Apple Vision Pro and ADHD

Apple Vision Pro reminds me that computers have become too efficient.

I'm currently typing this blog post in a floating window in the middle of snow-covered Yosemite. I am a floating body manifested into the transcendental Tim Cook matrix. I look into the sky and follow the soft clouds as they pass overhead. They slowly part, revealing Steve Jobs' smiling face watching over me from the heavens above. I am merely one more thing.

When I walked into the Apple Store yesterday, the first question I had for the assistant was the return policy on Apple Vision Pro. I have about 13 days left to decide if this thing is worth $3,500. My early conclusion is that if you're an enthusiast for entertainment and you have a lot of money to spend on it, the Apple Vision Pro might be for you. Even the folks at the Apple Store seemed convinced that "entertainment" is the current selling point of this device.

I don't fall into that category, so I'm currently trying to figure out what the hell to use it for.

I tried watching a YouTube video placed over my countertop while making coffee. The display quality is stunning, but the video pass-through is starkly disappointing—granted, it's probably the best there is, but the world around me appears grainy and poorly-lit. On top of that, I'm definitely a bit clumsier with my hands.

iPad apps also feel clumsy. In visionOS, buttons highlight as your eyes pass over them, indicating they're selected. This does not always happen in iPad apps. In Octal (a Hacker News reader), I have to guess whether I'm looking hard enough at the correct element to bring up the story or the comments. In Obsidian, pressing the corner buttons to expand the sidebar is nearly impossible.

If I'm staring at the center of a window, the window edges tend to shimmer as I move my head around. This tells me visionOS uses higher-quality anti-aliasing wherever your eyes are focused. Cool performance trick, but human peripheral vision is highly sensitive to motion, which makes the shimmering somewhat distracting.

I'm sure I sound pretty underwhelmed by my experience. Perhaps, but the most exciting thing to me about Apple Vision Pro is that it has flaws like this. Flaws bring charm to gadgets. They make you use them more selectively and deliberately. Computers, phones and tablets have gotten boring because there is no longer such deliberate use—they are always there, able to do anything and instantly switch tasks as fast as your fingers can move.

That's where ADHD comes in

It's not strictly an ADHD problem that technology has gotten unbelievably distracting. But as someone with ADHD, I feel acutely aware of my relationship to technology in this way. It is incredibly hard to focus on a single task and clear my mind of the "itch to screw around" when all the technology around me is so goddamn fast and easy to use.

That's what makes Apple Vision Pro interesting for me. Navigating with your eyes and fingers is (currently) not as fast or easy as using a mouse or a touchscreen. Positioning windows in 3D space also takes time.

This has an interesting effect. I feel less inclined to mindlessly open and use apps, because it has become a fundamentally mindful gesture to do so. I actually have to go out of my way to bring up the Home Screen, launch an app, position it where I want it, and interact with it by looking directly at it. I can't do these things on autopilot.

Putting myself in an "environment" also seems to have the effect of eliminating distractions from the outside world. I'm not glancing around at the stuff in my office every time I pause to think.

There is an amusing irony here, the way that strapping a $3,500 computer to my face is making my interaction with the digital world more deliberate and mindful.

So, am I going to keep this thing after all?

It's still a toss-up. I have a decent idea for a productivity app I want to build for Apple Vision Pro. If I make solid progress on it this week, I might keep the headset under justification for business.

However, 14 days is unfortunately not enough time for me to decide whether Apple Vision Pro is a true quality-of-life improvement for an ADHD lifestyle. Maybe I'm still swept up in the novelty of it all. If I do end up keeping it, I'll definitely write a follow-up in the near future. But for this price tag, I can't justify the purchase on a "maybe".