Tips for Vision Pro Labs

We’ve just had the announcement of the Apple Vision Pro developer labs. These one day, hands-on experiences will take place around the world over the next few months and allow developers to refine and enhance their apps for visionOS based on real-life usage.

I’ve applied to attend one of these and hope to get the chance to work on Widgetsmith there. While I wait to see if I was selected, I figured I’d put together a list of tips for getting the most out of experiences like this. Over my career I’ve been to several similar things and have learned a few things about maximizing your time.

If I’m fortunate enough to get one of the slots for a visionOS lab I’ll update this article if there are any additional tips I learn from it, but I think most of this advice is pretty universal regardless of the specifics.

Sharpen your tools

Your enemy at a lab like this is running out of time. You’ll only have a set period from when the lab begins to when it ends and expect those deadlines to be firmly enforced. So the last thing you need is for your tools to hold you back. Ensure that your computer is completely ready for this experience.

  • The latest toolsets all downloaded and unzipped
  • Plenty of hard disk space
  • All the necessary files downloaded (while you likely will have internet access, consider if you didn’t what you’d want to have with you)
  • If you need additional things to be maximally efficient (notebooks, pencils, etc.) bring them.

Do a trial run in the simulator

I’d recommend doing as much work as possible in the run up to your lab in the simulator. You can get a long way towards your goal there. Ideally you’ve done all the annoying ground work ahead of time so that when you get your hands on the physical device you are working from a solid foundation. There are certainly going to be things you can’t do without real hardware but ideally you’ve done a lot of foundational work already.

This is also a good way to double check your toolset is ready. Ensure you can build-and-run your project for the simulator on the latest Xcode version ahead of time.

Make a list of goals in order

Go into your session with a plan of action. While there is some value in spending a bit of time at the start just exploring the device and familiarizing yourself with it, don’t let your time just slip away by aimlessly poking around. I tend to go into something like this with a list of 3-4 things I want to verify/experience/develop and then work through them in order. This keeps me on track and helps me to be mindful of the short time available.

Expect to get done less than you hope

One of the less than ideal realities of a time limited experience like this is that you will almost certainly finish the experience feeling like you wished it was longer. A day just isn’t all that long to get super stuck in. Also, remember that there will likely be some setup and administration time when you aren’t able to do the work itself, which will eat into your slot.

Avail yourself of the staff, they are there to help

At a lab experience like this there will likely be several members of staff who are in the room with your for the express purpose of helping you; avail yourself of this help. They are there to help you get the most out of your experience. Don’t feel like you are being annoying or wasting their time. If you have a question, or are hitting an issue which you think they could help with. Ask!

Don’t get bogged down

In the course of development it is often possible to run into situations where you are getting stuck on an issue. Maybe an animation just doesn’t fire right, or there is a little glitchy transition between things. Or even something more fundamental like you can’t seem to get a feature to work. Unless that feature is the main purpose of your lab and you are specifically there to solve that problem, consider moving on to the next goal on your list if you get stuck. Otherwise it can be easy to look up several hours later and realize you’ve spent all your time on one issue and the rest of your list will go untouched. You can always come back to a sticky issue at the end of your list if time allows.

Have a plan B in case your ideas are dead ends

This one is a bit awkward, but comes from personal experience. It is possible that you will get into the lab and discover that your idea doesn’t really work well when you see it on device. Some concepts work in the simulator but don’t really translate to the device. In this case the lab is extremely useful in showing you this, but then makes the rest of you time at the lab a bit tricky. Consider having a backup plan of your “next best” idea for the platform in the back of your mind. That way you aren’t just sitting there idling the time away.

Obey the rules; don’t put staff in a a tricky spot

Inevitably at an event like this there are going to be a number of very specific rules you are expected to follow. You likely had to agree to a list of contractual requirements when you signed up and then on the day the staff running the event may have additional guidelines for the session. Obey these rules, and don’t put the staff in the awkward position of having to call you on things. If they say no photos, don’t try to take a photo on the sly. If you aren’t to talk about things, don’t talk about things. Part of how events like this are able to happen at all is that they can be conducted within a constrained, trusted environment. Realize that if rule breaking is a common occurrence they likely won’t be able to happen at all, or you won’t be selected for one in the future.

Consider staying close to the venue

This is a bit more of a logistical tip, but consider staying as close to the venue as possible. Because the events have a firm start and end time if you get stuck in traffic or your train is late, you’ll just be out of luck. My plan (if I get a lab slot) is to stay at a hotel the night before and after as close as I possibly can to the event. The night before so that I can avoid travel delays (ideally it will just be a short walk to the venue). The night after so that I don’t feel rushed afterwards and won’t need to deal with luggage on the day.

Pay attention to permitted items

On the topic of luggage pay attention to any lists of items which are permitted in the event itself. Expect there to be a security process on the day and realize that as a result somethings might not be allowed to be brought into the venue. Similarly to my approach at WWDC I try to consolidate into the essentials for the day while also being thoughtful of comfort items which might be useful. For example, I ensure I have some headache medicine with me to make sure that an ill timed headache doesn’t derail my day. Also, consider if there are accessory computer items which would make you more efficient (for example, an external mouse or AirPods). Also, double check you have all the chargers you’ll need for the day with plugs correct for the country you’ll be attending in.

Good Luck!

It is hard to guess how oversubscribed the labs will be and how difficult it will be to get a slot, but I hope that if you are the kind of developer who has read through a list this long with ideas for how to maximize your time you’ll get one.. Have fun and enjoy the time there. Experiences like this are very special and don’t come around too often.

David Smith