Reviews have arrived, tech press I admire Apple Vision Pro headset For fulfilling the company's promise. It's well designed, the video and sound are surprisingly accurate, and the “Minority Report”-style gestural interface feels futuristic. No one knows exactly what it's for, or even Readiest Players One would cost him $3,500, but hey, it's the gadget for you.
Still, this New gadget frontier. The Vision Pro, like Meta's similarly equipped Quest 3 and Quest Pro headsets, uses so-called “pass-through” video, or cameras and other sensors that capture images of the outside world and reproduce them within the device. . These provide a synthetic environment made to look like the real thing, with Apple apps and other non-real elements floating in front of it. Apple and Meta hope this virtual world will be more than just a visit. They want you to live there.
Unfortunately, it can have very strange and very troubling consequences for the human brain. Researchers have found that extensive and long-term use of VR headsets can literally change how we perceive the world and each other. “Some companies are now encouraging people to spend hours in the office every day,” said Jeremy Bailenson, director of Stanford University's Virtual Human Interaction Lab. “There are so many people and they wear it for hours on end. And everything expands in scale.”
What it means: Our brains are about to undergo a massive, society-wide experiment that could rewire our sense of the world around us and make it even harder to agree on what constitutes reality. I am.
The short-term side effects of virtual reality are well established. People in synthetic environments tend to misjudge distances both far and near. That's not surprising. Even in our real three-dimensional universe, our ability to judge how close or far something is is influenced by all sorts of external factors. Virtual environments with low resolution and synthetic 3D make everything even worse. This is especially serious if you're one of the users who posts videos of themselves doing things like skateboarding or driving while wearing mixed reality headsets. Just when you think your hands are in one place, they're actually in another, and soon you'll be driving your Honda Civic through the supermarket.
Objects inside the headset can also become funhoused. This is called object distortion. Objects distort and change size, shape, and color, especially when you move your head. Video rendering can't match the processing speed and fidelity of your eyes and brain.
As any IT guy will tell you, these are all known issues. If it's just a few minutes or an hour long enough for him to play a game or watch a movie, it's a minor annoyance. But wear the perception-altering glasses for days at a time. Bailenson's research team — and the problem gets even worse. Method bad.
The team spent several weeks walking around college campuses wearing the Vision Pro and Quest, trying to do all the things they could have done without them (with a watchful eye nearby in case they tripped or hit a wall). ). They experienced “simulator sickness” including nausea, headaches, and dizziness. This was strange considering they all had experience with all kinds of headsets. And I felt all the effects of distance and distortion, like thinking the elevator buttons were farther from my fingers or having difficulty bringing food to my mouth. But like all of us, they adapted – their brains and muscles learned to compensate for the new worldview.
It seems like a solution, but it's not. If people adapt to changes in perception for a long time, the real world begins to look wrong in the opposite direction. For example, if you wear glasses that reverse your vision, you may have to readjust when you take them off. The longer you stay in the pleasant world, the longer the strange perceptual aftereffects last. So someone who spends their workday inside a Vision Pro might come home at night with a mushroom hangover because the targeting system isn't calibrated.
This is what makes pass-through video unique. important. Traditional cyberpunk envisioned virtual reality as an all-encompassing synthetic environment. Meanwhile, emerging technologists have proposed an augmented reality digital pop-up floating above a see-through lens, a la Google Glass. However, both approaches have limitations. While full sensory deprivation VR hasn't progressed beyond niche entertainment, AR tends to make both apps and the real world look bad. From a visual perspective, passthrough is the worst solution, but the social implications are even more terrifying.
Passthroughs capture and then re-render reality, which can have an unsettling and alienating effect over time. When Bailenson's colleagues tried to actually talk to people, the world turned into a giant, confusing Zoom. Video chat, which everyone has experienced, Suffer from delayed responses and missed social cues. You lose some of the subtlety of conversation, but it's good enough for meetings. But passthrough magnifies the effect even further. That's how you start to see the person you're talking to. unrealistic. If you look closely, it looks like Avatar. At a distance, they become just part of the background.
Bailenson describes this feeling as akin to social absence. Others just haven't quite gotten there. He doesn't say this, but I'm waving a warning flag. Pass-Through Using a headset for an extended period of time can make it easier to think of others as non-humans, non-player characters in a gamified uncanny valley.
We all live in our own bubbles of perception. Each person has a slightly different sensory threshold. We are all more or less sensitive to different colors, different levels of hearing, and different smells. And we process all of that in our brains, which are uniquely tuned, first by genes and then by lifelong neural changes, thought and behavior.
But in general, we agree on some common points.parable your blue looks a little different than mine, I can agree about the color of the sky. Maybe my tolerance for chili peppers is higher than yours, but we both know when we're eating chili peppers.
Using a headset makes the walls of your sensory bubble even thicker, making it harder to bridge.we are already lack of common ground politically. With millions of Americans now wearing VR headsets for hours at a time, we may find ourselves disagreeing. physically reality. Headsets bring things into our visual world that aren't present to others. Objects are not objective.
That's not all. “These headsets can not only add something to the real world, but they can also take something away,” Bailenson says. He first noticed his VR's strange editing capabilities when he was playing a game on Quest 3 in which he “knocked out” part of the surrounding real wall and replaced it with a virtual scene. . “I've been doing VR and AR for a while, and I've never seen deletion work this well in my life,” he says.
At first it seems like a great thing. Stuck in a crowded bus? Remove everyone and replace them with a first class cabin on a jumbo jet. Don't like obtrusive billboards? Replace all commercial images with pleasing scenery of your choice.
But what happens when technology evolves to the point where we can, for example, remove homeless people? Or a pride flag? You can see where I'm going with this – literal erasure. When science fiction writer William Gibson came up with the concept of cyberspace, he described it as a “consensual hallucination.” This is just the opposite. There are billions of individual, unshared hallucinations, each as special as a snowflake.
“What we're about to experience is that when you use these headsets in public, you lose common ground,” Bailenson said. “People will be physically in the same place and visually experience different versions of the world at the same time. We'll lose what we have in common.”
Regulation: Everyone is always excited about new consumer technology, and that excitement is almost always the same. New forms of sensory input are harmful to children. That's a dangerous distraction! It's socially alienating! They said it about the iPhone, they said it about the Walkman…well, 5000 years ago they said it about books. New technology comes along and we adapt to it.
You also don't have to rely on your nerdiness to imagine interesting sci-fi uses for passthrough. The real possibility here is that we can see the world's invisible information metastructure, or translation overlay. A pop-up tag that displays a person's name and pronouns and where they are known. walking route. X-ray vision linked to user manual for assembling an IKEA coffee table. Link your shopping list to the aisles you need to visit in the supermarket. They may be able to see through ultraviolet light and perceive electric fields, extending their vision beyond the limits of meatbag eyes. Passthroughs have limitations, but they may also have superpowers.
like me, Bailenson is not a weirdo. He loves his VR and thinks the new headset is fascinating. He knows that over time, screen resolution will improve and rendering will become faster. A new algorithm minimizes distortion. It's not technology that worries him. It depends on how much you can immerse yourself.
“The world will be fine,” he says. “People adapt to the media. These headsets are great. But philosophically, I don't think you need to wear these headsets for hours every day.”
We've been here before, most recently. A decade or so ago, no one paused to think about the unintended consequences of putting millions of people at risk. Social networks that cannot be moderated. And we all know how that turned out. Now we are on the verge of forcing millions of people into helmets that provide their own editable reality. That's why the research Bailenson is doing on his pass-through headset is so important. “I encourage all academics to act with a degree of urgency to understand them,” he says.
In the meantime, don't forget to take off the Vision Pro from time to time while he's working. The longer you do this, the more you become a human guinea pig, a guinea pig with very poor depth perception.
adam rogers I'm a senior correspondent for Business Insider.