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What Apple’s Vision Pro Tells Us about User Stories

The Verge released a story recently reporting how early buyers of Apple’s Vision Pro “spatial reality” headset were already returning their devices to take advantage of Apple’s 14-day return policy window.

But why?

In this article, I’ll recap the issues sprouting up around this nonetheless revolutionary product in order to make a couple of arguments: 1) How Apple’s approach to hardware development may (to a fault) prioritize perceived quality over functional requirements, and 2) What user stories for a hardware/software product may necessitate to make future generations more viable for widespread adoption.


Problems Abound in VR, but Did Apple Put Form before Function?

The key issues cited for returns of the Apple Vision Pro are usability issues coupled with a hefty price tag (i.e., $3,500 MSRP).

That’s not to say buyers aren’t blown away by the revolutionary UI and what the device is capable of. Rather, users’ concerns are that—relative to the high price tag and usability issues—they simply can’t justify the expense for a device that presents these usability concerns. The price isn’t worth the experience, in other words.

Consider some of the tweets on X (formerly Twitter) from users describing their experiences with the device and ultimately their reasons for returning their headsets to Apple:

“Can’t wait to return the Vision Pro, probably the most mind blowing piece of tech I’ve ever tried. Can’t deal with these headaches after 10 minutes of use though,” tweets one user.

“Two hours after unboxing my Apple Vision Pro and using it, I decided to box it back up again and return it. It’s quite cool, but there’s nothing in it for me that I’ll use frequently enough to warrant my keeping it,” tweets another.

Virtual reality headsets are a complicated product category and represent an exceedingly difficult problem to solve considering the technical and physical challenges. I’ve reported on how, for example, ergonomics are a known issue.

Consider the problems a VR headset must address:

  • Weight – Obviously, a perfect solution doesn’t yet exist, but as some reviewers have reported, Meta’s redistribution of weight and use of pancake lenses in place of Fresnel lenses in their Meta Quest Pro represent an attempt to resolve UX problems their earlier Quest 2 presented. Considering that VR headsets aren’t a new category, reviewers may have liked to see a better first showing from Apple regarding the ergonomics issues related to weight distribution.
  • Price – With the $3,500 price tag (compared to $999.99 for Meta’s Quest Pro), price is an issue. Certainly, higher grade materials which play important parts of Apple’s industrial design philosophy and sustainability goals contribute to the heavier form factor compared to other headsets that rely on plastics. That said, alternative materials such as recycled plastics represent another way to reduce costs (e.g., potentially by 25-50%) while simultaneously addressing the weight issue.


User Stories and Understanding Evolving Needs

If you’ve seen the 2023 film, Blackberry, about how the once-dominant smartphone predating the iPhone (and later competitive offerings from Samsung), you know that the one thing the titular product from Research in Motion (the company that invented the product category) is that getting there first doesn’t mean staying there indefinitely.

The case of Blockbuster versus Netflix tells a similar story, where a giant who’s become the dominant force in the marketplace is complacent, slow to innovate (due to their complacency), and is disrupted.

In the case of Apple, they weren’t there first in the VR category. They also weren’t the first to the smartphone category, but in the case of the smartphone, they completely redefined the category.

Have they innovated enough while addressing known user problems in the category?

Certainly, Apple has created a revolutionary product, but as Mark Zuckerberg points out, the device doesn’t provide an experience so leaps and bounds ahead of its competitors that it warrants the price and the persistent UX problems.

In short: The Apple Vision Pro isn’t to the AR/VR product category what the iPhone was to the smartphone category.





What User Stories May Have Detailed: Ergonomics at the Center of Industrial Design to Solve Known User Problems

Chief among the user problems with the Apple Vision Pro is the ergonomics problem.

Considering the Verge report of customers returning their Vision Pro headsets with complaints of discomfort relative to the weightiness of the device for extended periods, it’s safe to say Apple hasn’t cracked the ergonomics problem on their first try.

But it’s also safe to say it’s a problem no manufacturer has truly solved, but Apple’s form factor doesn’t help. Consider, for example, how weight has been a known problem in VR applications studied by scholars.

Future iterations of these devices should seek to address the known ergonomics problems users are experiencing.


Example of Ergonomics-First Industrial Design

To stray away from VR headsets for a moment to talk just to ergonomics and how to approach solving real-world ergonomics problems, let me offer an example.

Heavy-duty power tools provide one real-world application where ergonomics are of heightened concern—we’re dealing with workers’ livelihoods and safety in situations that are inherently dangerous, after all. Characteristics of ergonomic power tools typically look to address a combination of weight, shape, and grip to provide a form factor that is as-comfortable-as-possible relative to the application.

Consider some of the common causes of musculoskeletal disorders like trigger finger (e.g., overexertion and repetitive motion) from a person’s finger becoming locked in a bent position as the result of repeatedly gripping and pulling the trigger of a crimper, for example.

Equipped with this known issue, the M18™ FORCE LOGIC™ 12 Ton Utility Crimper introduced a high-capacity muscle testing system to design the tool to require less than eight pounds of trigger release, which is 75% less than other crimpers, while also delivering an improved center of gravity and a significant weight reduction to the tool. What’s more, it requires 47% less muscle effort to use.

The example from Meta’s Quest Pro of redistributing the batteries to address the balance issue in earlier iterations is one that shows promise and Apple may take notice when addressing their own device’s weight problems.


Bottom Line

We may not have cracked the ergonomics problem associated with VR applications, but Apple may look at existing heavy hitters in the category, like Meta, as they tweak their own device’s shortfalls.

Outside of consumer applications, AR and VR offer exciting prospects for productivity enhancements in industries that could stand to gain in productivity like AEC: Studies have looked at the use of VR in safety training (e.g., articles have been published in Applied Sciences, additional research has been produced by California Polytechnic State University, and conference talks have been given on the subject).

If Apple can address the ergonomics and cost issues by prioritizing user needs, their Vision Pro headset may be the construction wearable of choice companies use to onboard new employees, train apprentices, and conduct safety demonstrations in the application to provide greater educational outcomes for the next generation of construction professionals.

Lucas Marshall

Lucas Marshall is a professional writer whose work has appeared in Geo Week News, IoT For All, Robotics Tomorrow, and Construction Business Owner, among others. At Milwaukee Tool, he is Content Marketing and SEO Manager, responsible for raising awareness and engagement to the company’s digital product, ONE-KEY™, through a variety of content vehicles such as the team’s connectivity blog.