Benedict Evans presents Vision Pro

**The Evolution of VR and AR Devices: Towards a Universal Platform**

**The Current State of VR and AR Devices**

Over the years, the narrative surrounding virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) devices has remained relatively stagnant. While the dream of AR glasses that seamlessly integrate digital elements into the real world persists, we have yet to see practical applications beyond prototypes and proofs of concept. On the other hand, VR devices have reached a point where they are more than just prototypes and proofs of concept. They have developed a passionate base of enthusiasts and a range of use cases, primarily in gaming and fitness. However, mass-market adoption has been slow, with a high abandonment rate. Last year, only an estimated 10 million units were sold, leaving the question of whether VR devices can truly capture the interest of the broader population.

**The Future of VR and AR: The Next Universal Device?**

The future of VR and AR devices raises an intriguing question: If we were to develop the ultimate device with an extraordinary user experience, would it become the next universal device and platform, akin to smartphones? Alternatively, would it resemble gaming consoles, appealing to a limited user base for specific purposes? Could it be even smaller in scale? Meta, having invested over $35 billion in the technology, aims to position itself at the forefront of this market, betting on VR and AR as the revolutionary new wave of technology. However, its success remains uncertain at this point.

**The Parallels with the Rise of Mobile Technology**

The current landscape of VR and AR devices shares similarities with the emergence of mobile technology two decades ago. During the late 1990s to 2007, we witnessed the introduction of mobile internet devices that were decent but far from superior. We recognized their potential for improvement and believed that “mobile internet” could become significant. However, we could not have anticipated that smartphones would eventually replace PCs as the primary technological hub, connecting billions of people worldwide. The advent of the iPhone disrupted the timeline and altered the trajectory of mobile technology.

**Apple’s Vision Pro: Not Quite an iPhone Moment**

Apple’s Vision Pro is often compared to the iPhone in terms of its potential impact. However, this comparison falls short due to several factors. Firstly, the Vision Pro is currently priced at $3,500, making it significantly more expensive than the iPhone when it first launched at $600. Moreover, while the iPhone quickly became a popular replacement for existing phones, the Vision Pro, even after nine years since Meta acquired Oculus VR, remains a novel device in a new category for many consumers. Interestingly, the Vision Pro bears more resemblance to the original Macintosh, which debuted in 1984 at a cost of over $7,000 when adjusted for inflation. At the time, most individuals did not grasp its necessity.

**An Expensive Device as the Minimum Viable Product**

Apple’s decision to price the Vision Pro steeply is closely tied to the challenge of pioneering a new product category. The company has determined that the Vision Pro’s capabilities constitute the bare minimum for a viable product. These capabilities include an impeccable screen resolution with imperceptible pixels, lag-free pass-through technology, and flawless eye and hand tracking. While other companies aspire to achieve these benchmarks in due course, Apple insists that they are necessary from the outset.

**Contrasting Approaches: Meta vs. Apple**

In many ways, Apple’s approach to VR and AR devices stands in opposition to Meta’s strategy. Meta aims to deliver the right hardware at the right price in order to catalyze an ecosystem centered around VR and AR. It is gradually working towards perfecting the device. On the other hand, Apple has prioritized developing the ideal device first and is subsequently addressing the issue of price. The Vision Pro represents a device plucked from the future and priced accordingly. It is as though Apple had chosen to sell the 2007 iPhone in 2002, leading us to question what the price would have been in that scenario.

**The Vision Pro: More Augmented Reality than Virtual Reality**

One of the most intriguing aspects of the Vision Pro is its primary focus on AR rather than VR. While wearing a VR headset like the Oculus Quest transports users to another world, the Vision Pro functions differently. It allows users to look through the device, transforming their view of the real world through AR elements. Apple’s emphasis on AR illustrates its belief in the potential of this technology to shape how we interact with the world around us.

In conclusion, the evolution of VR and AR devices has yet to reach its peak. While VR has carved out a niche among gaming and fitness enthusiasts, mass-market adoption remains elusive. The future of VR and AR devices holds the promise of becoming the next universal platform, but it also faces challenges in terms of price, category creation, and market appeal. Apple’s Vision Pro represents a forward-thinking approach to AR, pushing the boundaries of what is currently possible while underscoring the company’s belief in the transformative power of this technology. Only time will tell if VR and AR truly become the next technological revolution.

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