Critique on the productivity use case of the AVP and other headsets

There’s seems to be quite a bit of potential of using the AVP (or comparable headsets, if they enter the market at some point) for productivity purposes. For example, replacing physical monitor(s) with virtual screens, virtual meetings in 3D or having a virtual dashboard around you with the information you like to see all the time.

The comments and warnings from a group of US researchers is then interesting, and also somewhat puzzling.

Bailenson’s conclusion from the experiment and his decades studying virtual reality: Computer headsets should be used sparingly and reserved for situations in which phones, TVs or real life are ill-suited.

Powering through your email? No. Driving? DEFINITELY NO. But yes to group exercises on the moon.

A face computer like the Vision Pro, Bailenson said, is “amazing. We should use it but hardly at all.”

The research suggests that wearing computer headsets for long stretches could be risky to our brains, physical safety and social connections - and that the ways people have loved using the Vision Pro misjudge what the technology is best for.

Hmmm, “misjudge” is a somewhat elitist argument. If someone finds an AVP works great for them as a monitor replacement then isn’t that something the tech is good at, regardless of the value judgement you attach to that?

Also, if use of headset should be “hardly” used, then that severely impacts any business case, and hence strong future of XR technology.

Bailenson believes companies should disable headsets from working when the sensors detect they’re in a moving car. Apple and Meta didn’t reply to requests for comment on his recommendation.

Interesting recommendation, but wouldn’t that mostly be about a driver wearing a headset (versus a passenger)?

When the researchers wore headsets, they perceived other people as TV characters. It dehumanized them.

Yeah, I can definitely imagine that being the case. Not a good thing.

Bailenson is worried, however, that we’re not good at limiting time with tempting devices like smartphones.

Yes, these devices (if comfortable) have a high potential of becoming smartphones 2.0, with an even higher addiction factor.

And he chafes at using headsets like the Vision Pro for hours to do office work or watch movies. But that is how Apple and Meta have imagined you’ll use their goggles.

“In the history of VR no one has ever advocated that we should be wearing these headsets all day long,” Bailenson said.

Instead he said headsets are best for short sessions and situations that would be dangerous, expensive or impossible in real life.

Maybe someone hadn’t advocated yet for the all-day headset usage?

I also don’t see how daily headset usage is so much worse than the current situation of everybody always looking at their mobile phone. In fact, with a mixed reality device such as an AVP, you actually are probably more aware of your surroundings, plus others around you can respond somewhat better to your actions as they can see your physical movements. While somewhat looking on a smartphone while sitting opposite to you is almost completely cut off.

Bailenson says face computers shouldn’t become another screen we stare at all day.

“Wearing a headset is not free,” he said. “It’s tiring. It’s intrusive. It cuts you off from the world.”

Yet, these are all choices a headset user can make for themselves (with the first two being really personal and not social aspects). As far as it cuts you off from the world, it also connects you with other aspects of the world, i.e. in a different way.

Interesting times…

By the way, it’s clear we don’t have good insights into the long-term effects of whole-day headset usage, either physical aspects (e.g. eye strain), mental health or social aspects. But this article seems curiously critical. I guess they want to warn of potential negative effects, but I’m not sure such warnings will have much impact.

“When the researchers wore headsets, they perceived other people as TV characters. It dehumanized them.”

Very critical indeed! On the one hand I do enjoy the critical discussion it starts about seeing the world through cameras of the headset, but on the other hand it feels like a slippery slope. Dehumanization is often discussed also from the perspective in the use of video cameras and photos as well.

Yeah, although those (making photo/video) are usually fairly short-term actions, while you’re still fully connected to reality. Becomes a little bit different when your view of reality is entirely filtered through a headset, which can’t even reproduce real-world colors and details in most cases (let alone in challenging light conditions).