This week, Apple finally unveiled its long-awaited mixed reality device, the Apple Vision Pro. Here's everything you need to know.
Senior Consultant, Innovation
This week, Apple finally unveiled its long-awaited mixed reality device, the Apple Vision Pro, which looks far more than an upgraded VR headset. Apple describes it as the world’s first ‘spatial computer’, combining the processing capabilities of a high-end laptop with a fully three-dimensional user interface. It looks set to truly enable users to experience work and entertainment in a new way.
We won’t go into details here about what the Vision Pro can do as Apple has that covered. What we want to explore is what this new launch – and the possibilities it brings – will mean for brands, especially in gaming and entertainment sectors.
Beyond virtual reality
One thing markedly absent from Apple’s Worldwide Developers’ Conference presentation was any reference to virtual reality (VR). Instead of creating a better-looking version of existing VR headsets, Apple went further and introduced a new category – spatial computing – with a focus on day-to-day applications such as work, catching up with friends, and play.
At the eye-watering launch price of $3,499 (scheduled for early 2024 in the US, and later in other countries), the Vision Pro is unlikely to become an instant sales hit with consumers. Instead, the first wave of adopters will include developers and brands keen to experiment and test the limits of the device.
From the get-go, Apple has partnered with some heavyweights: Disney CEO Bob Iger shared the stage with Tim Cook to highlight how Disney+ would not only be available as soon as the headset is launched, but also that the films and TV available to watch will be augmented by the technology. One clip showed a user watching a Star Wars show from the cockpit of a spaceship on an alien planet, and another talked about being immersed in the Marvel universe through its ‘What If?’ series.
While Meta, Sony and others pinned the success of their VR headsets on gaming, Apple seems to be taking a different approach. While it did mention there will be a large number of games available on launch, no titles or franchises were name-checked at WWDC. It’s certainly a bold move given that nearly 90% of VR content spending last year was on games.
This could mean one of two things: games companies are still getting to grips with the device and what they can do with it (they have a year to produce Vision Pro-specific titles that wow users), or they are waiting to see what happens. Crucially, Apple is also working with game software development platform, Unity, to enable app makers to more easily create content for Vision Pro.
Apple’s rivals – Google, Samsung – are no doubt watching intently from the sidelines and will soon develop their own headsets based on what they’ve seen. Some of them, particularly Microsoft, are likely to focus heavily on gaming and entertainment. And developers will likely have learned from Meta’s first-mover mistakes before committing to creating games for specific platforms.
A new style icon
This is Apple’s first new product unveiled since the Apple Watch in 2015 and, like most of its creations, the Vision Pro is a thing of beauty. Sleek and futuristic, its glass front gleams. You can picture people wanting to take it beyond the confines of their homes or offices – and with its ‘passthrough’ capabilities (the ability to process real-world images), that’s a real possibility.
It is also easy to imagine brands creating accessories for the Vision Pro, enabling users to customise it to their own personal tastes, much like different iPhone cases or MacBook stickers. Fashion accessories for a fashion accessory?
In one section of Apple’s presentation, the headset was seen being used by someone on a flight to create an immersive experience for the passenger that takes them away from being stuck on a cramped plane. While we’re unlikely to see many Vision Pro devices in economy class, it’s not hard to see a forward-thinking airline offering them to premium passengers, with an extra helping of in-app branding, to foster loyalty and justify higher fares.
The ‘metaverse’ may have fallen out of fashion slightly of late, but Apple’s Vision Pro is a step forward in enabling truly immersive social media experiences – be it 3D advertising or engaging new formats we can’t even picture yet.
For brands, this could mean testing out new ways of using the technology to reach existing and potential consumers. For creators the headset and its future iterations could offer a unique opportunity to elevate the content they produce and find new ways to educate and entertain audiences.
Either way, Apple’s much-lauded entry into the XR space means AR, VR and related technologies are going to become mainstream sooner rather than later. Brands across all sectors would do well to experiment within this space, or at the very least track the many developments about to happen, as those who don’t will likely lag behind.
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