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I learned a lot from the Vision Pro demo.

TechnologyI learned a lot from the Vision Pro demo.

Potential Apple customers have been able to wander in to any Apple Store and look at most of the company's products for decades. The Apple Vision Pro is an exception to this simple process; the "mixed-reality curious" need to book ahead for a guided, half-hour Vision Pro experience led by an Apple Store employee. I was interested to see how Apple would sell the concept ofspatial computing to the public, many of whom have no experience with existing virtual-reality systems. I wanted to get a brief glimpse into the Vision Pro's unique features without shelling out $3,499 for a unit of my own. The guided Vision Pro demo at the nearby Apple Store left me with mixed feelings about how Apple is positioning its new computer interface to the public. The device didn't come with a cohesive story pitching it as Apple's next big general-use computing platform, but it did have some definite "oh, wow" moments.

I was told to wait by the Vision Pro display at the front of the store after arriving a few minutes early for my appointment. I couldn't try a unit on or even hold it in my hands while I waited, but I could fondle the Vision Pro's buttons and straps.

Kyle Orland.

Kyle Orland.

Kyle Orland.

Kyle is the son of Kyle.

An Apple Store employee, who we'll call Craig, walked over and said that he was excited to show off the Vision Pro. I sat in a low-backed chair across from a customer who looked a little sleepy as he watched his own demo of Vision Pro. After some initial problems, the store now mostly stayed on schedule, but some of the demo bugs were still present. Craig had trouble finding the dedicated iPhone he used to take a picture of my face and determine the Vision Pro light seal for my head. They decided to have me download the Apple Store app and use a QR code to reach the face- scanning tool on my own phone after consulting with a colleague. It took three attempts, scanning my face from four angles, before the app spit out the code that Craig needed to send my fit information to the back room. The store had different light seals and corrective lens options that were ready to be swapped in to make sure they were comfortable for each demo.

After a short wait, another employee took my demo unit out on a wooden platter that made me feel like I was at a Japanese restaurant. The battery pack was placed in the center of the platter, which was artistically arranged from the front cover to the gently coiled cord. Craig told me that he would be able to see what I saw in the Vision Pro on his iPad. The Vision Pro's external battery cord was removed several times to get the wireless connection to work. Craig gave me a brief primer on how to use the VisionOS interface with glances and thumb/forefinger taps. "You're going to pull on a piece of string and then release, so be aware of that," he said. Things will go smoothly for you, and it was nice and gentle.

Craig explained how to tighten the fit with a dial behind my ear after I put the headset on. It took a minute or two to calibrate the eye and hand tracking, but we were able to see that Craig was reading from a script. The genuine enthusiasm he had shown in our earlier chat gave way to a dry monotone when delivering obvious marketing lines. "We have some beautiful shots from the iPhone, right here," Craig said as I looked at the prepared photos and panoramas. "Here we have a beautiful panorama, but we're going to experience it in a different way, as if you were in the exact spot where it was taken," Craig said. The actors in the video were impressive, and the sense of three-dimensional presence in the high-fidelity video was a little stilted. Craig told me that I could use spatial computing to create a virtual environment of mountains with my digital crown. "You're always in control, Craig," he assured me, "and you can change it at any time." Craig's voice guided me as I opened a few flat app windows, placing them around my space and resizing them as I wanted. Craig pointed out how easy to navigate the website is on Vision Pro. Craig wanted me to know that there will be over one million apps for the Vision Pro on day one.

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