“Discover the groundbreaking Apple Vision Pro, as Apple unveils its latest technological marvel. Elevate your visual experience with state-of-the-art innovation, redefining the future of imaging. Immerse yourself in the extraordinary as Apple sets a new standard with Vision Pro – the pinnacle of visual excellence.”
One of my first thoughts on Monday when Apple unveiled its Vision Pro headset, which blends the digital and the real world, was: Wow, this thing looks weird. I’m not the only one who thinks this way. Reaction to Vision Pro on social media has not been kind. Skeptics scoffed at the device’s snowboard goggle-like appearance, its exorbitant price tag ($3,500), and Apple’s hype (the company said the Vision Pro heralded an era of “spatial computing”). Some compared it to the robot WALL-E, while others made jokes about watching virtual reality porn on Twitter. I know. I’ve been skeptical of virtual reality for years, and I’ve always wondered why the technology hasn’t become mainstream as the quality of headsets continues to improve.
I’ve always been skeptical of Zuckerberg’s hype about the Metaverse, which has more of a sense of “personal conquest” than “actual market need.” If someone had asked me before Monday’s event what I thought of Apple’s mixed reality headset, and whether it marked the beginning of a huge, earth-shaking platform shift like the arrival of the first iPhone, I would have said no. answer. But after watching Apple’s Vision Pro demo on Monday and reading the generally positive reviews from testers, I now feel like this could be something big, maybe even the first signs of a revolutionary new computing platform.
There are many reasons why Vision Pro might fail. People may think it’s too expensive, too ugly, too insular. It’s much easier to convince developers to build good, useful smartphone apps than it is to convince them to write apps for devices that have to be strapped to users’ heads and whose user base never really reaches a meaningful scale. Apple may discover what Meta has discovered so far in its foray into productivity-based virtual reality or VR, apps: Not many people worldwide are interested in reading email in VR. But I can’t rule out the possibility that despite its limitations – such as the need to carry around its associated battery pack – the Vision Pro could be a huge success.
Is it expensive? Yes. But the first generations of many devices were expensive. The “Pro” in the product’s name hints that a less expensive, more consumer-oriented model may be coming. Is it a joy and impressive to use? Early adopters of the product seem to think so, even though they haven’t been using it for very long, and are a fairly easy group to get excited about new things. The real test will come when users can buy the device — early next year (according to Apple) and when people start integrating it into their daily lives. I’ll admit that my willingness to be open to the Vision Pro is partly due to a certain tech columnist mentality.
In 2013, I wrote an article before the release of the first-generation Apple Watch, confidently declaring that smartwatches were a stupid idea. I laughed at their appearance, dismissed them as expensive toys, and boldly declared that Apple was crazy to invest heavily in a product like this that I couldn’t imagine anyone using except young, rich Silicon Valley nerds. (Apple is now the world’s number one watch brand, with annual is estimated to sell for 40 million yuan. I’m wearing one right now, and so are many of my friends and relatives. )My Apple Watch prediction was a ridiculous mistake. There are several reasons.
First, I underestimated Apple’s market expansion ability to turn niche products into mainstream products. In 2013, there were other smartwatches on the market, but not many people bought them, so I concluded that not many people would buy the Apple Watch. I looked at the clunky, ugly smartwatches on the market at the time and decided that the people who were willing to wear them on their wrists every day—nerds like me—wouldn’t be a market big enough to make the product big.
But what I missed was that Apple is Apple because it has proven time and time again that it can turn a niche product that nerds love into something that everyone wants, through sheer force of will. That’s a testament to the company’s renowned product development and marketing prowess, and it’s part of the reason I’m reluctant to easily rule out Vision Pro’s chances of success.
Indeed, there are several good VR and mixed-reality headsets on the market, and there are even some good apps for them. But these devices aren’t made by Apple, and they won’t be seamlessly integrated into the entire Apple ecosystem like the Vision Pro. Being able to integrate all of your iPhone’s contacts, iMessages, and iOS settings into this mixed reality headset the moment you turn it on could mean a watershed moment: is this a device you use every day, or is it something you use a few times? A new toy that’s just thrown into the storage room?
Another mistake I made when writing about the Apple Watch in 2013 was forgetting that human behavior is not static and that our ideas about what is considered fashionable and what is socially acceptable are always changing. changes with the emergence of new technologies. I was partly reacting to a social norm. Back then, it might have been considered impolite to look at your watch from time to time during a meeting or while having dinner with your family. But ten years later, this behavior (at least to me) is no longer considered inappropriate because so many people now have Apple Watches that many have formed new norms around it.
Our current hypothesis is that those who look at their watches during dinner may be trying to avoid looking at their phones, which would be more rude and disruptive. In other words, as more people use it, the previous taboos no longer exist. The same thing could happen with mixed-reality headsets. Of course, wearing the Vision Pro today might feel uncomfortable. But in the next few years, if one-third of your colleagues wear this device to participate in Zoom meetings, and you see people watching VR movies every time you fly, you may not think this device is stupid. Apple has a knack for entering a certain product category at just the right time.
In 2007, the iPhone wasn’t the first or even the first touchscreen smartphone. The iPad isn’t the first tablet, either. But in both categories, Apple has brought excitement and sexiness to them that they haven’t had before. Apple lets other companies make some costly mistakes and then focuses on building great products. The same thing could happen with Apple’s Vision Pro. Meta, Magic Leap, and other companies have invested billions of dollars in basic research and development of virtual reality and mixed reality headsets, and these companies have learned from the failures of earlier devices such as Google Glass.
Improvements have been made to make the headset more attractive now. But they haven’t been a huge commercial success yet. This may be because virtual reality and augmented reality are fundamentally bad ideas, so the market for such devices is destined to be small. But it may also be that this market needs Apple’s arrival. If in a few years, you’re reading this with a Vision Pro or an Apple device taped directly to your corneas, don’t say I didn’t tell you first.