Home Virtual Reality Hands On With The Apple Vision Pro What If… Experience

Hands On With The Apple Vision Pro What If… Experience

The first immersive experience resulting from Apple and Disney’s partnership in spatial computing arrives today in What If… on the visionOS App Store.

The hour-long experience is free for a limited time and a must-see for Apple Vision Pro owners. The experience is so wildly successful at transporting you inside the Marvel Cinematic Universe I think it should find a home in Disneyland or Disney World so more people can try it.

What If… from ILM Immersive serves as an incredible demonstration of the graphical prowess of Epic’s Unreal Engine 5 and Apple’s M2 chipset. I found myself admiring smoke effects obscuring the edges of an animated window, reflections on liquid, a blinking starfield in the true darkness of Vision Pro’s OLED microdisplays, and the nuanced facial expressions on multiple fully realized animated characters addressing me as if in theater in the round.

“We’ve been really waiting for this kind of mixed reality moment for a long time,” Shereif M. Fattouh, executive producer at ILM Immersive, told me.

“When we finally got to see a device that had passthrough as clear as this and hand tracking that was really reliable, but also that was comped into the kind of the full VR experience mode…the capabilities of what the Apple Vision Pro can do had been really something we’ve been thinking about and waiting for for a long time on the immersive side.”

Previously, Marvel Powers United VR from Sanzaru explored superpowers with controllers in hand while Avengers: Damage Control extended the idea to hand tracking a couple years later at The Void locations. In What If… ILM Immersive brings that formula back home again while bottling it into a tightly satisfying experience.

So what exactly is What If… and why does it work so well? This classic comic books series allows Marvel to explore far out alternative scenarios with well-loved characters, like Agent Peggy Carter’s turn as Captain Carter. As an animated show on Disney+, What If… highlights multiversal variants observed across their clashing realities by an entity called The Watcher. Now, as this fantastic short VR story, What If… lets you experience with your own hands in the open air in the comfort of your own home some of the most memorable moments seen in Marvel’s films.

In practice, that means an experience carefully walking a line between feeling linearly on-rails to avoid people getting lost attempting new and unfamiliar magic-summoning hand gestures, while simultaneously still providing a satisfying sense of impact on the world. Without giving away too much in terms of spoilers, there’s 48 interactive moments and each one has been carefully fine tuned toward the goal of not requiring you do too much “right” while still giving you the sense of impact on the world.

Put another way, even if they might technically have similar mechanics, What If… is absolutely an interactive story from Disney in VR and nothing like Space Pirate Trainer.

“What is the amount of time to bring certain things in? How long do you let people stand there for?” asked Dave Bushore, director and executive producers at Marvel Studios for the project, noting internal debate on the subject of just how much hand-holding to do in these interactive moments. “There’s an Excel spreadsheet with a lot of words written into it.”

You can see me fumbling my way through the gestures in the video below and still getting where I needed to go.

“I don’t think people go to the movies or watch TV shows to just watch. They want to be inspired. They want to be kids and, from a foundational perspective, I honestly think we made a really great short film in VR,” Bushore said.

“We’re so far away from a supercomputer being in a set of glasses. That’s not a reality. But a reality is how far can we push the storytelling? How far can we push the immersion? How far can we push the inspiration?”

While the arrival of Job Simulator and Vacation Simulator on Apple Vision Pro sees some of VR’s best-selling games reimagined for hand tracking, What If… is the experience every Apple Vision Pro owner needs to see. This is the best example ever made of Disney showing its storytelling prowess using a VR headset in a way previous partnerships with Meta and The Void lacked. What If… was only an hour long, but my heart ached in the final moments of this story as I felt like I had personally closed the book on the characters.

Where The Void was kept at the periphery of Disney parks in Florida and California, I think What If… is an experience one should be able find at Disney locations worldwide. While the experience was born from an exclusive partnership with Apple and is gated behind a $3500 purchase, there’s a good chance Disney, ILM, and Marvel are thinking along these lines already.

“We hope that people can see it and do it, and fans can experience it, and can be inspired to try more and do more and ask for more,” Fattouh told me. “Having as many fans do the experience as possible is always top of mind for the content side.”



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