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Meta has Apple to thank for giving its VR conference added sizzle

Facebook Chief Technology Officer Andrew Bosworth speaks at the Meta Connect event held at Meta headquarters in Menlo Park, California on September 27, 2023.

Josh Adelson | AFP | Getty Images

exist Yuan This week’s annual Connect conference focused on virtual reality and metaverses, and there was one word everyone was talking about: apple.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg enthusiastically unveiled the company’s Quest 3 VR headset, which starts at $499 and will start shipping in October.His company has touted the growth of its VR app store, the Quest Store, which has produced Since its debut in 2019, sales have reached $2 billion, up from the $1.5 billion the company announced during the conference last year.

The biggest difference between this year’s event and the 2022 event is that attendees have a clearer understanding of Apple’s upcoming entry into the VR market.

The iPhone maker launched the Vision Pro mixed reality headset in June, which will cost an eye-popping $3,499 when it goes on sale next year. While this is Apple’s first foray into VR, the company’s long-standing dominance of high-end consumer devices and its strong reputation in hardware have generated a buzz that was missing from Meta’s previous industry events.

VR and mixed reality are expected to remain niche markets for years to come, but conversations among nearly a dozen attendees gathered at Meta’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters this week showed how developers and VR companies are about the potential for expansion. Change is happening. industry.

“As Apple enters the market, people will definitely be curious,” said Tom Symonds, CEO of British VR company Immerse. “Apple has always been able to combine hardware and software in a seamless way.”

Before Apple released Vision Pro, the VR industry was going through an identity crisis as venture capitalists pulled funding invest With the decline of Web3 and related encryption projects. Meanwhile, Meta is losing billions of dollars every quarter to build out its Metaverse vision, and Zuckerberg has shown no interest in slowing down, frustrating many Wall Street investors who only see rising costs.

Apple CEO Tim Cook stands next to the new Apple Vision Pro headphones.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Although Apple’s product won’t hit the market for several months and it’s unclear how many people will want it or be able to buy it, the company’s entry brings legitimacy to some of Meta’s efforts.

In addition to showcasing its latest headphones this week, Meta also unveiled the latest version of its Ray-Ban smart glasses developed with EssilorLuxottica. The new glasses, which will be available on October 17 for $299, use Meta’s artificial intelligence software through smartphones to allow people to identify landmarks or translate signs when looking at various objects.

“Putter”

Aneesh Kulkarni, chief technology officer of VR training company Strivr, said it would be a “huge loss of confidence” if Meta stopped investing heavily in promoting the development of the VR market.

“Meta is pushing this standard, who has the money to push this standard?” Kulkarni said.

He added that while $2 billion in App Store sales “may not sound like much compared to the Apple Store,” it’s a large and important number. Thanks to the popularity of iPhone and iPad apps, Apple has a huge market – developer revenue and sales will reach $1.1 trillion by 2022.

Josette Seitz, a mixed reality developer at social impact company Baltu Technologies, said Apple may have an advantage in attracting businesses that already use its products, such as those that use iPads to help with maintenance and other related services. Companies that currently provide iPads to field workers for inspections or similar tasks can easily transition to the more immersive Vision Pro because of the interoperability of the devices, she said.

Seitz said the Vision Pro may be more of an enterprise-focused product given its high price point. Regardless, it is important to allow more entrants into the market.

“There shouldn’t be just one company,” she said. “We can’t let this become a monopoly system.”

Gaspar Ferreiro, a developer at VR company Coal Car Studios, called the Vision Pro’s price “insane” and said Apple was taking a “big gamble.”

“Businesses will definitely take the plunge,” Ferrero said, noting that some would splurge on Apple devices because of Apple’s reputation and prestige.

Meta still faces its own challenges. Despite having a year’s head start, the company has struggled to bring VR to the mainstream, and Ferrero isn’t sure whether the Quest 3’s improvements over the $200 cheaper Quest 2 will be enough to win over new customers or developers who aren’t industry insiders.

“The average consumer may be faced with a dilemma, do I want to spend another $200 on another device?” Ferrero said.

One of Quest 3’s biggest improvements over previous versions is its so-called “passthrough” feature, which converts the human field of view into a digital format, allowing computer visuals to be superimposed onto the physical world. Viewing the physical environment with the Quest 2 proved to be a blurry, colorless experience, but with the Quest 3 it’s much clearer and should be more enjoyable to use.

For developers, this means being able to create more engaging content and more visually appealing experiences that blend the physical and digital worlds, Ferrero said.

Deepwater's Gene Munster says Apple event sets foundation for Vision Pro demand

Jeffrey Morin, CEO of Litesport VR Fitness Services, said the Quest 3’s pricing was “out of my comfort zone, like buying a Christmas gift for my kids.”

But he also agrees that improved passthrough is valuable and critical for the company’s upcoming mixed reality app for Xponential Fitness, which will let users work out with real personal trainers who can be streamed virtually to their living room.

As for working with Apple, Morin said Litesport will look for ways to develop the Vision Pro as it grows, and the price could drop to between $1,000 and $1,500 in the future. Initially, the Vision Pro was too expensive and required users to wear a battery pack, which added hassle during workouts.

He said Apple offers the advantage of having a customer base that is “more likely to pay for a subscription,” thus providing a recurring revenue stream. Based on Morin’s experience so far, most current Quest users are gamers who are more accustomed to purchasing apps one-time.

Morin said that even though Apple’s product hasn’t launched yet, he’s noticed an increase in usage of Litesports’ VR fitness app since its release, which highlights the overall excitement in the VR community.

“They turned on the headphones and asked me to see what was out there again,” Morin said.

Ultimately, Apple’s move into VR proves to be more than just Facebook’s ambitious side project.

“It doesn’t feel like Mark’s little toy anymore,” Maureen said. “Now it’s everyone’s.”

watch: The launch of smart glasses is causing a big yawn, and Meta knows it

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