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AR/VR Google Wars – Is Apple Vision a Vision of the Future?

Several companies offer augmented reality headsets, from Magic Leap to Meta’s Quest to Microsoft’s Hololens to specialized makers such as Almer for industrial use. However, the only one people could talk about this month was the new Apple Vision Pro augmented reality headset unveiled at the WWDC 2023 conference. Here’s what we know about the device:

  • The price tag is HIGH! Early adopters might want to save their pennies when the device is released early next year – its starting price is $3,499!
  • It comes with its proprietary operating system. The Vision Pro runs on visionOS, Apple’s dedicated operating system designed specifically for spatial computing, encompassing augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) experiences. The three-dimensional interface of visionOS promises a new experience, allowing Apps to appear side by side at varying scales. The user interface cleverly incorporates adaptation to the surrounding light and adds shadows to convey the scale and a 3D effect. The launch App partners include native Unity apps for gamers, Adobe Lightroom for creatives, and Microsoft’s Office suite for the enterprise. And everybody else can use FaceTime to brag to their friends. Other video conferencing platforms like Teams, Webex, and Zoom will also support 3D avatars on the Vision Pro.
  • The design looks like high-end ski goggles and packs a powerful display. The sleek chassis acts as a lens and conceals a fan to keep your $3’499 coolThe impressive displays of the Vision Pro, though, are power-hungry, needing an external battery. In return, the resolution of the screens is “eye-watering,” with 23 million pixels. The slick housing contains multiple sensors and cameras. This could be the killer feature for regular and prolonged use: Look Ma, no hands! Infrared cameras track the eyes while downward-facing cameras monitor hand movements. As a result, the Vision Pro does not need any hand-held controllers. Additionally, lidar sensors provide real-time object tracking, enhancing spatial awareness.
  • Batteries are sold separately. Unlike other headsets, the Vision Pro doesn’t integrate the battery pack within the device. Instead, a wire connects to a separate battery pack, providing up to two hours of usage – not much! People using the Vision Pro at the office will behave like people driving EVs: Always looking for the next place to charge. Alternatively, users can opt for a continuous power supply by plugging the charger into a wall outlet.

Bye, Bye Google Glass.

Upon hearing about the announcement (and the price tag), I couldn’t help but reminisce about a bygone technology. Does anyone remember Google Glass? Back in 2013, Google Glass was poised to innovate AR with a promise of voice-activated, hands-free technology that integrates with your real-world environment. It also came with a high price tag of $1,500. However, this concept did not gain mass adoption, and this year, the project was terminated – just in time for Apple to swoop in.

The most significant differences between Google Glass and Vision Pro, besides the apparent design differences, are the deployment of the technology. Google Glass struggled to gain market adoption because people could not figure out its purpose beyond being a gadget. With most of the functions already available on the smartphone and its marketing toward developers rather than the general public, consumers needed to understand how the device would serve a purpose in their lives. The Vision Pro has a very forward message of providing immersive experiences and prioritizing gaming, entertainment, and enterprise productivity.

Great design, a step up in usability, and clear targeting of users. This is a good package, indeed. The high price will not deter the innovators. I am very certain that subsequent products will be launched at lower price points – there must be a reason why the current is called the Vision Pro.

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