2024: An Apple 'space' odyssey

February 8, 2024 | By Anthony Venutolo

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Will Apple once again change the way we do computing and interact with the world? That's the question this month with the release of its new Vision Pro, one of the most ambitious products the Cupertino-based company has ever launched with a starting price of $3,500. 

Tech junkies all over the world are paying attention. It’s a brand new product line, and some would naturally be questioning its impact. Some product introductions have failed. But when it succeeds? Culture-changing.

Not sold? Program your wayback machine for 2007, when consumer mobile phones weren’t old enough to vote. Despite some cool early models like the LG Chocolate and the Blackberry, phones were mostly utilitarian. With an operating system that focused on the user, a cool touchscreen display and minimalist architecture, the iPhone hit like a tsunami, transforming internet access and eventually reshaping social media, gaming, music, photography, payments and more.

Apple's “Think different” mindset struck again in 2010 with the launch of the iPad, popularizing a hybrid model of computer that was either a mobile device or desktop, depending on how you wanted to use it. Fast-forward to 2015 and 2016 with such double-whammy juggernauts as the Apple Watch and AirPods, respectively, and it's safe to say, radical innovation is their thing.

Ace of space

Announced last June, the Vision Pro is a spatial computing headset. Unlike the Meta Quest 3  virtual reality headset, which is geared towards everyday gamers, Apple wants consumers to view its new innovation as a spatial computer that integrates apps and digital material into the user's real world. Confused?

When the Vision Pro launched on Feb. 2, there were already 600 apps available to users. "Developers are already capturing the promise of spatial computing, and we can’t wait to see what they create next,” said Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide Developer Relations in a statement.

Under the hood, the Vision Pro features a high-resolution display where the user can see more pixels than with a 4K TV. Additionally, there are augmented reality cameras that allow for hand gesture interactions with programs and apps that, to the user, appear to be floating in air. It's all very Iron Man.

So why could this be a game-changer? For starters, the tech will make the previously unthinkable thinkable. Spatial computing has the potential to transform a number of sectors. In fact, according to the latest edition of Mastercard Signals, spatial computing is one of 2024's emerging tech trends poised to integrate into our daily lives by transforming shopping, commerce, education, health care, manufacturing and entertainment.

Think of a world where designers and architects can create product prototypes and test functionality on the fly, or surgeons could wear a headset to view the patient's medical scans while operating. For patients with cognitive or physical disabilities, individualized rehabilitation exercises and virtual aides could help them regain their independence.

First-case scenario

Still, with most first-gen products, there's bound to be initial questions. It's to be expected and tech enthusiasts look to these quirks as a sign of better things to come. For now, though, AR or VR headsets can sometimes be uncomfortable and heavy and for some, they can cause motion sickness. Also, battery life tends to be minimal. And yes, there's a price to all this.    

Yet all of this doesn’t seem to be deterring the masses from snagging a piece of history. Tech reviewer and YouTube star Marques Brownlee says that the Vision Pro is Apple's craziest, most radical, possibly dystopian products of all time. While he really liked most of what the product offers, he also acknowledges that some parts feel unfinished.

After spending a week with the product, he asked the perfect philosophical question on X: Imagine seeing the Grand Canyon with a headset that could trick your senses with perfect fidelity — would you still want to go to the Grand Canyon?   

Early reports show brisk salesupwards of 200,000 units with the first 10 days of launch — and enthusiasm across the spectrum, from consumers to AR developers. The Vision Pro has the potential to spark a trend toward novel and inventive spatial computing devices and applications. Only time will tell, however, if the wider public is willing to take a bite out of this new Apple.

Anthony Venutolo, Manager, Global Communications