Apple Vision Pro doesn’t solve my biggest problem with VR headsets

Apple Vision Pro
(Image credit: Apple)

The Apple Vision Pro sounds like a technical marvel, packing in a number of cameras, sensors and other sophisticated electronics to deliver a premium mixed reality headset. And from the feedback of people who've experienced Apple Vision Pro hands-on time, including my colleague Mark Spoonauer, it's a pretty incredible device to use — at least in demo form.

Yet, despite all that, Apple doesn't seem to have addressed the biggest problem with mixed-reality headsets (or spatial computing devices, as Apple prefers to call its Vision Pro). You strap one of these things on your head, whether it's just for a few minutes or for the entirety of the battery's meager 2-hour run time, and you end up looking pretty goofy.

I want to emphasize this isn't an issue unique to the Apple Vision Pro, which seems to at least benefit from Apple's noted flair for product design. I think it's a problem for headsets as a whole, from the mightiest Meta Quest 3 to the humblest augmented reality glasses. You wear one of those things, and you run the risk of people pointing and laughing at you. And I think that possibility of ridicule is going to hurt adoption rates (though, frankly a $3,499 price tag isn't going to help in that department, either).

Again, this is no reflection on how this device performs. I haven't witnessed an Apple Vision Pro demo for myself, but I've heard from enough people who have that swear this is the best experience they've ever had with a headset. Apps are easy to launch and move around with the eye-tracking and gesture-based controls; 3D videos jump off the virtual screen; and the quality of video you can capture with the headset's camera is apparently superlative.

And all it takes for you to experience this yourself is to wear a headset that makes you look like you're auditioning for a Daft Punk tribute band.

Apple Vision Pro: Who wants to wear this?

Do you think I'm exaggerating? I don't think it's a coincidence that not a single Apple executive appeared in the WWDC 2023 keynote actually wearing an Apple Vision Pro. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, who nailed so many Apple Vision Pro details before the headset's debut, even wondered about the lack of Apple executives trying on their new product.

The reason you won't see Tim Cook wearing an Apple Vision Pro is because Tim Cook is a powerful, respected CEO who probably doesn't want to see lots of memes of himself dressed up like a spaceman. And that's exactly what you hurtful little goblins are going to do the moment Cook or Disney's Bob Iger or anyone of any sort import dares to wear an Apple Vision Pro in view of a camera.

Apple Vision Pro multitasking

(Image credit: Apple)

Consider the poor gentleman in Apple's Vision Pro demonstration from WWDC. He seems like an affable enough fellow, and he's certainly enjoying his time with Apple's headset, with all those apps and windows floating neatly into his view.

I have a hard time imagining anyone who lived through the Google Glass fiasco would look at a mixed reality device and say, 'Maybe we should make it even larger and have a prominent power cord sticking out the back so that whoever wears it will seem more machine than man.' And yet, here we are.

But imagine for a second that you worked in the same office-place as that gent, and you hapened to be walking by as he's pointing and blinking and saying words to virtual search bars that you can't see. You'd momentarily conclude he was a madman. You wouldn't be entirely off-base.

Lest you think I'm just picking on random people here, allow me to dig up some of my own buried history — a photo of me wearing a Hololens from many Microsoft Builds in the past.

HoloLens 2 headset in action

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Look at that man and how ridiculous he seems. He is not a serious person. You would not be able to take anything he had to tell you with a straight face, not while he was wearing that contraption and maybe not ever. "I need you to finish that report before the end of the day," he might tell you. "You need the love of your family and the help of a good therapist," you might think by way of reply.

Google Glasses are still a thing that happened in living memory. I have a hard time imagining anyone who lived through that time — a time when we openly sneered at anyone foolish enough to wear that headgear — would look at a mixed reality device and say, "Maybe we should make it even larger and have a prominent power cord sticking out the back so that whoever wears it will seem more machine than man." And yet, that is where we are.

Apple Vision Pro outlook

I don't want to seem like I'm knocking Apple's design choices, as I think the company did the best it could putting together the device it was tasked with. It's simply impossible to stick a computer over someone's face and have the result look dignified or subtle. If having that kind of spatial computing experience at your disposal means looking like downhill skier Lindsey Vonn right as she's hooked up to the matrix, that's the trade-off some people will be happy to make.

Apple Vision Pro EyeSight

(Image credit: Apple)

I'm not one of them, and not just because I don't need a tech company's help to look foolish. I find myself staring at too many screens these days, and I'm looking for ways to pare that number down, not to actually add one more that I'm toting around on my face. And while the Vision Pro's EyeSight feature that displays your eyes so people can feel like they're talking to you is a nice flourish on Apple's part, I don't think it solves the problem that headsets are a fairly solitary experience at a time technology feels more isolating than ever.

It's possible that the Vision Pro leads to greater experiences, if not when it ships next year then in the future when Apple refines and revises its take on spatial computing. But right now, I don't like the looks of things — and I suspect I'm not the only one.

More from Tom's Guide

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.