Apple Vision Pro is creating a new generation of glassholes
They're back – and more oblivious than ever
Comment If you've paid any attention to social media in the past four days, it's likely you haven't been able to escape the torrent of photos and videos of people wearing Apple's new $3,499 headset in public, tapping away at empty space in front of them, rudely waving at cars, or sporting a pair while driving a Tesla.
We had a word for people like that a decade ago: Glassholes. Thanks to Apple, they're roaring back to life in an era when bad viral internet content and questionable vehicle autonomy technology adds a whole new dimension of safety risk.
The Apple Vision Pro was only released this past Friday, February 2, but US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has already had to weigh in after a video of a Tesla Cybertruck driver using a Vision Pro headset went viral over the weekend, showing them tapping at space in front of them while their vehicle hurtled down a freeway, hands free.
"Reminder—ALL advanced driver assistance systems available today require the human driver to be in control and fully engaged in the driving task at all times," Buttigieg said in a post to X.
Reminder—ALL advanced driver assistance systems available today require the human driver to be in control and fully engaged in the driving task at all times. pic.twitter.com/OpPy36mOgC— Secretary Pete Buttigieg (@SecretaryPete) February 5, 2024
The Cybertruck driver captured in the footage later claimed the whole thing was a joke, and that the headset "wasn't displaying anything but the road."
That video wasn't the only footage of a Tesla driver wearing a Vision Pro headset to hit algorithmic gold over the weekend either – another video posted to X showed a Tesla driver using a Vision Pro headset while driving before appearing to be pulled over by police.
The driver in the latter video, Dante Lentini, told The Register that, like the Cybertruck video, his was a skit as well and his headset was only displaying a passthrough of the road. "I pulled to the right most lane, turned on Autopilot, and put the headset on for the video," Lentini told us via email. "I wasn't pulled over, hence didn't receive any ticket."
The police that show up at the end of the video, we're told, weren't even responding to Lentini but to an "unrelated incident with a car parked a couple spots down."
Let's not kid ourselves, though. Stunts like these are only going to attract copycats, with the end result eventually being someone endangering themselves, and possibly others.
This bad behavior isn't even new. Use of head-mounted computers while driving caught headlines in the Google Glass era too. In 2014, a California woman was ticketed for wearing a Google Glass headset while driving, though the case was dismissed after her lawyer successfully argued the headset was off, and thus not a safety risk.
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- Google stops selling its biz-grade augmented reality specs
Glassholes, however, had one major advantage over Vision Pro wearers: They could actually see the real world. The Vision Pro might look transparent, but it's just as solid as any other VR headset on the market, meaning a wearer's view of the world around them is only as good as Apple's software makes it.
Apple didn't respond to questions for this story, but the Vision Pro's safety information page makes it clear that the headset isn't designed to be used behind the wheel – or anywhere else you wouldn't usually use a VR headset.
"Apple Vision Pro is designed for use in controlled areas that are safe, on a level surface," Apple notes. "Do not use it around stairs, balconies, railings, glass, mirrors, sharp objects, sources of excessive heat, windows … while operating a moving vehicle, bicycle, heavy machinery, or in any other situations requiring attention to safety."
In other words, it might be a pretty piece of kit, but it's still just a headset that you ought to be using like the Meta Quest or any other – in the comfort of your home or office, not on the sidewalk or street.
Whether or not all those viral Vision Pro videos from the weekend were legitimate or staged doesn't matter. We live in the post-truth era of viral internet memes, lest you forget, and it's only a matter of time before someone assumes what they've seen online reflects reality, gets behind the wheel while wearing Apple hardware, and proves George Carlin was right yet again.
Sure, they were obnoxious, but the threat to public safety presented by Google Glass is nothing like what we'll get when the Apple Vision Pro inevitably combines with risky online behavior. Now if only "Vision Pro" was easier to turn into an insulting portmanteau. ®
PS: A tech analyst who was impressed during Apple's early controlled demos of the Vision Pro has started using the gear for real, and found it disappointing: The field of view is narrow, and the user interface is difficult to manage.