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Jun 23

Weekly Report: June 11, 2023


Vision Pro

Apple launched its $3,499 Vision Pro AR/VR headset on Monday. With sales tax, the price will be closer to $3,850 where I live. If you wear glasses, like myself, you have to buy additional lenses that magnetically attach to the device. I imagine those will cost a few hundred dollars.

Nonetheless, as long as Apple decides to continue developing the product, we can expect the Vision Pro to get cheaper and smaller over the years. They’ll probably release a non-pro Apple Vision at some stage.

My take? The Vision Pro probably represents the best shot this decade at seeing whether AR/VR is ready for widespread daily adoption (if it ever becomes ready — I’m doubtful).

As I wrote last week, the promise of AR/VR is mainly hamstrung by the hardware. For example, if I could magically have some of the functionality of the Vision Pro in the glasses I already wear (kind of like a heads up display), without materially increasing their weight or looking dorky, I’d be more willing to stand in line for it.

What we have today with the Vision Pro is the best mass-production headset that you can design with today’s technology. It’s entirely controlled by voice and hand gestures, so you don’t have to lug hand controls (the VR world’s equivalent of the stylus) around like most other headsets. Apparently the eye tracking is pinpoint accurate. The battery has been offloaded to an external battery pack you stick in your pocket, ostensibly to reduce the weight of the headset and thus user fatigue. The screen resolution is the best in the industry. They try to mitigate the issue of being blocked off from the physical world by including a creepy simulated-eyes display in the front, and giving the user the ability to control how much of the outside world they want to see. Because wearing glasses degrades the experience, they require glasses wearers to buy special Zeiss lenses that attach to the device and use those instead. They even have a solid approach to privacy (advertisers can’t do analytics on where you’re looking).

The headset is far from perfect. Reports are that the headset will still starts to feel uncomfortable after some period of use. The corded external battery is still something extra to lug around. But let’s acknowledge for a moment that there is an incredible amount of technology packed into this thing. It’s been pointed out that it represents the culmination of all the different things that Apple has been working on in its other products — from the Apple Watch’s digital crown to the iPad’s Lidar, to the iPhone’s TrueDepth camera for Face ID, and the M2 chip — and then some.

Who knows if it will find meaningful traction? We’ll find out next year.

Some additional random thoughts:

  • John Gruber has a great review of his 30 minutes with the Vision Pro. “Most impressively, and uncannily, the field of view seemingly exactly matches what you see naturally. It’s not even slightly wider angle, or even slightly more telephoto. There is no fisheye effect and no aberrations or distortion in your peripheral vision. What you see in front of your face exactly matches what your own eyes see when you lift the Vision Pro up over your eyes.” Sounds like Apple absolutely nailed the technology.
  • Here’s what Mark Zuckerberg thinks. I mean, it’s what you’d expect him to say, and he kind of has to publicly say that, even if he’s privately sweating. The cost is the main competitive advantage he has today. He points out that Apple’s portrayal of the Vision Pro world feels less social that Meta’s vision of their metaverse. While that may be true today (it’s a little tough to buy everyone in the family their own headset!), that will change if the price becomes more accessible. After all, the social aspect is just software and Apple has a bristling developer ecosystem. The hardware is the hard part.
  • The iPhone was niche when it was launched. But I was totally hyped about it and stood in line at the Apple Store in Sydney when the first one was released in the Australian market. (I had to ask my boss at the time for permission to leave work early for it. He’s one of the best technology lawyers I’ve ever worked with but even he didn’t appear all that curious about it and seemed amused at my earnestness!)
  • The iPhone is everywhere now (at least with the world’s richest 1 billion consumers) and the average price point today is, what, $1,000? When the iPhone was released it was around $600, whereas a BlackBerry could be had for around maybe half that (and Nokias were even cheaper). People will pony up lots of cash if something is good enough and essential enough. Phones are essential in today’s world, but were pretty much essential before the iPhone arrived on the scene too. AR/VR doesn’t have that positioning.
  • The simulated eyes thing are an interesting approach, but I find them creepy. I certainly wouldn’t want to interact with my kids that way. How we look at eyes for feedback is a primal thing… uncanny valley and all that.
  • The scene in the ad for the Vision Pro that I liked the most is where a woman is sitting on a plane and she tunes everything out by watching a movie (at the 0:49 mark). I wonder if the AirPods Pro will pair with the Vision Pro? It needs noise cancelling to be completely immersive. That’s escapism. Maybe a little bit dystopic too. From a practical point of view, it’s probably going to be annoying for people sitting next to you who need to pass by to use the toilet (both to get your attention and to maneuver past).
  • Apple was very careful not to mention the terms AR, VR, metaverse, or headset in its launch. It prefers the term “spatial computer”.
  • If weight fatigue is an issue, I can’t see it being used for more than an hour or two a day by most.
  • Microsoft’s HoloLens has some pretty nice promo videos.

Earning Airline Miles for Interest

Bask Bank offers a savings account that pays interest not in cash, but in American Airlines miles. As interest rates have risen, so too has their mileage rate, and each dollar deposited with them now earns 2.5 AA miles per year. They are currently running a promotion where if you deposit a certain amount of money with them for at least 180 days, they will give bonus miles. $50,000 gets you a 20,000 mile bonus on top of the regular 62,500 miles. So, is it worth it, compared to sticking your money in a 26-week treasury bill?

Here are the factors:

  • Treasury Bill: A 26-week treasury currently pays out 5.483% p.a. when held to maturity. The interest is not subject to state tax. I regard the post-tax interest on the t-bill as the opportunity cost here.
  • Bask Mileage Account: $50,000 deposited for 6 months nets 82,500 miles. Those miles are taxable, and Bask issues a 1099 that values miles at 0.42 cents each, for a taxable amount of $346.50.

Here’s how it breaks down:

  • View From the Wing values AA miles at 1.3 cents per mile (cpm). OMAAT values them at 1.5 cpm. That feels about right. Just note that miles are subject to devaluation over time, so they tend to become worth significantly less as time goes on.
  • In theory, a one-way first class partner award booking from the U.S. to Asia can cost as little as 80,000 AA miles… if you can find availability.

Further Observations

  • I have the details of two of my credit cards committed to memory. This can be a surprisingly useful thing to do.
  • Donald Trump was indicted on federal charges on Thursday relating to improper handling of classified documents. “Wouldn’t it be better if we just told them we don’t have anything here?” Trump is alleged to have said. Uncharted waters…
  • Both Binance and Coinbase were sued by the SEC this week. The SEC’s complaint against Binance features this amazing quote:



  • 📖 How To Invest: Masters of the Craft (David Rubenstein)
    Interviews given by Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein with investing legends such as Seth Klarman, Ray Dalio, Stan Druckenmiller, Jim Simons, Orlando Bravo, Marc Andreessen and Michael Moritz. Full of intriguing insights — into their backgrounds as well as how they think. ★★★★

Charts, Images & Videos

Source: Catalist | By The New York Times
Singlish translator: cbbbbb, cao ni ma

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