I'm currently in Austin, Texas for MeasureCamp so when I read you could book demos (via The Sizzle, of course) I waited until it was 7 days out and booked it in. Easily done on the Apple site, though you do need to sign up for an Apple ID.
My appointment was at a swanky mall in the Austin suburbs so it was a $15 Uber ride out and the same again back to town. Waiting outside I got asked by a Jehovah if I wanted to join a bible study. I suppose if you're camped outside the Apple Temple your chances of finding an easy mark are good.
Once my turn came up, my demo guy introduced himself and of course now I can't remember his name, but he was great. He took my glasses and put them in a machine that measures them and orders the appropriate optical inserts. Apparently there's some prescriptions they can't handle, specifically if your script has a "Prism" value which I think is people with astigmatism. My bifocals were no problem.
Next we had to measure my face using an iPhone app. A bit of a delay because I'm not in the cult and they had to find an iPhone I could use. You then do a process similar to enrolling for the face unlock feature: stare at the dot and slowly move your head left, right, up and down. Repeated again and the order for your seals around your face.
A few moments delay and out comes my demo set, ready for my head, face and eyes. Served on a platter like a fancy meal.
Detailed instructions were given of how to pick it up and put it on your head: you don't want smudges on the shiny plastic I suppose and Apple probably still feels the scar tissue from the "you're holding the phone wrong" antenna attenuation disaster.
Setup and calibration
The first phase of the demo is going through some calibration and learning the gestures. Calibration involves looking at dots and doing the tap gesture, touching your forefingers to your thumb briefly somewhere in the wide field of view of the front-firing cameras. The other two gestures are scroll which is pinching your fingers together, dragging in the appropriate direction and releasing. Zoom is two-handed tap, stretch and release. All pretty easy once you get the hang of it.
Then the magic starts. There's a knob on the top-right of the goggles they call the "crown". Pressing it functions like the home button on an iPhone while turning it dials up or down how much of the outside world you see.
For the next bit I dialed the outside world entirely out for the full immersive experience. The environment is a stunning mountainous outdoor view with water gently moving. The windows of applications are suspended in the air in the environment. I was instructed through expanding and placing windows in that environment.
This experience is pretty amazing. I could see it being super productive: distractions dialed out and you can easily have 3 or more massive, super high res screens arrayed in front of you. Brilliant. Apparently you can bring a Mac's desktop into this environment which would be pretty sweet.
Passive immersive experiences
Next up demos of the immersive experiences. 3D photos and videos as taken by the device itself, then ones taken on iPhones. They're pretty mind blowing quality. While the 3D visuals are as expected, the bit that really blew my mind was the audio. It really comes from the point it should, even as you move your head around.
Some demos of different immersive experiences. A clip from the (execrable I hear) Super Mario film, a bunch of immersive clips of scenes from nature: a women climbing a sheer cliff, people cuddling a baby rhino, baby bears walking into a stream, sharks underwater, a singer half a metre away from you singing straight to you. All amazing.
And that's it, the demo is over and I have to take the headset off. Smart business: they definitely leave you wanting more! Yours for only $3,500 (AUD5,400). Where's a black market kidney buyer when you need one?
I'm no Apple fanboi: I own a Mac because I got it from my last workplace and while they're amazing hardware, I'm not a huge fan of the OS and GUI. Better than Windows and I can bend it to my workflows with some effort, but there's clunky things I dislike,
But this? This I like. It's really quite impressive. Once they get the price down, I'd consider buying one. I'd probably want to borrow or rent one for a week or so to see what the working environment is like, but I could see it being super productive. And games are gonna be _incredible_. This is a much slicker, better rounded experience than the Oculus from the House of Zuck.
I had some minor quibbles with the device, and things I think need more exploration.
- Focus for me wasn't perfect. The edges of vision were quite fuzzy. This can probably be tuned in though.
- It's quite heavy! They pack an incredible amount of tech into this thing so that's not surprising, but I wonder how that goes if you wear it for hours. Ditto any visual things. I'd be curious to see how long people can use it in real world usage.
- This was a carefully curated demo. The demo guy has an iPad where he can drag you back if you try to explore on your own. I bet there's nasty rough edges, bugs and probably even straight up crashes. This is V1 of the product. Remember how crap the original iPhone was: this is better than that, but there's still going to be bad bits.
It's a brilliant piece of tech. Apple should be rightly proud of it. It's interesting that they're doing these demos: I feel like it'd be quite hard to get across how damn well it works in a video or other method of demonstration. And people have been burnt with similar products in the past: everyone who tried the Google Glasses was surprised to see the screen is just a tiny piece in the corner which isn't clear in the demo videos at all. This isn't like that: full immersion!
But wow it's expensive. I'm keen to see how much it comes down with V2.