Are the Apple Vision Pro headphones scary?  It’s your dystopian imagination speaking

Are the Apple Vision Pro headphones scary? It’s your dystopian imagination speaking

Apple presented its latest technological innovation: the Apple Vision Pro mixed reality headset. This “spatial computer”, as presented by the firm on the apple, impresses specialists, but already faces an obstacle: collective intuition, imbued with our cultural imagination, perceiving in it a dystopian drift.

Apple is embarking on a new technological adventure: the brand that created the iPhone has just announced the Apple Vision Pro. This mixed reality headset (which Numerama has already been able to test) is scheduled for release in 2024. It’s shaped like goggles, similar to those used in skiing, that put digital elements – such as apps – right in front of our eyes and with what we interact with. The principle of “mixed reality” distinguishes it from virtual reality: we are not necessarily immersed in the helmet, since it is also possible to see our environment around. Apple presents it as a “space computer”.

Apple Vision Pro: welcome to Ready Player One and Black Mirror?

If the technological capabilities of the object manage to bluff the specialists, its intrinsic quality is already facing a major obstacle: it is scary. This is evident from the first shared advertising video by Tim Cook who, while wanting to be a salesman and being positive, when viewed evokes the very opposite emotions, of rejection. ” The dad holding this thing on his face while his daughter begs him to play with her, and it’s presented as “cool,” is one of the saddest and terrifying images in the history of the ad », signal for example a surfer, endorsed by thousands of others.

This promotional video alone encapsulates all the concerns that have arisen in our imaginations about virtual reality: the risk of a false, digital world intruding into the real world; the fear of seeing our social relationships languish, neglected, by these kinds of connected objects.

Virtual reality (or its variants, such as mixed reality) has never really gained public acceptance. This is not only due to the currently prohibitive price of this equipment for mere mortals. The negative collective imagination is in large part linked to the cultural imagination that has been against it since the birth of science fiction: virtual universes of the “metaverse” type have been systematically linked to dark, murky, even socially oppressive, since the first cyberpunk novels (neuromancer, The virtual samurai…) to films and series of today.

others promotional video footage from Apple for the Vision Pro thus show us some moments of headset dialogue on the head, or even FaceTimes of faces reproduced in 3D; that seem to come straight out of a sci-fi movie. They activate in us all this imagination: just as this father does not take off his helmet to talk to his daughter, during these scenes we perceive human relationships that are the opposite of the idea of ​​a desirable future. A separation formed physically by the virtual – which is incongruous, bizarre.

Ready Player One everywhere

Oddly enough, some of these sequences refer very directly to a particular work: Done player one – the first feature film, signed by Spielberg, that comes to mind when you think of VR. The comparison is primarily due to the design of the object itself, which is very similar:

The Apple Vision Pro vs. the headset in Ready Player One.

A short series, in a different fragment, even seems completely modelled Done player one. A user superimposed the two series, for a striking result:

Apple Vision Pro vs.  Ready Player One // Source: comparison made by William Wilkinson (Twitter)
Apple Vision Pro vs. Ready Player One // Source: Comparison made by William Wilkinson (Twitter)

The staging is similar, except that the sequence presented by Apple is utopian, where that of Done player one takes place in a dystopian world. In Spielberg’s film (as in Cline’s book) we are in the near future, devastated by climate change, poverty, famine. The OASIS, a world in virtual reality, serves as an outlet for the populace, where a competition also raises desperate hopes. A custom that is unenviable, a futuristic prediction that no one wants to go down the path.

Other works of fiction, such as Black mirrorR, The Orville, Matrix, The Enders game Or Years and years on screen, took VR and other “alternate” realities head on. The technology in question is not always denounced in itself, but is associated with ethically problematic use, abuse.

Augmented reality, in this case in Black Mirror.  // Source: Netflix
Augmented reality, in this case in Black Mirror. // Source: Netflix

This sounds obvious: apart from the technical appreciation of Apple’s innovation, few people want to immerse themselves in a headset to forget themselves in a virtual world, even if it is superimposed on reality. The move seems frightening or unnecessary at best to many – especially in the age of climate change, where reality itself is under threat. By focusing on mixed reality, which is not completely cut off from the external environment, and by using its own term – space computer – without ever mentioning VR in its communications, Apple hopes to overcome these fears.

Perhaps the company (and the others venturing into this niche) will succeed in convincing in the long run. For the time being, however, the commercials have not quite managed to go beyond the codes of dystopia. It may be a collective intuition: the fear of crossing a line in the digitization of our lives. So the challenge for Apple is very different, and much more complex, than with the iPhone revolution. Faced with the critical minds of users, Tim Cook’s company can no longer simply claim to be selling a utopia, it must prove here that it does not offer a dystopia. It is not won, because it is still necessary … that it is not Real no dystopia.

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