The inside of an Apple Vision Pro is a lonely place to be. My spouse and I can’t watch movies together. It’s hard to describe what the world looks like in there to curious friends. Even if I’m standing next to you, even if there’s a ghostly projection of my eyes on the front display — there’s a barrier between me and you. 

Unless you also have a Vision Pro headset and have enabled Spatial Personas.

Apple debuted Spatial Personas last week. It unleashes your uncanny digital avatar from the FaceTime window and into any SharePlay-enabled app as well as your virtual space. Call me intrigued. Loneliness was a con of the Vision Pro that reviewer after reviewer pointed out.  Would this help that? I called up our weekend editor Wes Davis, who also has a Vision Pro, to find out.

I’m deeply acquainted with Wes’ Persona — and his unmoving virtual mustache. Even so, it was unsettling having a ghostly Wes in my office roaming around. Like a horror movie, sometimes I’d look away from Wesona and then he’d be all up in my business. I’d then have to pinch Wesona and place him on the other side of my office. It wasn’t even his whole self, either. Personas only project your head, neck, a hint of shoulders, and your hands. There’s no body, legs, or arms. That can make hands appear in odd places. And when a person turns around, sometimes they disappear because Personas don’t capture the back of your head. Sometimes you grow and shrink like Ant-Man. In those moments, it reinforces the idea that your friend isn’t really there.

Screenshot by Wes Davis / The Verge

As odd as it could feel, Spatial Personas are impressive. I usually stay seated in the Vision Pro, but having the Spatial Personas encouraged me to move around more, particularly when scribbling and doodling in Freeform. (Though, I wish I had some kind of stylus for drawing. The various Kirbys I drew were… lumpy.) We played a game of virtual chess in Game Room, and I felt a bit like a war general in a sci-fi flick, walking around a table surveying the location of my troops, thoughtfully stroking my nonexistent beard. Granted, I led my troops to a crushing defeat in seven minutes, but the vibe was there.

Those were fun experiences — but gimmicky, too. There’s a lot of troubleshooting, especially if the eye tracking is acting up or you start to feel the weight of the headset out of the blue. We already share presentations and collaborative software over Zoom. During the height of covid-19, we all found creative ways to remotely connect without needing a $3,500 headset. I was one of those people who got really into Animal Crossing, visiting friends’ islands for that 600 bell turnip price, screaming and kicking our feet while gossiping over voice chat. That wasn’t nearly as technologically impressive as Wesona’s ghostly hand checkmating my king, but it went much further in making me feel less alone. 

Using Spatial Personas with Apple Music was more fun. I did my damnedest to convert Wes to K-pop with Stray Kids’ excellent “Back Door,” “Thunderous,” and “Case 143” music videos. He remained rudely unmoved. We pivoted to Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter album. This, we both agreed, was a great album, but without a visual element, it was weird to sit there as ghosts and nod along. Co-working to music in the Vision Pro — at least for our jobs as writers — is odd, too. If I’m typing away at a draft on my virtual Mac screen, why would I want to look over and see Wesona clicky-clacking away at his separate draft?

But there were a few moments when I glimpsed what Apple thinks Spatial Personas could be — namely, when we watched a few scenes from Spirited Away on Wes’ Plex server and The Last Jedi on Apple TV. (What better movie to watch than the one where Rey and Kylo Ren are essentially Spatial Persona FaceTiming with each other?) That felt closest to dropping in on your friend’s couch and watching a movie together, where, if a sick scene happens, you can turn, look at your bud, and say, “Did you just see that?!” In our case, we got into a deep discussion about the Star Wars sequel trilogy and everything wrong with it. By the end, I wished my friends on the other side of the world — the ones I only get to see once every few years, if I’m lucky — had Vision Pros, too. 

Screenshot: Victoria Song / The Verge

When the Vision Pro works, it works. But when it doesn’t, when you can see the seams, it can leave you feeling lonelier than before you stuck the headset on. What you don’t see are all the awkward pauses when Wes and I had to troubleshoot and figure out why something wasn’t working — things that are harder when you have a headset on, and for whatever reason, that day, the Vision Pro was having trouble with eye tracking. (Wes doesn’t have nearly as many issues with eye tracking, but I need to recalibrate mine every few sessions.) 

Then, there’s the hurdle of actually being able to watch things together. Apple spokesperson Zach Kahn confirmed that for subscriber-only content, like Apple Originals from Apple TV Plus, you both need to have a subscription. (Unless you share a subscription via Family Sharing.) You’re also limited to apps that support SharePlay. It’d be better if you could put the headset on, pick any app, and go. 

So, did Spatial Personas make the Vision Pro less lonely? Yes and no. Testing Spatial Personas is the most fun I’ve had in the headset thus far. On the other hand, Wes is still the only person I know who uses his Vision Pro regularly. I don’t feel comfortable asking my friends to shell out $3,500 to hang out with me virtually when that money could buy a round-trip plane ticket to actually visit me. Some of this will hopefully get better with time. But for now, I’m still mostly alone in here. 


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