As WWDC23 comes to a close, Apple announced a range of new technology, including the Vision Pro, its first spatial computer. Here, I will summarise my findings from the event and what we can expect from this new product.
Yesterday at Apple's WWDC conference, Tim Cook introduced an array of powerful products, including the 15-inch MacBook Air, M2 Ultra Mac Studio, and refreshed Mac Pro. However, all of these products faded into the background the moment he uttered those infamous words, "One more thing."
Granted, like many others, I was prepared for this, having come across hundreds of leaks and theories leading up to the event. Yet it still took me by surprise. It's finally here — well, early next year if you live in the United States.
The trailer truly looked like something out of a sci-fi movie, with the ability to tap, pull, and stretch interfaces to match your preferences and fit your environment. It seemed like a real leap for digital experiences, and I, for one, like many, am curious to see how this will impact creatives going forward.
As with anything, Apple often exercises a sense of stubbornness when entering a tech vertical or introducing a new feature set. As shown by the notch on the iPhones, the USB C/lightning cable adaptation, and the lack of foldables in their product suite, these choices are somewhat justified as they protect revenue and ensure that Apple only releases a product when they know it is fit for consumers. However, before we get to that, let's address the elephant in the room: the price tag. For most consumers, $3,500 is a hefty number, making mass-market adoption something that Apple may struggle with despite having a stream of loyal followers. Without mass-market adoption, will this form of content consumption really be revolutionary? I guess time will tell. We also need to note that this is just a "Starting from" price, which suggests different tiers and specs to be introduced upon its formal launch. Another factor to consider is market conditions. As of 2023, the AR/VR market has shrunk by 50%, partly down to many consumers dismissing the need for the Metaverse and other VR experiences. The device also seems to be less polished than its predecessors, with a slightly heavy headset and a battery back that connects to the stem of the headset, which is designed to be kept in their pocket. These imperfections could suggest Apple was forced to release this device ahead of time to avoid falling behind the competition and that this device is just a stepping stone for their long-term AR/VR strategy.
What to expect?
The best way to summarise the capabilities of this device, from a top-level perspective, is that you can:
The enhanced workflow capabilities are something that truly captured my imagination. During the conference, there was a demonstration of a MacBook placed squarely on a desk. By looking directly at the MacBook screen, the Vision Pro expanded the content from the MacBook into its augmented screen that you could directly interact with.
The ability to tap into a VR environment, which allows you to simultaneously open up multiple displays, all through Mac OS, is something that can truly revolutionise the creative process. As a designer first, I would love to see if there is any way to integrate the Apple pencil into this setup. I mean, imagine being able to do all kinds of animation and 3D work on the fly across multiple displays. However, at the moment, there has been no mention of external device capabilities bar the Apple wireless keyboard. Most of the controls and interactions are linked to the movement of your eyes and the gestures you can make with your hands. I'm quite excited to see how this works as it could add a level of intuitiveness to elevate our existing digital experiences.
There is a 3D camera built-in, designed specifically to capture your memories so that you can supposedly relive them again and again. We've been taking photographs and videos for countless years, and to be able to add dimension to these recorded memories can transform the way we consume and store them forever.
Tech entrepreneur Markus Browne was able to experience some elements of the handset himself and stated that, despite being something which was remarkable, it still lacked a sense of realism. He went on to compare this experience to Google's Project Starline.
From social media content to a large personal cinema screening, the immersive capabilities of the Vision Pro opened up an array of ideas on what we can achieve as creatives. Bob Igor, the Managing Director of Disney, shared the stage with Tim to put forward some interesting ideas on how the device will be leveraged to deliver more beautiful experiences. He also went on to announce that Disney+ will be available on day one of the release of the device. It was exciting to see how different forms of media will come together to deliver immersive entertainment. There is a classic apple scroll dial similar to the Apple Watch and Airpods Max, which allows you to iterate through different levels of emersion to allow you control over how deep you want to dive into the experience.
It's been a while since we've seen truly revolutionary tech from Apple. For years, they seemed to have focused on building a portfolio of great devices and improving them through every iteration, which is not a bad thing. However, this new device that pushes UI/UX, creativity, and social interactions truly excites me. Will it be for the masses? I don't think so yet. I believe there is a lot of work that Apple needs to do to encourage mass consumers to purchase, either through economies of scale to bring the cost down or by producing an entry-level model. We also have to consider the developers. How difficult will the transition be to producing applications for this device, and will it lead to a spark in a new type of design skill? Or even a demand for more 3D creators? As the market matures, there is a lot to figure out, and as tech has shown us in the past, new innovation always leads to exciting new challenges.