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Immersive Experiences

Experience Presentation: Encounter Dinosaurs

Encounter Dinosaurs promo image

I’ve had Apple Vision Pro for two weeks now, and it’s simulatenously an obviously-breakthrough piece of technology and yet I feel surprisingly ambivalent about it. I love Apple’s VR-hardware, AR/MR-first approach to software: when you put on the device, you see the world around you, then digital content is layered on top as you add it. visionOS keeps you grounded, and your expectations of your physical space are never broken. The dial on top of the device lets you gradually immerse yourself in a 3D environment up to a full 360º, but you’re in control. Apple Vision Pro uses a combination of eye tracking and hand gesture recognition to interact with the software. Neither are perfect, but are incredibly intuitive and work smoothly enough.

Encounter Dinosaurs is one of the Apple-made, built-in experiences on the device, made to showcase Apple Immersive Video: a 180-degree 3D 8K recording format captured with Spatial Audio. In the app, a butterfly flies out and lands perfectly on your extended finger (which feels real!), before a world opens up in front of you where 3D dinosaurs roam around rocks and roar at you. The experience takes about 3 minutes.

One core differentiator from experiences like Dear Angelica on Meta Quest is that launching an app never takes over your space, you always consent to it, which I much prefer. While 360º experiences exist on visionOS, such as the Mindfulness app which extends around you, they’re not Apple’s default for content. 360 can be used well, but I agree that immersive content doesn’t need to be 360; where you need totally different direction, and to think about what’s okay for viewers to miss since our eyes are not 360. For Immersive Video, Apple fills your field of view in front of you, and at climactic moments dinosaurs poke out of their rectangular frame. The 3D effect lets you move your head side-to-side to add realism, but In contrast to Meta Quest videos, this is dramatically higher resolution, and uses your fingers and gaze to personalize the experience. The sound quality of Spatial Audo on the built-in, ear-directed speakers sounds incredible.

I enjoyed Encounter Dinosaurs, though it was a lot shorter than I was expecting, with less of a story, so I never got invested in characters or a real story arc. While it gives a great wow to demonstrate what Apple Vision Pro is capable of, I didn’t find it as compelling as early reviewers. Though there is the slight interactive element, it felt under-utilized, as does the 3D effect. Apple has launched five Immersive Videos so far, but I hope they make more shows and movies with the format in the future; the format rendered on the beautiful displays of the headset make for a technical marvel, and a compelling upgrade over previous-generation flat 4K movies.