Is Apple’s Vision Pro Launch a Groundhog Day for Immersive Computing?

Apple’s Vision Pro headset is set to finally launch in the U.S. on February 2, at a retail price of $3,499. Apple originally announced Vision Pro last June at its annual developer event, and it’s been teasing out hands-on time to select media, influencers and developers in an extended hype and ecosystem preparation event ever since. The big question remains, will Apple Vision Pro meaningfully move the needle on immersive computing – or will it be yet another splashy launch for a VR/AR/MR product that fails to change the status quo? Based on the handful of first-hand accounts available, one thing seems clear about Apple Vision Pro: No one’s doubting its quality or capabilities. Curiously, much of what Apple pitched with the Vision Pro launch focused on things you already do all the time on your other devices, including your iPhone, Mac and iPad.

Apple is set to launch its highly anticipated Vision Pro headset in the United States on February 2nd. The headset comes with a hefty price tag of $3,499, making it out of reach for many consumers. However, this seems to be intentional on Apple’s part, as they are reportedly not expecting high sales for the device. Vision Pro was first announced by the tech giant at their annual developer event in June of last year. Since then, they have been teasing hands-on experiences to a select group of media, influencers, and developers in order to build up hype and prepare their ecosystem for the launch.

The question on everyone’s mind is whether or not Apple’s Vision Pro will have a significant impact on the world of immersive computing. Will it revolutionize the industry or will it simply be another flashy VR/AR/MR product that fails to make a lasting impression?

Early accounts from those who have had the chance to test out Vision Pro seem to agree on one thing: its quality and capabilities are not up for debate. Testers were impressed by the ability to play back volumetric video captured on their iPhones, and the experience of watching 3D movies on the headset was universally praised. While opinions on other aspects of the experience were more mixed, the overall reaction was still very positive.

Interestingly, much of Apple’s pitch for the Vision Pro focused on things that can already be done on their other devices, such as iPhones, Macs, and iPads. This strategy seems to be a response to the previous failures of mixed reality devices, which often made grandiose claims about revolutionizing computing, only to end up as niche products or expensive decorations collecting dust in closets.

Another player in this market is Meta, which released the third generation of its Quest headset last year. However, Meta’s product sits at a significantly lower price point of $499 – a fraction of the price of Apple’s debut device. Meta’s strategy involved starting with a more expensive and high-end option and then gradually adding back features as component costs decreased, in order to find the sweet spot between affordability and quality.

The Meta Quest 3 seems to be doing well in terms of usage, as tracked by VR clients. It may have even seen a boost in sales during the recent holiday season. However, it’s been reported that overall demand for VR products has decreased, and Meta is still investing more money into the category than it is making from potentially diminishing sales. Despite this, the Quest 3 is considered one of the best VR products on the market, with a balance of features, performance, and price, as well as an impressive software library.

It remains to be seen what kind of software library Vision Pro will offer at launch. Apple has been holding developer preview events and working with them to prepare apps for consumer release, so it’s likely that there will be some standout offerings available when the first Vision Pro customers get their hands on the device.

Apple’s approach to entering the XR market is unique and has the advantage of being a company that is known for being fashionably late to a category, only to dominate it with products like the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. However, this time they are facing something new – a device category that has been hyped up as the “next big thing” in computing for about a decade now. Previous introductions of categories like portable media players and smartphones did not have this level of hype, yet they still failed to live up to expectations. CEO Mark Zuckerberg knows all too well how easy it is to get caught in a seemingly endless cycle of unveiling the next big thing in spatial computing, only to find that the future you predicted still has not come to pass. Apple may be in danger of falling into the same trap, with Vision Pro being yet another flashy embodiment of a mixed reality future that consumers may not be ready to collectively embrace.

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Zara Khan

Zara Khan is a seasoned investigative journalist with a focus on social justice issues. She has won numerous awards for her groundbreaking reporting and has a reputation for fearlessly exposing wrongdoing.

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