It is urgent to update the dictionary with another neologism. Until today we had – with difficulty, it must be said – begun to familiarize ourselves with the term phombie, now we will have to rack our brains to find a new term. If phombie is the portmanteau between phone and zombie and serves to identify that mass of lolling people who move around the city hunched over their smartphones, what should the aliens who have been circulating in the United States for a few days be called? Let’s describe them before moving on. They wear what at first glance appear to be oversized ski goggles and walk waving their arms and hands, they stab the air with their fingers, sometimes they seem to be conducting an orchestra, other times they recall Jerry Lewis in the typewriter scene, they smile if you look at them with a strange look, they speak, respond and manage to describe everything that surrounds them in a precise manner. They are the few owners so far of Apple’s latest creation, the “vision pro”, an augmented reality viewer currently intended for the US market (it should arrive in Europe by the end of the year), on sale from February 2 at a cost of $3,499. These are real, not virtual.
What happens to the «vhombie» who wear them? The Apple vision pro is a concentration of technology. It has two microprocessors and two super-defined microOled screens with 23 million pixels for each eye; in the lower part 12 cameras, 5 sensors and 6 microphones track what happens outside the visor and inside (following the movement of the wearer’s eyes). Yes, but for what? The wearer sees an exact copy of the world around him on the screen. Everything we are used to seeing on the screen of our smartphone or PC can be superimposed on this. So, sitting on the sofa in the living room, we can open applications and documents, surf the internet, watch a film as if there were a hundred-inch screen in front of us, type a text using a keyboard that isn’t there. Yes, because the sensors with which the viewer is equipped allow it to see and decode the hand gestures of the wearer. All to arrive at a new chapter in the disintermediation between real and virtual: those who have tried them say that you can easily live wearing these viewers.
The first videos, the first tests and the first reviews are already circulating online. One of the best is that of the American YouTuber Casey Neistat, a guru for everything new, moderately nerdy and trendy. After wearing it for a whole day the report of it is astonishing. «At a certain point in the day – he explains – a click seemed to go off in my brain, and everything I saw projected before my eyes was reality for me». And then the crux is all here. What is real? What is virtual? Virtual is everything that is “potentially”, explains classical philosophy. But here we are one step further. The virtual mixes with the real in such a profound way that our brain struggles to distinguish its features. A bit like those children who, accustomed to enlarging images on tablets with their fingers, try to do the same zoom on paper books. «This is the future they have been promising us for 15 years», concludes Neistat in his video.
For the moment it is a future that is at times dystopian, but also deeply exhilarating. On the internet you can find videos of people typing in the air while (not) driving a Tesla: by the way, after this video Tesla banned wearing visors while (not) behind the wheel; you see people crossing the road trying to grab who knows what in the air or friends gathered around a table eating, each wearing their own visor. If we think about it, we are at the paradox of alienation. We meet to remain immersed in our own real-virtual environment. So: is this really the future we’ve been waiting for for 15 years?