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Apple’s Vision Pro: Groundbreaking or Destined to Fail?

There has been buzz around the potential of virtual reality technology in consumer use since the early 20th century. Despite strong growth in sales with about a 30% year-on-year increase in adoption from 2022 to 2023, the VR market is still in its early stages in terms of adoption by consumers with only around 97.7 million users worldwide (Richter, 2023). Whilst the benefits of virtual reality are clear in industrial applications such as, product design and development, education and digital workplaces it seems that the average consumer finds it difficult to justify the often lofty price tags associated with VR devices, many of which are advertised as gaming and entertainment machines (Hamad, A. and Jia, B. ,2022).  


(Josh Edelson | AFP | Getty Images, Apple’s Vision Pro)


The technology giant Apple, which has a track record of dictating trends in a given market, as exemplified by its introduction of the infamous notch on the Iphone X: almost every phone for the following 2-3 years sported the notch, despite it often being criticised as being somewhat gaudy. So will Apple have the same splash in the VR market?


Some experts certainly think so…


With CNBC reporting that ‘top industry execs’ are claiming that Apple’s introduction of the Vision Pro is a ‘watershed moment’ (Browne, R., 2023). TechQ certainly seems to agree, boldly headlining an article with the prediction: ‘Apple to lead the AR/VR headset market into the mainstream’.


Big claims, but do they reflect reality?



While not an apples-to-apples comparison, turning back to 2014 when Google launched Google Glass can provide worthwhile insight about the trajectory Apple’s Vision Pro is heading in. Google Glass was a much simpler device than the Vision Pro, unable to perform the complex mixed reality and hand tracking for controls that the Vision Pro can, yet similarities to the Vision Pro are striking. Both devices were released to great fanfare; both are prohibitively expensive, with the Vision Pro current price being $2500 USD and Google Glass selling at $1500 in its day; both were released by the two biggest tech giants in the world and both aim to immerse the user in a digital world. Google Glass was a complete failure: production was suspended just 6 months after release to consumers and production for commercial applications ended in early 2023. What Google and Apple were banking on with the release of these devices was consumer’s willingness to embrace a digital world. Similarly, Facebook thought it would be the one to usher humanity into a new digital age when it rebranded itself as Meta in late 2021, acquired the VR market top player at the time, Oculus, and heavily leaned into creating the Metaverse. On the 1st of January 2022 Meta’s stock price crashed. Falling by over $100 USD in just 1 month and plummeting further from 379.38 USD a share in August 2021 to $93.6 USD in October 2022, a vertiginous drop of 75%. This unprecedented, catastrophic failure occurred in no small part because of consumer’s lack of willingness to adopt Meta’s new technology, the Metaverse. 


(Google Glass, top, and Meta’s Quest Pro VR headset)


With the ideas of movies such as the Matrix and the Terminator being so ingrained in popular culture, it would not be a stretch to assume that most consumers have a degree of apprehension when it comes to adopting VR technology or AI. So, the question is: does the average person really want to live in a virtual world? People rejected the virtual world 10 years ago with the release of Google Glass and in 2021 with the rebranding of Facebook as Meta. Will Apple’s Vision Pro face the same fate as its tech giant peer’s attempts at innovation or will Apple truly be the first to bring virtual reality into the mainstream?



Bibliography:


Richter, F. (2023) Infographic: AR & VR Adoption is still in its infancy, Statista Daily Data. Available at: https://www.statista.com/chart/28467/virtual-and-augmented-reality-adoption-forecast/ (Accessed: 17 January 2024). 

Hamad, A. and Jia, B. (2022) 'How virtual reality technology has changed our lives: An overview of the current and potential applications and limitations,' International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(18), p. 11278. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph191811278.

Browne, R. (2023) Apple’s entry into VR with its new headset is a ‘watershed moment,’ say top industry execs, CNBC. Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2023/06/06/apples-entry-into-vr-is-a-watershed-moment-say-top-industry-execs.html (Accessed: 27 February 2024). 


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