This week Apple announced the Vision Pro headset, available early next year. Here’s what we know so far about the device and what this means for marketers experimenting with AR and VR engagement.
“Spatial computing” and AR. The use cases demoed at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) show augmented reality (AR) experiences where users interface with a digital layer on top of their real-world environment.
What this means practically is that users will be able to select and run apps from menus they see floating in their living room, office or other real-world environment. They’ll use voice commands, subtle hand gestures and eye movements to manipulate these objects and apps.
VR. Users will also be able to select virtual environments and adjust how much of their display is taken up by those environments. This means that Vision Pro users will also have the capability to plug into full VR experiences should they so choose.
Media. Vision Pro users will be able to watch movies and other streaming content. The improvement with the Vision Pro over TV screens is that these shows can take up a user’s full field of vision on their headset display. Content made or adapted for this system can also take advantage of the Vision Pro’s “spatial audio” sound, which promises to make it feel like sounds are coming naturally from the environment around the user.
Why we care. Apple has held off on getting into the AR/VR space while Meta struggled over the last two years to get headsets and the “metaverse” to seem cool and get widely adopted. Marketers remember the watershed moment when Apple’s iPhone spawned the mobile marketing ecosystem, and therefore there’s good reason to wait until Apple throws their hat in the ring.
It’s also worth noting that many AR experiences already exist using smartphone apps. The Vision Pro will make AR wearable, and if done right, will make these experiences more intuitive with natural eye moments and hand gestures.
Price point. The Vision Pro is priced at $3,499. To give some perspective, that’s about half the current price of Apple’s newest Mac Pro. Back in 1984, the first Macintosh started at $2,495, which is over $7,000 in 2023 dollars.
Consumers who buy the Vision Pro will be spending three times more than what an iPhone costs. Businesses that want to equip their employees with Vision Pros will have to invest sizable budgets on par with new laptops or other significant hardware upgrades.
Consumer and B2B adoption. Being able to watch popular shows might be a gateway for consumers to adopt the new device and begin to explore AR and VR applications. Another adoption strategy is for people who use VR at work to bring the devices home. This explains Meta’s push for using their Meta Quest Pro headset for videoconferencing and other business uses.
Apple’s WWDC presentation showed how the Vision Pro uses machine learning to create a lifelike 3D model of a user’s face so that users can videoconference without their headsets being seen. This might be a more acceptable alternative to virtual meetings using cartoony avatars.
“Businesses are at a point where they want to get started with VR technology,” said Rolf Illenberger, CEO of enterprise VR platform VRdirect. “People in the office are asking about it. What’s missing is a general decision about which ecosystem to use.”
The Vision Pro inaugurates a new operating system, visionOS and a new Vision app store, where users will be able to access an anticipated flood of AR and VR apps.
AR and VR in marketing. Businesses in a number of verticals are adopting or considering VR for training and safety initiatives, Illenberger said. Widespread adoption for more general uses like virtual meetings is still several years away.
AR will likely be the first channel to get enough users to be of interest to marketers.
“There is a logical progression from AR marketing to VR marketing,” said Darwin Liu, founder and CEO of ecommerce services company X Agency. ”One needs to take off before the other one can. I expect AR marketing to really take off in the next 2-4 years and VR marketing to become important in 4-7 years.”
When enough customers are using a specific VR ecosystem, it will be important for brands to create a presence within it. This is still a far cry from an interoperable “metaverse” where users can jump from space to space seamlessly and bring digital assets with them to spend on merchandise wherever they want to. The customers that use visionOS will be within Apple’s walled garden. The price to reach them will likely be a steep one.
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