It looks as though Apple really wants you to use the Vision Pro mixed reality headset on a plane. While the announcement trailer showed people using the headset mid-flight, a deep dive into the first visionOS beta revealed there may be a dedicated “Travel Mode” specifically for plane travel.
Travel Mode was uncovered by MacRumors, who have been spending time with the first Vision Division developer beta. The goal, unsurprisingly, is to enhance the user experience while you’re on a plane, and the various constraints involved with being stuck in a pressurized cabin 30,000ft above the ground.
What Vision Pro Travel Mode does
While it doesn’t sound like Travel Mode is actually usable just yet, MacRumors did uncover some text strings that seem to reveal what users should expect from this mode when it’s in use. That includes asking users whether they’re on a plane, warning them to keep Travel Mode switched on, and to stay stationary during use.
Crucially it looks like a bunch of the headset’s awareness features are either disabled or toned down when Travel Mode is active. This makes sense considering plane travel typically involves being stuffed into a cramped space with hundreds of other people. It's not called cattle class for nothing.
Since the Vision Pro is totally reliant on sensing movement and gestures to operate, being packed into a tight space could cause other people to inadvertently affect what you’re doing. Likewise you don’t want to have to do any motion that would hit other passengers, or otherwise interfere with what limited comfort they have.
Travel Mode also means digital personas stop being available, and the ghazi accuracy has been reduced. It’s not entirely clear why, but it’s also likely down to the space constraints within an aircraft, and the disabled awareness features.
Finally we have the warning for users to stay stationary, which is rather self-explanatory. With limited space, and hundreds of other people to contend with, you need all your wits about you to navigate up and down an airplane aisle. With reduced gaze accuracy and disabled awareness features, the see-through AR features may not be as effective at projecting the world around you as they otherwise would be.
So moving around with a Vision Pro covering your eyes is likely to be a genuine safety hazard. Plus the EyeSight feature, if active, is only going to freak people out. People have already expressed their dislike for the feature online, and the last thing you want to do on a plane is scare or freak people out.
Why Vision Pro's Travel Mode matters
Let's be honest, plane travel is an absolute chore. A necessary one in a lot of cases, but it's still a drag to go through the airport process and get crammed into a flying metal tube for several hours at a time. There's a reason most of us travel with noise cancelling headphones and an abundance of entertainment.
Throwing a headset into the mix could be another sensory distraction to keep your mind entertained and not lingering on the fact you're bored stiff and want to get to your destination as quickly as possible. Tom's Guide Streaming Editor Henry T Casey has even argued that plane travel is one of the few places a Vision Pro might make sense — to the point where the option to rent a device ahead of travel is appealing.
But, unless you're wealthy enough to pay for an ultra-spacious first class seat, the constraints of air travel are guaranteed to get in the way. With no dedicated controller, and a reliance on gestures or motion controls means attempting to use the Vision Pro in such cramped quarters means you're not going to get a great experience.
So, considering Apple has already pushed the headset as a companion for air travel, it needs to make sure things run smoothly. Not just for the benefit of users, but also to ensure people with Vision Pros on planes don't develop any kind of negative reputation — or snarky nicknames.
A dedicated travelling mode that optimizes the Vision Pro for such occasions is just the way to do it. Though it probably shouldn't be restricted to air travel, since buses and trains are just as cramped and uncomfortable as planes.
Of course visionOS is still in an early beta, and the headset itself isn’t likely to arrive until sometime next year. So odds are there will be some changes being made to the Vision Pro’s Travel Mode before we get to try it for ourselves. In the meantime check out our Apple Vision Pro hands-on for our early thoughts on the headset, and the Apple Vision Pro hub for all the latest news and information.