I hadn’t been to an Apple store for the longest time.
Nothing’s gone wrong with my Apple devices over the last couple of years, and it’s not as if Apple has released products that especially give me a thrill.
But now Apple was promising at least a thrill and a half with the launch of the Vision Pro headset, so I wanted to feel the pre-launch excitement.
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As I wandered into a Bay Area Apple store last week, I looked to see what had changed. Please let me tell you: not much.
Phones here, laptops there, and watches and iPads over there. All on very clean tables.
Surprisingly, however, there were no ads for the Vision Pro. None. Nowhere. In fact, there was no sign that the Vision Pro was coming within less than 100 hours.
Which felt a little odd.
A trained charm offensive
But before I could bathe in that oddness, a charming saleswoman wandered over and asked if she could help.
I leaped straight in. “Do you have any of those goggles, by any chance?” Well, it didn’t hurt to ask.
She paused for a moment, as if she wasn’t aware the store sold goggles. Then she realized I was talking about the Apple Vision Pro.
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“Friday,” she said. “Come at 8 a.m., line up and you can try one on. First come, first served.”
She saw my marginal disappointment and quickly added: “But it’s going to blow your mind.”
“Oh, have you tried one on?” I wondered.
“No, but I’ve been trained on them.”
“What does that training entail?”
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“Well, we’re not allowed to talk about that, but I promise you, it’s incredible.”
She insisted on proving her point. She walked me over to a MacBook, opened the Apple website, and clicked on the Vision tab.
She began to play a demonstration video that, dare I confess, is quite moving.
The fact that someone else can see (a digital version of) your eyes is a touchingly humane feature, even if imperfect. But the simple gesturing and the apparent power of that gesturing is, even on video, quite something.
Suddenly, it’s all business
I thought, though, that she’d try to get me excited about the more fun aspects of the Vision Pro. From my first cursory glances, the device had struck me as the future of entertainment — or at least that’s what I’d heard from those who (claim to) know.
Instead, she offered this: “What do you do for a living?”
I mumbled something about creativity and general BS. She insisted that the Vision Pro would revolutionize my world of work.
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Work? The Vision Pro is a work tool?
This hadn’t crossed my mind. When a space-agey gadget comes along, I always assume it’ll be more exciting than practical, more mind-blowing than productivity-enhancing.
“What sort of businesses will this be useful for?” I asked.
“Architects are going to do amazing things with this. Amazing.”
I wondered if this work-focused sales patter had been part of her Vision Pro training. Don’t let them think it’s primarily an entertainment gadget, tell them it’s a time-saver and moneymaker. And, wait, can’t businesses buy these and write them off?
She saw my somewhat blank face – hey, it was still before noon – and asked: “What do you think you’re going to use it for?”
“Watching movies?” I said.
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“Sure, sure. That’s going to be great, but think about how you’ll do work with a spatial computer,” she insisted.
I confess: This was hard. Yes, there’s a virtual keyboard, but there’s something about touching a keyboard when I write that’s, well, concrete. I couldn’t imagine typing into thin air.
And yes, that might look a little weird, as if I’m conducting an orchestra of pianists and timpani players.
I asked if she thought this would become the new way of living, where people wander around with goggles on their heads.
“Maybe. But this isn’t just goggles,” she insisted. “This is computing. Spatial computing. This is like having a computer in front of your face, with all your apps, and being able to do what you want.”
(Well, not quite all the apps. Netflix and YouTube aren’t there.)
Was I sold? Not quite yet
As I tried working out how I was going to write with one of these things on my head, the saleswoman espied a sale.
“Would you like to pre-order one now?” she offered, with bounteous optimism.
Personally, before I spend $3,499, I prefer to try the product first – though I know that isn’t the case these days with everyone. Some people will just buy it and, if they don’t like it, they’ll sell it on eBay.
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\I learned that I couldn’t even make an appointment to try one on until after launch day. (No, I’m not one for standing in line at 8 a.m. on Fridays.) How soon I could get an appointment?
“After the weekend,” was the somewhat vague response.
I then tried a different question: “How many Vision Pros will you have in the store?”
She demurred, but another store employee had overheard our conversation and helpfully signaled with his fingers: Four.
The Vision Pro is, then, a particular delicacy. You may have to be patient before you can try one on.
Also: 10 reasons the Apple Vision Pro is secretly brilliant
But to consider it primarily a work tool takes something of a magic leap. Could it be that, one day, instead of offering employees cubicles, or even desks, companies will simply give them a Vision Pro and let them wander about an empty building?
I felt enormous sympathy for these store employees working hard to hype a product they’d not had to chance to try themselves. The salesperson who’d offered me four fingers said, sensibly, that he wouldn’t know if this was really the future until he’d put it on his head.
I asked the female store employee whether she’d be able to try one on before the hordes pour in at 8 a.m. on Friday.
“I don’t know. It doesn’t matter,” she said. “We’re here for you.”