Will Apple Succeed with Virtual Reality?
June 6, 2023 — by Per Christensson
Apple just announced Vision Pro, a thoughtfully-designed mixed-reality headset with incredible computing technology. It creates virtual experiences that are more lifelike than ever before. But will it be a successful product? I don't think so.
The past is littered with companies that have failed at making virtual reality mainstream.
In 2016, I wrote an article titled "3 Reasons Why Virtual Reality Will Fail." I think the three reasons still apply today:
- You have to wear something on your head
- You need a lot of space
- People don't want virtual; they want reality
To be fair, Apple addressed point #2 with its design. The company seems to have acknowledged that most people don't live in mansions with large living rooms like the ones in their demos. The designers created Vision Pro to require limited movements, and because it's a "mixed reality" headset, you can see your real-life surroundings. But the experience is still best in a large room.
My other two concerns from 2016 are just as relevant. Most people don't want to wear something on their heads to play a game, let alone check their email. And most of us are sick of "virtual" — especially after 2020. We want reality.
If I want to swim with sea turtles, I'd much rather snorkel in an ocean than experience it virtually on my couch. I prefer breathing the fresh air at a serene lakeside versus pretending I'm there. Most of us spend enough time around electronics as it is. It's concerning that companies are pushing us to spend more time at home.
And there's one more reason why I don't think Apple Vision Pro will succeed: price. $3,500 + tax means almost $4,000 for a headset. The average consumer can't afford that kind of discretionary purchase. I assume Apple plans to release a standard "Vision" headset in the future, but pricing out the broader market at launch is a strange move.
Apple has succeeded where many companies have failed. With the resources they've poured into the project, Apple has the best shot of any company to bring virtual reality to the masses. But I don't think they will.