Last week, Apple debuted its Vision Pro headsets, which meant lots of people took the opportunity to show the world what it looked like to wear Apple Vision Pro. (Heads up: If you call it “The Apple Vision Pro,” Apple won’t like it .)
But a video of yourself wearing an Apple Vision Pro in your house isn’t enough to stand out in the Attention Economy. If you really want to get some eyeballs, you need to show yourself wearing the Vision Pro outside.
Like, in a restaurant.
Or the subway.
Or walking down the street.
Or walking down the street accompanied by a robot dog.
Or skateboarding down the street.
Or in the driver’s seat of a self-driving Tesla.
Or, better yet, a self-driving Cybertruck.
All of which made me think, much more than I would have liked to be thinking, about 2013. When Robert Scoble got into his shower and photographed himself, wearing Google Glass.
If you were in or around tech back then, there’s a good chance you remember that image. Google Glass was an early attempt to do what Apple is doing today: Put some kind of computer on your face. And Scoble, an early blogger and #thoughtleader, thought it would be cool to show you what it would like to wear these things naked. Or at least half-naked.
It was not the visual Google was hoping for.
Scoble wasn’t the only image problem Google ran into when it tried to launch Glass. There were also stories about Glass-wearers getting kicked out of bars and restaurants because they creeped out normals. And in the end, the product failed because it was much more expensive, but substantially less useful, than a smartphone.
But now I’m wondering what Apple makes of people taking its $3,500 devices out in public, where normals will definitely gawk at them and the attention-seeking people wearing them.
On the one hand: It’s 2024. It certainly won’t surprise Tim Cook and crew to see people making spectacles of themselves. (And in some cases — like the Tesla driver who made a video suggesting that he’d been arrested for driving while Vision Pro-ing — deliberately misleading people.)
On the other hand, Apple knows that wearing a computer on your head, around other people, is … weird.
That’s why they’ve spent a lot of time and money working on its EyeSight feature, which shows people around you a digital version representation of your eyes. So it won’t look like you’re ignoring the people around you.
And it’s why almost every Apple-created image of the Apple Vision Pro involves someone wearing it in private or semi-private — in their office or their home. When Tim Cook and other Apple executives showed off the device during its debut last year, they never actually put the thing on.
And when Cook finally did put them on in public, it was under highly controlled circumstances — in his spartan office, posing for Vanity Fair.
The one exception to this: Apple says you may want to wear these on a plane so you can watch a movie. And since air travel is such an anti-social, ignore-everyone-around-you-and-hope-to-get-through-it activity these days, that sort of makes sense.
So for right now, we’re in a weird space. Apple has made something that’s primarily meant to be used by yourself, and almost certainly not in front of strangers. But the people most interested in showing off Apple’s new product want to do it in front of as many strangers as possible.
If Apple’s right, then eventually these things become cheap enough, and light enough, that wearing them in public becomes no big deal, and you’re not going to get clout or attention for doing it. Just like it used to be weird seeing people strolling around with earbuds, and now it’s super-common.
And if Apple’s wrong? Then Robert Scoble is going to have plenty of company.
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