Virtual reality (VR) and the metaverse have been the focus of Meta’s annual Connect conference this year. However, the buzz and excitement around the conference revolved not around Meta’s own announcements, but rather on one word: Apple. With the unveiling of Meta’s Quest 3 VR headset and Apple’s upcoming Vision Pro mixed-reality headset, the landscape of the VR market is evolving rapidly. This article delves into the impact of Apple’s entry into the VR market, the changing dynamics for developers and VR companies, and the potential implications for Meta.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg showcased the Quest 3 VR headset, highlighting its features and affordability compared to the Vision Pro. The Quest Store, Meta’s VR app store, has experienced significant growth, generating $2 billion in sales since its launch in 2019. However, attendees at the conference expressed curiosity and interest in Apple’s foray into VR. Apple’s reputation for seamlessly integrating hardware and software has created a sense of legitimacy for Meta’s efforts and a renewed interest in the expanding VR industry.
Prior to Apple’s Vision Pro announcement, the VR industry was facing an identity crisis. Venture capitalists were pulling back their investments, and there was a drop-off in Web3 and crypto projects. Meanwhile, Meta was incurring significant losses while building its vision of a metaverse. However, Apple’s entry into the market has shifted the perception of VR’s potential. Meta’s continued investment in pushing the VR market forward, despite mounting costs, has gained renewed confidence from industry experts.
Meta unveiled not only its new VR headset but also the latest version of its Ray-Ban smart glasses. Priced at $299, the glasses leverage Meta’s AI software to enhance users’ experiences and offer functionalities such as landmark identification and sign translation through a smartphone. While Apple’s Vision Pro is positioned as a premium product, mainly attracting businesses, Meta aims to capture a broader consumer market. Both companies recognize the need for multiple entrants in the market to avoid a monopoly system.
Although Apple’s entry into VR brings excitement, Meta still faces challenges in bringing VR to the mainstream. Despite its head start in the industry, Meta has struggled to gain widespread adoption. Developers and experts question whether the improvements in the Quest 3 over its predecessor are sufficient to attract new customers beyond industry insiders and developers. However, the Quest 3’s “passthrough” feature, which overlays computer visuals onto the physical world, provides developers with new opportunities for creating compelling content.
Gaspar Ferreiro, a developer with VR firm Coal Car Studios, criticizes the Vision Pro’s high price, deeming it “insane.” Nevertheless, he acknowledges that enterprises are likely to invest in Apple devices due to the company’s reputation and prestige. Additionally, improved passthrough in the Vision Pro enables the creation of visually attractive experiences that integrate the physical and digital worlds. Jeffrey Morin, CEO of Litesport VR fitness service, appreciates the improvements in the Vision Pro and considers its value for the fitness industry.
For developers like Morin, Apple’s entry into VR presents new opportunities to explore. Businesses already using Apple products may find it easier to integrate the Vision Pro into their operations, leveraging its interoperability with existing devices. However, the initial high price and additional battery pack required for the Vision Pro pose challenges. Developers anticipate that as the price potentially decreases in the future, more users may opt for the Vision Pro. Additionally, Apple’s user base offers a recurring source of revenue through subscriptions.
Apple’s entry into the VR market has sparked curiosity, excitement, and a renewed interest in the potential of VR. Meta’s efforts in advancing VR technology and its success with the Quest Store have gained validation through Apple’s involvement. However, both Meta and Apple face their own challenges in capturing widespread adoption. While Meta aims to cater to a broader consumer market, Apple’s Vision Pro primarily targets businesses. As the landscape of the VR market continues to evolve, the presence of multiple players is crucial to avoid monopolization and foster innovation.