Apple’s first developer beta of visionOS for its Apple Vision Pro spatial computer reveals a notable feature and also surfaces concerns surrounding the platform’s virtual reality (VR) capabilities.
The ‘Travel Mode’ Feature
Apple aims to improve the user experience in constrained spaces such as an airplane cabin with a new feature dubbed ‘Travel Mode.’ Considering the unique environmental factors that make an airplane cabin challenging for VR devices, Travel Mode appears to be Apple’s way of mitigating these challenges and ensuring a smoother user experience.
Features of Travel Mode
Upon analyzing the beta version of visionOS, we discovered a series of prompts offering an understanding of the ‘Travel Mode’ feature. Here’s a quick breakdown: Encourages users to turn on ‘Travel Mode’ while aboard an airplane. Urges users to remain stationary while in ‘Travel Mode.’ Warns that some spatial awareness features will be disabled. Notifies users of a possible reduction in gaze accuracy due to the current fit. Specifies that user representation will be unavailable during ‘Travel Mode.’ These prompts suggest that Travel Mode adapts Apple Vision Pro’s functionality to work efficiently in the restrictive space of an airplane cabin.
Implications of Travel Mode
The disabling of some spatial awareness features in Travel Mode could be due to the proximity to other passengers and limited space on an airplane. This could cause these features to behave inaccurately. Travel Mode appears to be a solution to prevent any unpleasant VR experience. While in Travel Mode, the unavailability of user representations suggests that digital personas may not be accessible. Although the exact reason remains unclear, it might be due to the constrained space and disabled awareness features affecting avatar representation accuracy. Furthermore, the reduction in gaze accuracy could be a consequence of the headset’s positioning while seated in an airplane. Travel Mode seemingly acknowledges and adjusts for this. Travel Mode also emphasizes users remain stationary, likely as a safety measure to prevent disruption or harm to fellow passengers.
VR Boundary Concerns
However, not all the news is positive for the Vision Pro. VR applications might face difficulties due to the restrictive boundary system. As the system documentation states, if the wearer’s head moves outside of a predefined 1.5-meter zone from the initial position, the experience automatically stops to prevent collisions with physical surroundings. This safety measure appears to limit free movement in VR. Once a user moves more than a meter away from the starting point, the displayed content becomes transparent to facilitate real-world navigation. This system could potentially disrupt gameplay, especially in motion-intensive VR apps. Prominent industry figures, like Hans O. Karlsson, founder, and CTO of Mimir, have voiced concerns over the implications of these restrictions for sports games or collaborative work that requires movement.
While Apple’s ‘Travel Mode’ demonstrates its commitment to user-centric innovation, the restrictive VR boundary system may limit the device’s potential in certain applications. As these features are still in beta, we anticipate further refinements and additions before a public rollout. We’ve reached out to Apple for clarification on how developers can work around these boundary safeguards in VR apps. In the meantime, you can learn more about Apple Vision Pro here. Stay tuned as we continue monitoring the evolution of the Apple Vision Pro and its features.