Apple’s latest release, the Apple Vision Pro, has certainly caught my attention. In the world of virtual reality, this release is seemingly late. However, Apple has shown us time and again that they either are the first to try something new, or perfect what the other tech giants could not get right.
The introduction of the iPod in 2001 revolutionized the way we listen to music, creating a market for portable digital music players that did not exist before. Similarly, the iPhone, unveiled in 2007, set a new standard for mobile devices; bBefore its release, there were no touchscreen mobile phones. The iPhone was the first to straddle the line between a basic phone with extra features and a pocket computer. These groundbreaking devices showcased Apple’s ability to identify gaps in the market and introduce innovative solutions that captivated consumers.
Apple has also demonstrated its mastery of taking existing technologies and refining them to deliver exceptional user experiences. The MacBook line of laptops, for example, exemplifies this approach. While laptops have been around for years, Apple elevated the design, user interface, and overall performance to new heights. The sleek and elegant design, coupled with the intuitive macOS operating system, made the MacBook a sought-after device among professionals and creatives alike. The Apple Vision Pro is no exception. Apple’s commitment to perfecting existing technologies has allowed them to create products that set the standard for quality and user satisfaction.
Devices that allow users to experience augmented and virtual reality have been in the market for a while, offering unique experiences and pushing the boundaries of immersive technologies. The Oculus Rift–released in April 2012–provides a wireless, all-in-one experience with impressive graphics and a vast library of games and applications. The licensing and software for the Oculus was acquired by Facebook in 2014. The Oculus Rift namesake was retired, and the headset now called “Meta Quest” is a large part of Facebook’s initiative into the VR space and the reason the company rebranded to Meta as a whole. With Meta, the virtual reality arms race has leveled up through their implementation of accessible pricing. Consumers can purchase a Meta Quest headset for as low as $300, or secure a Meta Quest Pro for just over $1,000. This level of accessibility in price is what their competitors have yet to uncover. Comparatively, the Microsoft HoloLens was released a few months after the Meta Quest in November 2019, and focuses on mixed reality, blending virtual elements with the real world to enable holographic interactions and spatial computing.
Even Google has tried their hand in augmented reality with Google Glass in 2013. The product allowed users to interact with applications through natural language voice commands; Google Glass also has the ability to take photos. Today, Google has discontinued the smart eyewear, but it is evident that their attempt laid a firm foundation for their competitors.
While all of these devices have made strides in their respective niches, the Apple Vision Pro seeks to carve out its own space in the market. Through spatial computing, Apple Vision Pro users are able to blend digital content with their physical space. All navigation of the device is done with the user’s eyes, hands, or voice. This new take on navigation is the key differentiator between Apple’s latest launch and their competitors’ predecessors. While the HoloLens is the closest comparison to the Apple Vision Pro due to its mixed reality capabilities, Apple is promising a more seamless user interaction, making it the better of the two devices. Additionally, other devices are limited to the boundaries of the display, but Apple Vision Pro completely transforms the user’s entire space into their desktop. According to Apple’s website, “Apps can fill the space around you, beyond the boundaries of a display. They can be moved anywhere, scaled to the perfect size, react to the lighting in your room, and even cast shadows”. If they can deliver all they are promising, Apple will have crafted the most innovative device we have seen since the iPhone.
So far, the price point is my main critique of the Apple Vision Pro. If Apple is going to revolutionize virtual interaction, then the price of the Apple Vision Pro needs to sit a bit lower for more people to gain access. However, spending upwards of $300 on a music device or phone was once unimaginable, but now the standard. Given Apple’s history of groundbreaking advancements, it begs the question: Are they truly late to the virtual reality game, or is everyone else on the verge of playing catch-up? Only time will reveal the answer.