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  • Writer's pictureEthan Saadia

A Developer’s Apple Vision Pro Pickup Experience


The Apple Store facade before opening on Vision Pro launch day, February 2, 2024

Lining Up

On Vision Pro Launch Day, I arrived at the Apple Store at 7:30 AM, half an hour early for my pickup appointment. For the first time, I’d be lining up for the launch of a new product category, and I wanted the full experience.


I rounded the corner to the pickup section at the back entrance and found one other early bird waiting there. He was in town for work and made sure to book a demo appointment here to be among the first to experience Vision Pro.


Fifteen minutes before opening, a few Apple specialists joined the crowd that had formed outside to get us ready for check-in and separate us into Demo and Pickup lines. At 8:00 on the dot, the doors opened, and I entered the store to a burst of applause. As the first in line, I was quickly escorted to a specialist who would assist me with the pickup process.



Fit Check

Before they bring down your order, your specialist will ask if you want to do a fit check. Although I had the opportunity to try Vision Pro earlier at the Apple Developer Center, I wanted to double check my fit. The specialist put in a request for my size, and soon, the elevator to my left slid open, revealing someone carrying a Vision Pro on a custom wooden platter. The way they deliver the Vision Pro feels just like you’re being served a dish at a fine-dining restaurant.



The specialist asked me about the balance of Vision Pro between my forehead and cheeks, and after I confirmed it was a good fit, she put it a request to fulfill my order.


Delivery

The delivery of my fitted Vision Pro took about 20 minutes. Unlike other Apple products, Vision Pro is packaged at the store, my specialist explained. With numerous sizes and options for the Light Seal, Band, and prescription lenses, there are over 90 different ways to configure a Vision Pro.


While we wait, my specialist shows me over to the accessory wall, where I took my first look at the Vision Pro Travel Case. It has a retractable handle, soft interior, and a fabric exterior that gives it the appearance of a small backpack.


At last, my Vision Pro was ready.



Demo Experience

At check-in, I was offered a demo after picking up my Vision Pro, which I gladly accepted. In the middle of the store, two product display tables were replaced with a living room setup. On a gray carpet, four leather couches line the corners, each corner accommodating a customer and a specialist to give the demo.



Apple has dedicated units for the demo experience, so you scan your face again to get re-fitted. While waiting for my demo unit, I asked the specialist about a machine next to the couch that looked like a coffee machine. To my surprise, he put his glasses inside, pressed a button, and the machine began analyzing the lenses. After prodding each lens for a few seconds, it spits out the correct ZEISS Optical Inserts needed for the wearer.



Specialists have an iPad that displays a live feed of my view so they can follow along and provide support if needed. The demo specialist recognized from the feed and from our conversation that I was already familiar with Vision Pro basics, so after setting up hand and eye tracking, we jumped quickly into the experience.


Panoramas

The first part of the demo took place in the Photos app. In visionOS, the Photos app sidebar has a dedicated section for panoramas. At first glance, panoramas display just like any other image on Vision Pro. But if you tap the Immersive button, the panorama wraps around your body, transporting you back to the place in the photo.


The photos in the demo weren’t mine, but I was already thanking myself for taking the time to capture panoramas on past vacations.


A panorama I shot on iPhone 14 Pro of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain

Spatial Photos

Another unique section in the visionOS Photos app is the Spatial tab. Here, you’ll find all the spatial photos and videos in your library. I was most excited to try out these features in the demo as they weren’t available when I tested Vision Pro last year.


Viewing a spatial photo is like looking into a window of a memory, frozen in time. The depth effect is profound and holds up when looking from different angles. Like with panoramas, there is an Immersive button that takes the experience to a whole new level. The window expands around you and blurs at the edges, and the image feels real, as if you could reach out and touch objects inside it.


Spatial Video

After experiencing Spatial Photos, I was extremely excited for its moving counterpart. In December, iOS 17.2 made it possible to record Spatial Video on iPhone 15 Pro. Since then I’ve been capturing memories in 3D, but until now, I had only viewed them as standard videos on a 2D screen. When recording, I wondered, “How far does the depth effect work?” and “How fine is the detail in 3D?”


The demo answered my second question and absolutely blew me away. A mother and her three young kids were sitting right in front of me. Their faces popped from the sofa behind them and balloons in the very back. The family was finishing singing “Happy Birthday.” The birthday girl blew out the candles on a cake, and the smoke trails flew right into my face.


If you use Portrait or Cinematic Mode on iPhone, you may know that the depth effect can struggle with extremely fine details like individual strands of hair, so the 3D smoke, a translucent and wispy subject, immediately showed me that Spatial Video was on another level.


The next Spatial Video showed a family blowing bubbles outside. As each bubble formed from the wand, it stood out against the sky and grass. The effect was so convincing, I could almost put my finger out and pop the bubbles.


3D Movies

After watching Spatial Video captured on iPhone at home, I couldn’t wait to experience a 3D movie on Vision Pro. The next phase of the demo shifted to the TV app, where I watched clips from The Super Mario Bros. Movie.


The 3D effect suited the movie very well. The depth created additional space between the subject of each shot, the background, and foreground that suited the film very well. At movie theaters, I seldom opt for the 3D option, but I could already tell that I’d be selecting 3D version of movies whenever possible on Vision Pro.


Apple Immersive Video

The next demo reel was Apple Immersive Video, showcasing 180˚ 3D footage. I didn’t know what to expect, so the first look at this new video format was astonishing. I was impressed by Spatial Video and 3D movies, but Immersive Video took a step to an entirely different level. The real-world passthrough faded away, and all of a sudden, I’m standing right in front of Alicia Keys, speaking to me from a grand piano in a music studio. She starts singing as her band, surrounding her around the room, joins in. It’s like having a seat inside a practice room.


In Immersive Video, you are the movie’s camera. You can look anywhere in the 180˚ world. I lifted my head up, and noticed the speakers and studio lights beaming down on the studio. To my left, I could watch the guitar player strumming chords, and I could even make out what notes he was playing. Looking to the right, the keyboardist stood surrounded by three different keyboards, and I could see each knob, cable, and pedal when looking down. Behind him I spotted the rest of the band, the bassist grooving, the drummer providing a steady beat for the band.


Soon, the scene shifts to a diver underwater, with sharks and fish circling around us. Seconds later, I’m flying above a fjord in Norway, before a helicopter lands uncomfortably close in front of me. I see a group of kids playing soccer as rhinos watch them from afar. Before I know it, the rhinos are right in my face, looking up curiously at me. To end the sequence, I’m transported in front of a woman walking on a tightrope across the fjord. Her concentration is intense, and you can see it on her face as she stares right into you. When I look down, I see the calm water hundreds of feet below. It’s hard not feel vertigo as I feel the vast expanse of the cliffs.


A Seamless Experience

The in-store demo felt like experiencing Vision Pro again for the first time and left me even more excited to test out my own apps and media. The store experience is extremely personalized and seamless, and it matches the premium feel of the product. If you’re purchasing Vision Pro, I highly recommend picking it up in an Apple Store rather than having it delivered. Even if you don’t plan on buying one, the demo alone is absolutely a worthwhile experience.


I’ll be posting a Part 2 of my experience with Vision Pro after taking it home, and stay tuned for updates for PhotoCatch on Vision Pro!



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