

The result and my first Zoom calls

Apple Vision Pro Persona zoom call

(Image credit: Future)

Upon showing people my Persona (again, in beta), I got a lot of laughter and negative reactions. Senior writer Tony Polanco put it pretty well: "This thing turns people in CG characters from The Polar Express."

But I still wanted to put my Persona to the test in a real Zoom call. Could it be at least somewhat convincing? So I dialed up our senior editor for computing and security, Anthony Spadafora.

On the first call, Anthony said that it felt like "I was talking to a futuristic ghost or maybe you were calling me from Heaven. It was a bit odd at first but thanks to Memoji, I got used to it quickly."

Anthony also liked that when I shared my screen he could see my spatial computing view, including apps I had pinned. And he share that it "would be a lot more natural on a larger video call with multiple people wearing the headset." But that would be a company with a very large budget.

On our second Zoom call I experimented a bit more with hand gestures, and they were relatively convincing as I do tend to talk with my hands. But once I raised my shoulder they looked a bit too high compared to the rest of my body, kind of like Frankenstein. Anthony also noted that I wasn't looking at him when I used the gallery view with our images side by side, but I had better "fake" eye contact when I put his window on top of mine.

Apple Vision Pro Persona: Bottom line

Overall, I'd say that Personas can technically stand in for you if you want to do a video call while wearing the Vision Pro. But the level of realism is not where it needs to be, which can make calls more distracting than productive — at least in this beta stage.

As I said in my Vision Pro review, I'd be curious what would happen if Apple took longer to process your Persona in the background as you did other things. And if you gave the headset your permission to access some of your selfies for an even more realistic end result.

Then again, is this what we want? What if Personas do get way better? Would you want to have a video call with your boss or a colleague when they're just sorta there?  So part of me very much wants this Persona feature to improve. And part of me is scared that it will. 

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.