Canadian tech companies say Apple’s new Vision Pro headset gives them hope that augmented and virtual reality wearables could catch on with consumers and businesses.
The headset unveiled Monday creates an augmented reality experience where wearers can connect with one another, conduct meetings, watch movies or even play games. The augmented reality component means users can naturally see their surroundings and browse pages or apps by looking in different directions or gesturing with their hands.
Vision Pro will be available next year and retail for US$3,499, but precursors like Meta’s Oculus headsets or Google Glass have yet to reach widespread adoption because of their high cost and lack of existing use cases.
VR and AR companies believe Vision Pro may shift perceptions of such wearables.
“We think it is a rising tide that will raise all the ships in the industry,” said Raja Khanna, chief executive of Lumeto, a Toronto company using virtual reality to train health care practitioners to complete complex procedures like intubations.
He thinks the Vision Pro is a “beautiful headset” that resolves a lot of the problems past wearables had because users will see their surroundings and use hand gestures, making the experience less isolated.
Its EyeSight capabilities mean that when a person approaches someone wearing Vision Pro, the device feels transparent, allowing the people to see one another. When a user is immersed in the device, EyeSight gives visual cues to others about what the user is focused on.
Even with such flashy features, Khanna thinks the US$3,499 price tag will be prohibitive for many customers, but he feels Apple is likely already planning a lower cost version.
“This is still an industry that is in its early days for early adopters on the consumer side,” he said. “I think Apple understands that and they’re not pretending like they can jump or leapfrog to a mass consumer audience just yet.”
Like Khanna, XpertVR co-founder Evan Sitler-Bates thinks cost will keep some people from grabbing the device right away, but believes Apple will follow its past habits and bring the price down with successive releases, eventually making it more accessible to consumers.
“I’m excited and looking at this as iPhone No. 1 and over the next three to five years, we’re going to see continuous iterations of this,” he predicted.
His Niagara Falls, Ont.-based company develops VR software to train firefighters, medical and human resources professionals, but he believes Vision Pro could spur even more businesses to experiment with such technology because Apple excels at focusing on designing products in an intuitive and easy-to-use way.
“Nowadays you put on a VR headset and it can take half-an-hour to an hour to really get everything set up and to get acclimated to the VR space, whereas Apple is really good at having amazing user experiences,” he said.
“It’s going to really push the industry forward and (show) just how easy it is to get people into the software.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 6, 2023.
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