The Apple Vision Pro and the Future of Experiences
Last week, Apple released its much-anticipated Vision Pro, a mixed-reality headset (the marketing blah-blah calls it “spatial computing”) that blends the digital and physical worlds. Early reviews are in, with a mix of awe around the immersiveness of the experience and cynicism around the bulkiness of the headset, the limited-use cases, and the price (around $3,500). If this is Apple’s “beta” entrance into a space Meta, Google and others have been working in for years, we’re excited about the possibilities for the experiential industry. Here are three ways we see this benefiting our industry in the not-too-distant future (we hope!).
Ensuring hybrid experiences don’t suck (finally)
First came the pandemic-era virtual events, which were driven by the necessity of the moment. Once the world started to open up again, hybrid events began to spread — leaving the at-home “participant” stuck with a virtual experience that would never rival the energy and connection experienced by the attendees in the room.
The Apple Vision Pro is the first technology that could bridge that divide. Imagine being at home or in your office but still being able to tour the venue or sit inside the theater for a talk or performance. Might the tech advance to where life-like virtual avatars could interact with other attendees?
Disney is an early partner of Apple’s on the Vision Pro, and there is much to be learned from the immersive experiences they debut on their Disney+ streaming platform. Fast Company’s tech editor Harry McCracken demoed the tech, explaining: “Each of these virtual settings surrounds you in 360 degrees of obsessively rendered detail, showing off the Vision Pro’s ability to create a 3D effect that is, at times, uncannily convincing. For a split-second, I mistook a takeout box in the Avengers HQ for one in my actual living room.” Longer-term question: Will I be able to visit Disney World and truly cut the line?
Making sports more accessible to the masses
2023 saw the cost of concerts and sporting events soar — increasing more than 15% year over year. Although this first-generation Vision Pro is far beyond the budget of pretty much anyone outside of Apple’s most ardent fans, it’s likely that as the tech improves and time passes, the cost will come down. The possibilities for experiencing live sports are endless.
The NBA is already at work on an app for the Vision Pro. On launch day, reporters chatted with Tim Cook and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver at league headquarters in NYC. The current app allows users to watch up to five games at once, view real-time stats while inside the app environment, and immersive video. “I think the fan wants to be a part of the game and a part of the action, and there’s nothing like being in Vision Pro and feeling like you’re on the court,” Cook said during that interview. “It’s not that you have a courtside seat. It’s so much better than that.”
Innovating the museum experience
The art world is continuing to struggle with building attendance back to pre-pandemic levels, while also needing to raise prices and keep up with inflation. Where audio headset tours were once a breakthrough for traditional museums, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen real innovation transform the museum-going experience. Could the Vision Pro and other mixed-reality headsets like Meta’s Quest 3 give us a glimpse into what could be?
An early illustration of how these headsets might blend the physical and digital worlds was recently seen at the Victoria Miro Gallery in London, where LEDA and the SWAN: A Myth of Creation and Destruction was presented in partnership with the VR and digital exhibition company Vortic. Moving through the exhibit, viewers wearing Quest 3 headsets could experience both the physical space and virtual 3D models of Da Vinci drawings, with captions playable through hand gestures. Imagine taking a tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art with this technology in place!
In the end, it’s all about connection
Technology often gets a bad rap for contributing to our loneliness epidemic. And in their current state, the Vision Pro and its ilk do not allow for in-headset collaboration, and the avatars available are a poor substitute for being there. But if we take a longer view of what these technologies have the potential to do in the future, we at XP Land are much more optimistic about the possibilities for new ways of connecting — with experiences that bring us closer to collective effervescence and, most importantly, to each other.
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