I normally don't do either hot-off-the-press writing or "tech news" opinions, but the Vision Pro announcement touches something near to my heart and I want to talk about it. No plan here, just writing and seeing where it goes.
I've mentioned before that I don't have a CS degree: in college I did math and physics. When I was 11, I read in _The Physics of Star Trek) that Caltech scientists successfully did teleportation in a lab. As soon as I saw that I stopped wanting to be a game designer and started wanting to be a physicist. There's something ineffably wild about what I'd read, outside the bounds of mundane society, thrilling and terrifying in equal measures. I had to be part of this!
And then comes the goddamn Hololens demo!
(Here's a video showing it actually working.)
Holy shit! And it's an actually real thing, it came out in 2016. The Hololens— the possibility of one day owning a Hololens— got me out of my programming slump. Wild magic was in the air again.
I don't want to overstate the importance of the hololens itself. The original viewport was only like 1200x700 and it cost ~$3000. Also, Microsoft has reportedly given up on it, laying off most of the people involved in it. They were never quite able to get something for consumers. But still. They proved this magical, ineffable thing at the boundary of unreality could exist and be sold, and maybe Microsoft would fuck it up but eventually someone would pull it off.
Fortunately between the initial announcement and the crushing disappointment of the layoffs, I matured enough to see the other beautiful wilderness in software, and I stopped following AR developments in 2018.3
Then yesterday Apple announced the Vision Pro. Apple thinks AR is ready.
My droogs, we are in the wilderness.
Most people I've read online and talked to are less enthusiastic about the Vision Pro (VP). Three main lines of critique:
Quickly addressing the first two points:
(3) is the interesting one to me. It goes past techno-pessimism into tech-sneering, dripping with contempt for new tech because "techbros". Tech-sneering is devoid of imagination, creativity or thought. If you can't think of ways to use AR, you don't have an imagination.
Here are seven things I want to do with AR:
And here's five uses I particularly don't care about but imagine would be commercially successful:
Now you could say that the VP, as it was presented, doesn't have the capabilities to do many of these things, because it doesn't. Then your criticism will be grounded in the reality of it, unlike the mockers. Tech-sneering doesn't care about the details of the technology, what matters is feeling superior to the people who are excited by it. The wilderness is exciting and unknowable, but it's also where the people you dislike like are going.
I've seen the same thing with AI and GPT. You get many pessimists who raise legitimate issues about job displacement and the spread of misinformation, and you also get a whole lot of sneers that AI is just another VC gold rush.
Why did sneering ever get normalized? Maybe it's an over-correction for the last decade of tech messianism. Maybe it's because some ideas, like NFTs and the Metaverse, genuinely deserved to be mocked. Maybe it's always been there, and looking down on people just feels good, and if all our friends are doing it, nobody's going to call us out for being rude.
Anyway, I love the wilderness and am very excited about the announced Vision Pro. One day I'll get to see the rings of Earth.
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(Last time I have to advertise workshops for a good long while. Next one will be in, like, October.)
It's actually this complicated thing where you can transfer the state of the qubit between two atoms without having to measure it. Still very cool, nowhere close to teleportation as us normies think about it. (Forgive me if I got the idea wrong, I last did physics 12 years ago) ↩
Not actually true, there was a lot of crazy stuff bubbling under the surface at that time, I just was too immature a dev and not in the right circles to actually know, or care, about it. ↩