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Apple Vision Pro roundup: Early users give verdict on new augmented reality headset

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Apple has let people back into its Vision Pro augmented reality headset, with just days ahead of its launch.

The headset, which costs $3,499, will open for pre-orders on Friday. It will then go on sale on 2 February, though they are expected to be in short supply.

As pre-orders open, however, few people have actually been able to wear the headset that Apple is asking the world to spend $3,499 on. The company gave some demonstrations immediately after it was released – including to The Independent – and has been showing it to developers in secret, but few people outside of Apple have used it for any significant length of time or in their normal day.

Now Apple has given reviewers another demonstration, as well as showing some experiences that were not part of that first demo. Users described watching immersive video experiences from companies including Disney, for instance.

Overall, those first reviews were largely positive, with reviewers praising the clarity of the display and the eye- and hand-tracking systems.

The weight and the feel of the headset did however prompt some concern about how comfortable it would be to wear for a long time.

“Like any other VR headset, you feel it sitting on your head and wrecking your hairdo once you slip it on,” wrote The Verge’s Victoria Song. “(If you’ve got long hair like me, you’ll feel it bunch up in the back, too.)”

Engadget’s Cherlynn Low said explicitly that the headset had eventually started to hurt. The headset came with a strap that stretches and goes over the back of the head, she wrote.

“It was wide, ridged and soft, and I at first thought it would be very comfortable,” she wrote. “But 15 minutes into my experience, I started to feel weighed down by the device, and five more minutes later, I was in pain.”

Apple offers a strap with two loops including one that goes over the head, which made it feel “much better for weight distribution, and it didn’t keep slipping down my hair”, she said. Her colleague Dana Wollman also voiced some concern about the fitting process, writing that it required some adjusting and a change of the face cushions to make it both comfortable and the displays clear.

The new hands-on reviews also marked the first time that Apple had explicitly let people see the EyeSight display that sits on the front of the headset and gives clues to what is going on inside. Knowing that screen is showing to everyone on the outside made the experience “strange”, wrote Ms Song.

“This is all well and good, but it’s strange to wear the headset and not actually know what’s happening on that front display — to not really have a sense of your appearance. And it’s even stranger that looking at people in the real world can cause them to appear, apparition-like, in the virtual world.

“The social cues of this thing are going to take a long while to sort out.”

Those early users also complained a little about the virtual keyboard on the headset, which floats in front of a person’s face and allows them to type using their fingers. Early reviewers called it “clunky” and in need of improvement, with the keys not accurately picking up the words.