Apple lived up to months of expectations on Monday when it introduced new high-tech goggles that blend the real world with virtual reality. The $3,500 device, called the Vision Pro, will offer “augmented reality” and introduce “spatial computing,” Apple said.
But conspicuously absent from its carefully choreographed announcement were the actual words “virtual reality,” underscoring the challenges the tech giant will likely face in marketing the device to a mass consumer audience.
Interest in virtual reality picked up briefly after the idea of the metaverse — an immersive online world popularized by science fiction — was introduced to mainstream audiences during the pandemic. But the concept lost steam as people returned to their prepandemic lives, investors pivoted to artificial intelligence and it became clear how much technological innovation would be required to achieve such a futuristic vision.
Past virtual reality offerings, including Google Glass, Magic Leap, Microsoft’s HoloLens and Meta’s Quest Pro, have been either commercial failures or only modest successes. And companies have so far failed to demonstrate what is indispensable about virtual reality.
“I do not think the headset, if it does make it to market this year, is going to be for mass market consumers,” said Carolina Milanesi, a consumer tech analyst for the research firm Creative Strategies. “It will be for early adopters — where Apple most often starts — and developers.”
Analysts do not anticipate Apple’s product to have significant mainstream appeal, at least at first. It will be available early next year, the company said.
But if the device lacks broad appeal, it could be a useful trial run for Apple, which could eventually create a virtual reality product aimed at a wider swath of people, like a lightweight pair of glasses.
“I don’t think Apple has super huge expectations,” said Jeff Fieldhack, a research director at Counterpoint Research. “They know this is an evolution that’s going to take some time.”
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.