Apple Vision Pro: A Product designers perspective

I’ve spent around 100 hours viewing videos at 2x speed, all featuring the fortunate individuals who have first-hand access to the Apple Vision Pro. Since its launch, my social media feeds have been inundated with posts about this product, with YouTubers and influencers testing it out. I’ve seen people wear it for an entire day, working and testing every aspect of the product. I’ve even delved into the details by examining a teardown of the Apple Vision Pro. I’ve done my homework on this product.

I visited the Apple Store hoping to try the product, only to find out it’s unavailable in South Africa. If anyone in South Africa has access to it and is willing to let me try, please get in touch.

As a product designer and tech enthusiast, I want to share my perspective on what this implies for the future of UI and UX design. I’ll also discuss the realistic landscape of developing for this technology and its potential use cases.

You may question why this product is more important than, for example, the Meta Quest 3, which is a similar but significantly cheaper product. True to Apple’s style, they invested time in this product by learning from the market and identifying the best practices. The research and development was likely extensive, involving many man-hours, strategic planning, personnel hiring, and company acquisitions to make this a reality. The product was released to the market after assessing the competition.

True to form, Apple has reintroduced a product category that’s been around for a while, but they’ve given it a completely new name. Instead of labeling the Apple Vision Pro as an AR/VR product, they refer to it as a “Spatial Computer”. Now this term has been there for many years but apple is making it mainstream. I think this is a revolutionary move for this product line, making AR/VR computers more consumer-friendly.

I have an unbridled enthusiasm for new technologies, with a particular interest in exploring alternative methods of interaction with computers and the internet. I am especially drawn to cutting-edge innovations that go beyond the confines of traditional screens, the norm that has been set by popular devices such as the iPhone and iPad. These traditional methods, while effective, often limit the scope of human-computer interaction. Therefore, the exploration of alternative interfaces excites me as it holds the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with the digital world, making our experiences more immersive, intuitive, and human-centric.

Here are my thoughts on the Apple Vision Pro, looking beyond the hype to a future where AR and VR are more mainstream. In this world, there are more apps and real-world use cases for AR/VR headsets. I will also discuss some of the history and trends we’ve seen with other product categories, like smart speakers, and how we use voice as an interaction method with technology.

The Future Beyond the Hype:

Like all Apple flagship products, the marketing is often taken care of by influencers, early tech adopters, and YouTubers. We are currently in that phase, similar to when the AirPods were released, but on a much larger scale with Apple making significant bets.

Beyond the hype, I see the first generation of the Apple Vision Pro as a specialty product. It’s an early adopter’s tool and a development aid for designers and developers who want to stay ahead of the curve. They’ll dive deep into this product before it becomes mainstream.

I constantly contemplate what will be the superior successor to the touch screen for human adoption. Had you asked me this question eight years ago, I would have predicted voice. However, given the significant evolution of technology, my answer today leans more toward AR and VR, particularly considering the standard set by Apple with the Apple Vision Pro.

Apple is certainly setting a trend and reviving a product category that some might consider declining due to mediocre hardware and a lack of innovative software. Apart from browsing the web for productivity, the current market offerings are either specialized for training or corporate uses. For mainstream users, there is a limited variety of gaming experiences, a lot of demo software, and a minimal catalogue of native apps for the respective platforms.

AR/VR and Voice trends in the past

I’m interested in unconventional methods of interacting with computers and the internet, like brain-computer interfaces and voice-enabled AR/VR. I’d be delighted to learn about any other exciting technologies beyond screens, keyboards, and pointing devices. Please connect with me on LinkedIn.

I used to believe that voice technology would replace screens due to its accessibility with inexpensive smart speakers. Plus, it allows hands-free operation for most tasks that you can do with a phone. This technology has proven to be effective indoors, especially in the smart home sector. While I won’t delve into brain-computer interfaces in this post, I plan to cover it in a dedicated post later as the topic is extensive. For now, I will focus more on AR/VR.

We’ve observed the rise and fall of this trend over the past decade. Meta, with the Meta Quest (initially known as just the Quest), was arguably the first company to bring this into the mainstream, primarily due to its affordable price range, which lowered the barrier of entry for most consumers. However, we’ve also seen the limitations of VR and AR. As the technology is still in its infancy, manufacturing high-quality units with superior screen resolution, tracking, and latency remains expensive.

VR/AR, or “Spatial Computing” as Apple has dubbed it, is undoubtedly a rapidly growing trend. It presents more use cases than just voice interfaces. With various competitors in the market, we are moving in the right direction to foster more innovation. This will make the category mainstream enough to lower prices, making it more affordable for most users to have a greater experience for less.

What Will Make This Work

This concept indeed holds a promise of revolutionizing technology, but the question that arises is, what will truly be the driving force that enables this emerging category to not only succeed but also potentially outshine and overtake the traditional world of screens and keyboards that we are so accustomed to? For such a groundbreaking shift in technology to become a tangible reality, several crucial elements within the expansive tech universe need to align perfectly. These elements range from advancements in hardware and software technologies to user acceptance and regulatory support. Only with the right amalgamation of these factors can we expect this concept to transform from a mere possibility into a widespread reality.

Many developers and designers are not currently focusing on building for special computing. Despite this trend increasing, I believe this presents a significant opportunity. Developers and designers can make their products the first software that early adopters use. This positioning allows product teams to stay ahead of the curve and learn what works as this category matures into a tool used daily.

Creating apps to cover more daily use cases will speed up hardware design to accommodate more users and allow daily use without cumbersome connections or carrying around extra batteries, as currently required. For this to succeed, more software is needed that can do more tasks. Currently, VR/AR headsets are either great toys to own or specialized computing devices for larger organizations.

Another significant application of this technology appears in the field of education. We have seen numerous demonstration software that illustrate its potential for transforming learning. However, for this potential to be realized, certain conditions must be met. Notably, the pricing of the hardware must be affordable. This is crucial to ensure that everyone, regardless of their economic status, can benefit from this technology.

Furthermore, the form factor needs to be designed in a way that is user-friendly for all potential users. This includes children, who may have different needs and capabilities compared to adults. By ensuring the hardware is affordable and accessible, we can truly democratize this technology and unlock its full potential in the educational sector.

Addressing a wider range of use cases fosters innovation and competition, benefiting consumers by introducing more options into the market. This also encourages more reasonable pricing, mirroring trends observed in the smartphone industry.

For a successor to the smartphone, technology needs to mature enough to offer the same versatility in price range, hardware options, and software. This will make it a product we use daily. Are we close to this world? I believe that in the next few decades, we will see progress. The smartphone has had more than five decades to reach its peak, and this is just the beginning for spatial computing.

As we look toward the future of technology, do you envision special computing taking the place of the traditional screens and devices that are so deeply ingrained in our daily lives today? Will we see a shift away from the familiar slabs of tech under a screen to a more immersive, interactive experience? I’m eager to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please feel free to share your insights and predictions in the comments section or reach out to me directly on LinkedIn.

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Varima Henry

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