🍎 Apple Vision Pro reviews, 🧠 First human with Elon Musk's 'Telepathy' chip, 🤖 Amazon's $1.4B Roomba deal swept away
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Hey, your friendly neighborhood Swider-Man here,
The Apple Vision Pro launches on Friday and the first reviews are live with some great insight about the mixed-reality headset. The verdict? It’s the most cutting-edge take on AR/VR yet with functionality that may blow your mind. But you need to afford it (it costs $3,499) and understand this is a first-generation product.
A parable to preface the Apple Vision Pro reviews
When I was a much younger tech journalist, I got to fly across the country to play THQ’s 2011 first-person shooter Homefront months before it released on PS3 and Xbox 360. As I played, an older man, who happened to be THQ’s chairman, walked up behind me to pick my brain. “So… do you think it’ll beat Call of Duty?” he timidly asked me as if the future of his company weighed on my answer. At that point, Call of Duty: Black Ops, the latest title from rival Activision, sold 25 million copies. I tried to explain: “Well, this game is good for a first entry. But you have to remember, Call of Duty wasn’t the Call of Duty of now when it launch a decade ago. It’ll take time.”
THQ immediately shut down Homefront’s developer after launch, as the game didn’t meet its expectations. No one wanted to give it time to be refined or grow a following to challenge Call of Duty. Similarly, the Apple Vision Pro shouldn’t be viewed as the iPhone 15 Pro Max in wearable form. This has all of the vibes of the iPhone 1, with room to grow in quality and sales. And the price? Recall, iPhone 1 cost $499 before the iPhone 3G took things mainstream at $199. This is for the iPhone 1 crowd.
Programming note: ‘Tech Tips / Matt Swider from The Shortcut’ on Shade 45 at 1pm ET tomorrow
I’ll be talking about Apple Vision Pro on SiriusXM channel Shade 45 tomorrow at 1pm ET (and I’ll take your call-in questions on it and my Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review) on a segment: “Tech Tips / Matt Swider from The Shortcut.”
🍎🥽 1. Apple Vision Pro reviews: the future, phase 1
Spatial computing and entertainment is the next big thing in tech (along with AI), but like every new frontier, it’s paved by early adopters who spend more money and time on first-generation products than mainstream consumers who simply wait.
Do you buy in? Do you hold off? It’s a decision you’ll need to make on Friday. Here are the takeaways from the few reviews out now.
✅ The good
🥽 Build quality. It’s refined-looking, eschewing the plastic norms of VR design for “magnesium and carbon fiber in an aluminum enclosure,” reports The Verge’s Nilay Patel
🤏 👀 Ease of use. “Apple Vision Pro feels revolutionary because of how easy it is to operate. There’s no controllers to deal with. You just use your eyes to look at the element you want to select and then tap your thumb and index finger together to ‘click,’” writes Tom’s Guide’s Mark Spoonauer.
🍿 Personal home theater. “Watching movies or streaming shows is kind of a joy,” notes The Washington Post’s Chris Velazco. “I wouldn’t recommend buying a Vision Pro in lieu of a new TV. But the screens in Apple’s headset are so crisp — more so than any other consumer-grade rival I’ve tried — that someone might be able to get away with it.”
📺 4K displays for EACH EYE. Regarding the “dual 4K micro-OLED displays,” CNET’s Scott Stein says they’re, “vibrant and way above what competing devices offer.”
📸 Playback of your 3D videos: “I love the ‘spatial photos’ you can capture using the cameras on the outside of the Vision Pro or with the latest iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max. The camera creates a 3D version of a photo or video,” reported CNBC’s Todd Haselton.
👥 Who is it for, exactly? “You’re probably not going to buy the $3,500 Apple Vision Pro. Unless you’re an app developer or an Apple die-hard, you’re more likely to spend that kind of money on an actual trip to a Hawaiian volcano,” says The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern
❌ The questionable
💰 Wait, how much?! Starts at $3,499. Optional lenses for $99 if you wear reading glasses; $149 if near-sighted (can’t see far away). A travel case for $199 and a Belkin battery belt clip for $49. AppleCare+ is $499 for two years
FaceMeltTime. Personas, the digital avatar for in-headset FaceTime video calls, look a bit odd even if the tracking is impressive given the face quick scan. Just expect to look and move like an roughly animated N64 character. The word “unfinished” was used a bunch of times for this feature
🎮 Gaming on pause. Apple hasn’t touted the gaming capabilities of the Vision Pro when that’s the main focus of the cheaper Meta Quest 3 and PSVR 2 (this is probably the most frequent question I’ve gotten from you all). It’s only a matter of time, IMO
⚖️ Weight. The headset can cause some mild discomfort, noted almost every reviewer testing it. But the tethered battery pack being separate from the headset seemed to offset at least some weight had it been like the hefty Meta Quest Pro. A good design choice in the end
Quick links to reviews (and credit where credit’s due)
Chris Velazco, The Washington Post
Todd Haselton of CNBC
Marques Brownlee’s (MKBHD) 37-min deep dive
Brian Tong’s nearly hour-long review
iJustine’s 32-min unboxing and review
📆 Your Tech Calendar
📱 Today: Samsung S24 series release date
👶 Today: Death Stranding iOS & Mac launch (our #10 best PS5 game)
🪑 Today: Razer Iskur V2 gaming chair gray color launch
🤖 Today: Google Pixel 8 update adds Circle to Search feature
📻 Feb 1, Thur: Catch me on SiriusXM radio on Shade 45 at 1pm ET with a call-in segment called ‘Tech Tips w/ Matt Swider from The Shortcut’
🥽 Feb 2, Fri: Apple Vision Pro release date – we’ll be reviewing it live
🦈 Feb 2, Fri: Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League - pre-order here
👽 Feb 8, Thur: Helldivers 2 release date - pre-order here
🏈 Feb 11, Sun: Super Bowl LVIII
🧠 2. Elon Musk's Neuralink implants 'Telepathy' chip into the first human
“Imagine if Stephen Hawking could communicate faster than a speed typist or auctioneer,” wrote Elon Musk of the first human trial of the Neuralink brain chip. “That’s the goal.”
This week, Neuralink, on the way to that goal, implanted its chip in a human subject, said Musk, who revealed the device’s name is “Telepathy”. In his words, it “enables control of your phone or computer, and through them almost any device, just by thinking.”
I’ve seen four reactions on this news:
The positive: It’s groundbreaking advancement for those with disabilities
The flippant: It’s a mystery why someone would let Musk implant a chip in their brain
The [artificially] panicked: Let’s quote everyone on Twitter who says “Stop the cyborgs!” and then write a hysteria-filled story because… modern journalism
The doubtful: It’s another unverified claim by the SpaceX cofounder
The middle takes miss the point, in my opinion. Last September, Neuralink opened up recruitment for clinical trials, looking for “those who have quadriplegia due to cervical spinal cord injury or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Back this this up, Musk noted, “Initial users will be those who have lost the use of their limbs.”
Knowing this, upon reading into the use cases, it’s hard not to be hopeful for those who would need it. But, I’ll admit, I did click on the “Stop the cyborgs!” clickbait.
🤖🧹 3. Amazon’s $1.4B iRobot Roomba deal swept away by regulators
Amazon has pulled the plug on its $1.4B deal to acquire iRobot, the creator of the popular Roomba robotic vacuum cleaners. Amazon has faced stern opposition from EU regulators ever since it announced the deal in 2022. Amazon will have to pay the agreed $94M breakup fee, but the news has led to iRobot shares tumbling by 15% and job cuts being announced.
Amazon isn’t happy with the EU’s intervention, which aims to increase competition and protect consumers from monopolies. “This outcome will deny consumers faster innovation and more competitive prices, which we're confident would have made their lives easier and more enjoyable,” said David Zapolsky, Amazon senior vice president and general counsel.
❌ Amazon will no longer be purchasing iRobot for $1.4B
💶 EU regulators opposed the deal, leading to Amazon pulling out
💰 Amazon will have to pay a $94M breakup fee
😔 On the news, iRobot shares feel and job cuts were announced
It’s extremely rare to see deep price cuts like this on anything Apple – aside from AirPods – outside of the holiday shopping season, so don’t miss out on the price drops, especially if you already missed capitalizing on them during Black Friday.
Micro Four Thirds cameras live on with the newly announced OM System OM-1 Mark II. It comes with expanded memory to shoot 200 RAW frames at 120fps.
The biggest feature by far is a virtual graduated neutral-density filter powered by computational photography (basically what smartphone cameras do), to ensure you never have shots with a bright sky and dark vista. It’ll be available in late February for $2,400 body only or $3,000 when kitted with the OM System M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro II zoom lens.
👥 Same 20MP stacked backside-illuminated Live MOS sensor and TruePic X image processor on the original OM-1
Improved autofocus for fast-moving subjects and expanded 8.5 stops of in-body image stabilization
😎 First virtual graduated ND filter doubled effectiveness of Live ND up to ND128
⚙️ More tactile rubberized control dials
Nvidia’s RTX 4080 Super delivers stunning 4K gaming performance that beats any graphics card short of the Nvidia RTX 4090. It’s a beast of a three-slot GPU taking up three slots and it’s just as monstrous on paper with 10,240 CUDA cores, 320 Tensor cores and 80 RT cores.
The best part, according to the reviews? It offers higher specs than the outgoing Nvidia RTX 4080 it replaces, it’s actually $200 cheaper at $999. The worst part? Trying to find any new GPU in stock.
Remember how difficult it was to find a PS5 restock back in 2020? According to Bloomberg reporter Takashi Mochizuki, Nintendo will try to avoid the same supply issues that Sony and Microsoft faced by producing 10 million units of the Nintendo witch 2, its next home console.
Mochizuki said the Switch 2 should be “much easier to find at stores”, with a release date of November 2024 widely predicted. Expect it to cost $400, include an 8-inch screen, and retain many of the design elements of the current Switch.
🤞 Nintendo wants to avoid any supply issues with the Switch 2
👍 A new report suggests 10 million units will be available
📆 Switch 2 is rumored to launch at the end of the year
💰 It’ll cost $400 and feature an 8-inch LCD screen
Sony is holding a new State of Play tonight at 2pm PT / 5pm ET / 10pm GMT. The broadcast will be over 40 minutes long and will feature extended looks at Stellar Blade and Rise of the Ronin, two PS5 exclusives that are due out this year.
Sony has promised more than 15 titles will be shown, including some upcoming PSVR 2 games. We’re expecting to get updates on several games, including Death Stranding 2, Concord, Silent Hill 2 and Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth to name but a few.
🆕 Sony’s State of Play promises to show 15+ games
😯 We’re expecting a few surprise announcements
⚔️ There will be a focus on Stellar Blade and Rise of the Ronin
🥽 We should also see some new PSVR 2 games
You might think that Meta would be worried about the upcoming launch of the Apple Vision Pro on Friday, February 2, but you’d be wrong. The company is quietly confident that if the Apple Vision Pro succeeds, it should boost its own VR/AR business.
Meta recently released the Meta Quest 3 for $499 and it could be a tempting option for those who want to delve into the world of VR and AR but don’t want to break the bank.
📈 Meta hopes Apple Vision Pro will boost Quest 3 sales
👍 The company believes Vision Pro will justify its investment in AR/VR
💰 Apple Vision Pro has sold around 180,000 units ahead of its launch
📉 The VR/AR market dropped by almost 40% in the US in 2023
📡🎙️ 10. $100m deal: SmartLess podcast with Will Arnett, Jason Bateman & Sean Hayes moving to SiriusXM
SiriusXM has snagged the SmartLess podcast for a reported $100m, taking the popular interview show away from Amazon in the process. The deal will last for three years, according to Bloomberg, and means the satellite radio now includes a star-studded roster featuring Conan O’Brien, Kevin Hart, Howard Stern, and the SmartLess trio of Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes and Will Arnett.
SiriusXM members can enjoy an ad-free experience when listening to the SmartLess podcast and also access the show’s back catalog. “The majority of the ‘SmartLess’ library will be available exclusively to SiriusXM, making it the only destination for fans to access the podcast’s complete catalog,” SiriusXM wrote in its announcement.
🙌 The SmartLess podcast is now on SiriusXM
📡 The satellite radio paid $100m for a three-year deal
🤩 It’s hosted by Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes and Will Arnett
🔜 Older shows will come to SiriusXM and will no longer be on Amazon
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