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InTechnology Podcast

Apple Vision Pro: Tony’s Take (195)

In this episode of InTechnology, Camille gets into Apple Vision Pro with Tony Mongkolsmai, Software Architect & Technical Evangelist at Intel and host of the Code Together podcast. The conversation covers Tony’s take on using the Apple Vision Pro, including for productivity and content consumption.

Check out the Code Together podcast.

To find the transcription of this podcast, scroll to the bottom of the page.

To find more episodes of InTechnology, visit our homepage. To read more about cybersecurity, sustainability, and technology topics, visit our blog.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the guests and author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Intel Corporation.

Follow our host Camille @morhardt.

Learn more about Intel Cybersecurity and the Intel Compute Life Cycle (CLA).

Tony’s Technical Takes

Camille and Tony compare Tony’s digital avatar to his real appearance, noting how his family thought it didn’t look much like him but that his friends thought it was not too bad. He explains how the Apple Vision Pro creates a person’s digital persona by getting lots of different imagery and pairing it with motion tracking. When it comes to seeing the world around him while wearing the headset, he says it’s fairly accurate, although seeing in the dark and reading small text on a screen can be difficult. Tony shares how the sound is surprisingly quiet to others in a room while still being clear to him as the wearer, but users can also pair the Apple Vision Pro with AirPods. As for glasses, he details how users can opt to send in their eyeglasses prescription to get corrective lenses that go inside the headset.

Productivity vs. Content Consumption

Tony gives his initial impressions after wearing the Apple Vision Pro around for a few days, both while working and out in the world. For productivity, he explains the usefulness of being able to pair the headset with his Mac and take his virtual desktop with him around his home while working. He was able to run Visual Studio code, and he sees potential for others who might want more desktop space. However, Tony also says the Apple Vision Pro didn’t seem to boost productivity much for him overall. At the same time, he does see huge potential for content consumption, such as for live events like sports or concerts.

Tony Mongkolsmai — Software Architect, Technical Evangelist, Podcast Host

Tony Mongkolsmai apple vision pro augmented reality AR

Tony Mongkolsmai is a software architect and technical evangelist at Intel. As a technical evangelist, he focuses on Cloud, AI, and HPC software and technology. Tony has also served in other senior roles at Intel, including Director of Program and Product Management and Senior Staff Machine Learning Engineer for Scale AI Datacenter in the Data Center and AI Group. He is additionally host of the Code Together podcast, where he talks to developers about hot topics in technology. Tony has a Master’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

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Camille Morhardt  00:00

Hi, I’m Camille Morhardt, host of InTechnology podcast and I’ll put a plug out if you’re listening to this on audio that you might want to also watch the video version because my guest is actually sporting a pair of Apple Vision Pro and he shows us how it looks on him and kind of takes the mask apart as we go through it. And you also get to look at his avatar side by side with his actual human person. You can find InTechnology videos at our website or on YouTube.

Hi, welcome to today’s podcast InTechnology. I’m your host, Camille Morhardt. And I have with me another podcast host and a colleague at Intel Software Architect and software evangelist. Tony Mongkolsmai my welcome to the podcast.

Tony Mongkolsmai – Avatar  00:50

Thanks for having me.

Camille Morhardt  00:52

And you’ll notice there are two Tony’s here one is the real Tony and one is Tony’s avatar. And we’re going to talk about his experience with Apple Vision Pro.

Wow, that’s weird. You put it on, and then you were animated. But before the device sort of realized it was there, your avatar was like, asleep. That’s pretty interesting. So I thought it would be fun to get you on and understand your experience wearing the Apple Vision Pro over the last– how long have you had it now?

Tony Mongkolsmai – Avatar  01:22

So I picked it up on Monday, today is Thursday. So I’ve been using it for three days on and off for work and for watching movies and things like that.

Camille Morhardt  01:31

Okay, and how can we see an image of you how did it acquire that image?

Tony Mongkolsmai – Avatar  01:35

So the interesting thing is–and I think people who are interested in this technology probably have seen some reviews of this– what they actually do is they set up what they call a persona, which allows you to create this kind of digital image that we’re seeing me and it works with kind of as a front facing camera. And so you go in, you took the set, and you say you want to set up a persona; they actually walk you through holding up your hands. So you guys can see as I hold up my hands; you can see my hands and it’s tracking what my fingers are doing, you can see in the dual shot, hopefully. And then they actually have you take it off and point the front of the Apple Vision Pro at you. And the nice thing there is it has so many cameras that it uses for the hand tracking and to be able to see the world around you. Normally, they just use that depth camera to capture your image. And then they asked you to smile your teeth out so you can see it, everybody. They ask you to raise your eyebrows. So you can see I can raise my eyebrows, lower my eyebrows. So they use motion tracking for that. I think they use like the actuating centers like the accelerometers that are actually in the device to track that on my face. And then they ask you to put glasses on etc. It’s hard to tell. But I put some thin glasses on my avatar because I normally wear glasses. But you can’t quite see that.

Camille Morhardt  02:44

Do you think that the avatar looks like you?

Tony Mongkolsmai – Avatar  02:47

My parents thought it was weird, and then look like me at all. My friends who I’ve known since like third grade, thought it actually looks pretty good. It does a really good job of capturing my mouth movements, I think, and my facial gestures. It just doesn’t look quite as natural. I think as people are used to it definitely has that little bit of Uncanny Valley feeling.

Camille Morhardt  03:08

Yeah, I don’t feel like it looks just like you. And I actually feel torn as to whether I should look at you with a mask on or look at your avatar.

Tony Mongkolsmai – Avatar  03:18

Yeah. And I think that the mask is also disconcerting. So that’s another thing with this technology. Obviously, we’ve seen it with other VR headsets, the Quest etc. Where this is an issue, although this one is made a little bit more to be worn around, because the quality of the pass through is a lot better, a lot brighter. And you’ve seen people I’m sure on X and all social media wearing it around. And I think that’s a little more disconcerting to people.

I actually took it to a car dealership where I had to get something done on my car. And I intentionally brought it just to see what the reaction would be from people. And other than one or two people who kind of stared at me for like ten seconds and then ignored me completely for the next hour and a half. I think most people were probably just comfortable ignoring it. But it also felt totally awkward, from my point of view, trying to wear this in public and watch a movie essentially.

Camille Morhardt  04:08

Yeah. So you’re, from your perspective, the user experience from being inside of that is you’re actually seeing video of the world in front of you not the world itself.

Tony Mongkolsmai – Avatar  04:19

Exactly. Yeah. So it’s got cameras for pass through. Everything is pixelated. So as someone who still writes code, and I spend a lot of time in front of a monitor, I think it’s very hard to use for something like that–like I can’t see the text clearly on my screen because it’s actually coming through the cameras. So the resolution of the cameras isn’t good enough to actually capture the fine text that I use on my monitor which is a 57 inch monitor. So it’s a very big monitor, but it just doesn’t quite do a good job of pulling that clarity through the cameras. But other than that, for just walking around throughout the day as I look around my room as I walk around my house, I could wear it if I wanted to. Although I tried wearing it in the dark the other day and that is just a very a dangerous thing to do. I was walking all over my cat toys.

Camille Morhardt  05:04

But no reason it couldn’t be used in night vision in the future, I suppose.

Tony Mongkolsmai – Avatar  05:09

Yeah, I suppose that’s a possibility. It does have some IR cameras to try to track your hands in the dark. But yeah, it’s not the quality you get of like a night vision camera with a bunch of IR sensors or anything like that.

Camille Morhardt  05:20

And you said something the other day, you can have it set so that even if you’re walking around your house, if you’re in a meeting, we still think that you’re at your desk.

Tony Mongkolsmai – Avatar  05:30

Yeah, so the thing that I was doing there is I have a Mac that I can use for work, as well. So what you can actually do is you can pair the headset with a Mac. And then essentially, you take your Mac screen with you, as long as you have a wireless connection between the two. And then the sound from the Mac virtual desktop doesn’t go through the headset by itself, so I had to throw on a pair of air pods. But then at that point, I could walk anywhere, mostly around my house. So if I was in a meeting, I was able to get up, walk to the kitchen, grab a glass of water, and then come back to my desk. So it did allow me to kind of be a little more productive. At the end of the day, I don’t know how much more productive it is versus say like an iPhone, because usually I’ll do that like on my phone. But it definitely was an interesting experience.

Camille Morhardt  06:15

I sort of see it as a potential in the future when, like everybody at a concert venue is wearing it. And so everybody has a first row seat, everybody has sound attuned exactly how they want to hear. Is that the kind of environment where you can envision it now that you’re wearing it?

Tony Mongkolsmai – Avatar  06:33

Yeah, and actually, I mean, they’ve had these in the past. Again, like with the Meta Quest, the technology has been around for what, seven years or so where we have that capability. Apple has a couple of demos in here of the immersive video where essentially, it’s 180 degree field of view. So if I turn my head left, right, up, down, I’m literally still seeing what’s in front of me and it’s very immersive. The NBA has been talking about doing this for a long time. And as somebody who likes to watch sports, I’m definitely looking forward to trying to see what’s it like in the front row? What’s it like for rows up? So I’m really hoping to have that experience. I think it’s definitely a possibility, although I also think that it won’t replace the feeling of actually being there. Might get very close.

Camille Morhardt  07:14

Yeah, really interesting. So what else should we know about it?

Tony Mongkolsmai – Avatar  07:16

So I think that it really depends on your use case, I think that if you are somebody who’s just consuming content, it’s really, really good at that.  All the apps that you can install generally, or the iPad version of the apps. So it’s really fantastic if you’re going to watch a movie.  For instance, I have a son with disabilities, I have to watch him at night sometimes putting this on, I can still see him through the cameras, but I can throw like a gigantic movie on the wall and watch that at the same time. And I can move it around the room as needed. So as I need to help him, they use this gesture of pinching my fingers, and I can pick it up and move it around, so that way, I can still help him and see the movie I’m watching. So that’s really cool.

I think that there’s possibilities in terms of having it makes you more productive. So for me, again, having to write code, like I mentioned, I have a gigantic monitor; I use that to see lots of code. I could see this as a good way for having portability of variety of screens. I’ve tried running like Visual Studio Code through the device through the browser to actually interface with my system. And that works reasonably well. So I could definitely see that being something that people want to do in the future. And it would make them more productive in certain cases. I don’t know if it’ll replace like a nice, big setup, although I think it really depends on where you like to work. If you really like to work in a Starbucks, this might give you a lot more desktop space, but then you’re wearing this on your face. So I don’t know how comfortable people will be with that.

Camille Morhardt  08:48

Yeah, that’s interesting. Has your son tried it?

Tony Mongkolsmai – Avatar  08:52

So that’s a really good question. I think when I looked at it, I think they said it should be for people who are 13 and up. So my son is nine right now. And he, because of his disability, he actually has a small head. So it doesn’t actually fit on, I said I did try to just place it on his head just to see how it would fit. But I don’t think it’ll work for him. My wife tried it, she actually found it to be a very good experience. She really liked to be able to see animals up close, which is one of the immersive videos, you get to see baby rhinos and baby zebras up close. So that’s a fun thing to do. So again, definitely for content creation; maybe for productivity in the future.

Camille Morhardt  09:29

So Tony, you are also, in addition to being a software architect, a podcast host yourself. So tell us a little bit about that podcast.

Tony Mongkolsmai – Avatar  09:37

So I host a podcast called Code Together. And we typically try to talk to developers about things that are going on in technology. Obviously right now AI is really hot. And so we’re focusing a lot on different AI topics around what’s coming this year, how people are using AI in the field. We also have a program that we’re very proud of at Intel called the Intel Liftoff For Startups Program where we support a lot of people Around startups who are trying to bring new technology to market. So I talked to a lot of those entrepreneurs to help understand as a developer, when do you decide to go from being a developer to being someone who’s actually creating a startup and trying to be an entrepreneur?

Camille Morhardt  10:16

Very cool. Tony, I want to do a big reveal. Let’s compare your face to the avatar.

Tony Mongkolsmai – Avatar  10:23

All right, sir. Absolutely. So here we go. I have to take the strap off. And there’s two straps, but I can I’ve got the single one. So I pulled that off here. (audio changes) And then the problem is for everybody watching, I can’t see anything without my glasses. So then I just put my glasses on, and you guys can see whether or not this looks like the avatar or not.

Camille Morhardt  10:43

And also, we’ve now switched mics, because I think you were pulling in through the microphone of the device. Yeah.

Tony Mongkolsmai – Avatar  10:50

Yep, absolutely. So the mic has integrated sound, and microphone. So again, you can use it for FaceTime calls, etc. The one interesting thing is that the sound sounds very good coming out of the headset, it sounds crisp, loud. But anybody in the room, it’s almost muted. Like, if I was watching a very loud movie–for instance, if I was watching a Disney Avengers movie, or something like that–it sounds really loud, because the speakers are right by my ear built into the headset, and my wife who’s sitting three feet away from me can’t even tell what I’m watching. She can hear that there’s sound, but you can’t actually make out what it is.

Camille Morhardt  11:23

So what happens if you don’t have your glasses when you’re wearing the thing. So does it? Is it correcting your vision? Or are you just not seeing very well?

Tony Mongkolsmai – Avatar  11:30

Right. And that’s one of the interesting things. So that was one of the curious things I had as well, when we were talking about this release of technology. And I was wondering if they did some type of fancy optimization to try to make sure that the pixels were out of focus enough for my prescription, which would have been super tricky. But what they did actually is they have a little magnetic lens that goes in each side of the headset, and it just snaps in place. So you actually have to give them your prescription. And in partnership with Zeiss, Apple actually gets a pair of lenses created and shipped to you. And then you just kind of snap them right into the headset.

Camille Morhardt  12:05

Interesting. Or I guess if you wear contacts, you just don’t do anything. You just wear your contacts, right?

Tony Mongkolsmai – Avatar  12:10

Yeah, absolutely. So you can do it, I did try that, as well.  You can do it with contacts. The only tricky thing there is there’s a bunch of different fits. So again, if I take this apart, you’ll actually see there’s a front facing piece here that actually rests against your forehead. And when you take out your contacts, you might need a slightly different size of this front pad to make get the same experience. So because the lens is actually there’ll be hard to see here, but you can see the lenses actually add a little bit of depth, right. So this is the lens of the device and then I snap on an additional lens on top. Like you went to the doctor when you get your eyes checked, right. And they asked you “1 or 2” and they flipped the thing around. That’s exactly what we have here. So then you might need something different on the front, which is a little bit tricky, but still it was a good experience.

Camille Morhardt  12:55

Hmm, very interesting, Tony, thank you.

Tony Mongkolsmai – Avatar  12:58

Thanks for having me, Camille.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the guests and author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Intel Corporation.

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