Vision Pro Personas.... In Space!!!

If you’re not keeping up with the play-by-play on the Apple Vision Pro (AVP), when you make a FaceTime call, the AVP represents you with an avatar thing called a Persona. The Persona is a three dimensional, virtual version of you based on a scan of your actual face. Your Persona changes to reflect the movements of your face, so people on your FaceTime call see the avatar smiling, frowning or (like me) looking vaguely confused. When AVP first launched, lots of reviews complained that Personas came straight out of the uncanny valley. With the VisionOS 1.1 release, Apple thankfully turned down the creep factor.

The big news last week is that Apple released Spatial Peronas to Vision Pro users. Now your Persona breaks out of its little phantom zone prison and inhabits the 3D space with other Personas on your call. Jason Snell has a nice writeup of the first hand experience with the Spatial Personas and is worth a read. The bottom line for me? Spatial Personas plus SharePlay lay the foundation to make the AVP a fantastic tool for telepresence and collaboration! That’s in stark contrast to early worries that AVP would make us all lonely.

Obi-Wan, Luke and C3-PO watch as R2-D2 plays back a holigraphic recording of Princess Leia.
Astro mech droids also support Spatial Personas.

But the point I really want to highlight is Apple’s long tradition of planning years (and years) ahead with their technology frameworks. As Uli pointed out, they did this with the FrontRow software, which lead to the AppleTV hardware. HealthKit was released in the Fall of 2014 along with Apple Pay, two tent pole technologies of Apple Watch which would be released the next year. Side Car for macOS, released in 2019, paved the way for Mac Virtual Display on Vision Pro in 2024. And of course one of their longest running projects is Apple Silicon. In 2010, Apple shipped the A4 chip in the first generation iPad. 10 years later, Apple Silicon made the jump to Macs with the M1 and blew everyone away with unheard of performance and efficiency.

So many of Apple’s really stunning achievements turn out like a good murder mystery movie. When you go back and watch the film again, you see clues along the way that hint at the ending. Go back and look at the evolution of Apple’s tech stack and you’ll pieces of technology that eventually culminate in an amazing new feature. At the time, I just assumed that SharePlay was a response to the pandemic to let isolated folks watch movies together. That’s cool, but it seemed like a really niche application. But pair that with AVP and it completely transforms this very single user device to an immersive and connected experience that lets you collaborate with everyone. I was a little lukewarm on the AVP initially, but Spatial Personas and SharePlay have opened up my line of thinking and… maybe it’s fantastic! Now we just need SharePlay for Xcode please. Counting down to WWDC 24!