December 1, 2023

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Meta thanks Apple for bringing more excitement to its virtual reality conference

Meta thanks Apple for bringing more excitement to its virtual reality conference
  • With Apple announcing its Vision Pro mixed reality headset in June, there was more buzz at Meta’s Connect conference this week.
  • “There’s definitely curiosity with Apple entering the market,” said Tom Symonds, CEO of UK-based virtual reality company Immerse.
  • Meta’s latest Quest 3 VR headset starts at $499, which is $200 more than its predecessor but significantly cheaper than Apple’s device.

Andrew Bosworth, chief technology officer at Facebook, speaks during a Meta Connect event at Meta headquarters in Menlo Park, California on September 27, 2023.

Josh Edelson | AFP | Getty Images

At Meta’s annual Connect conference this week, which focused on virtual reality and the world of the Metaverse, there was one word on everyone’s lips: Apple.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was excited to debut his company’s Quest 3 VR headset, which starts at $499 and will start shipping in October. His company touted the growth of its virtual reality app store – Quest Store – which I was born It has reached $2 billion in sales since its debut in 2019, up from the $1.5 billion the company announced last year during the conference.

The big difference this year from the event in 2022 is that attendees have a much clearer picture of Apple’s upcoming entry into the VR market.

The iPhone maker in June announced the Vision Pro mixed reality headset at a staggering $3,499 when it goes on sale next year. Although this is Apple’s first major foray into VR, the company’s long-standing dominance of premium consumer hardware and its winning hardware reputation have created 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 with nearly a dozen attendees gathered at Meta’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters this week show that the tone is changing for developers and VR companies regarding scalability. industry.

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“There’s definitely curiosity with Apple entering the market,” said Tom Symonds, CEO of UK-based virtual reality company Immerse. “Apple has always been able to marry hardware and software seamlessly.”

Before Apple announced the Vision Pro, the VR industry was going through a mini-identity crisis, as venture capitalists pulled their investments Investments Along with the decline in Web3 and related crypto projects. Meanwhile, Meta has been losing billions of dollars a quarter building its turnaround vision, and Zuckerberg has shown no interest in slowing down, frustrating many Wall Street investors who see only rising costs.

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

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Although Apple’s product won’t go on sale for several months, and it’s not clear how many people will want or be able to buy it, the company’s entry has given a sense of legitimacy to some of Meta’s efforts.

In addition to showcasing its latest headphones this week, Meta debuted the latest version of Ray-Ban’s smart glasses, developed in collaboration with EssilorLuxottica. The new glasses, which will cost $299 when they are available for purchase on October 17, use Meta’s AI software via a smartphone so people can identify landmarks or translate landmarks when looking at different things.

Anish Kulkarni, chief technology officer at virtual reality training company Striver, said it would have been a “huge loss of confidence” if Meta had stopped investing so heavily to push the VR market forward.

“Mita pays the model, and who has the money to pay the model?” Kulkarni said.

He added that although App Store sales of $2 billion “may not seem like much compared to the Apple Store,” it is a large and important number. Apple has a giant market — $1.1 trillion in developer billings and sales in 2022 — because of the popularity of its iPhone and iPad apps.

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Josette Seitz, a mixed reality developer for social impact company Baltu Technologies, said Apple could have the advantage of courting companies that already use its products, such as those that use iPads to help perform maintenance and other related services. The company, which currently provides field workers with iPads for inspections or similar tasks, could make an easy transition to the more immersive Vision Pro because of the devices’ interoperability, she said.

At its higher price, the Vision Pro is likely to be an enterprise product, Seitz said. Regardless, it is important to have more entrants into the market.

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

Gaspar Ferrero, a developer at virtual reality company Coal Car Studios, called the price of the Vision Pro “insane” and said Apple was taking a “huge gamble.”

“Companies will definitely take the gamble,” Ferrero said, noting that some companies will spend on Apple devices because of the company’s reputation and prestige.

Meta still faces her own challenges. The company struggled to bring VR into the mainstream despite the long start, and Ferrero wasn’t sure that the Quest 3’s improvements over the Quest 2, which was $200 cheaper, would be enough to win over new customers who weren’t industry insiders or developers.

“The general consumer is probably going to have a dilemma, do I spend another $200 on this other device?” Ferrero said.

One of the biggest improvements in Quest 3 over the previous version is the so-called “crossover” feature, which converts a person’s field of vision into a digital format, allowing computer visuals to be overlaid on the physical world. Looking at the physical surroundings using the Quest 2 proved to be a blurry, color-lacking experience, but with the Quest 3 it’s much clearer and should be more enjoyable to use.

For developers, this translates into the ability to create more compelling content and visually engaging experiences that merge the physical and digital worlds, Ferrero said.

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The price of the Quest 3 is “outside my comfort zone, like buying a Christmas present for my kid,” said Jeffrey Morin, CEO of fitness service Litesport VR.

But he agrees that improving transitivity is extremely valuable and was crucial to the company’s upcoming mixed reality app it created for Xponential Fitness that will allow users to work out with real personal trainers that can be sent virtually into their living rooms.

Regarding working with Apple, Morin said that Litesport will look for ways to evolve the Vision Pro as it develops and the price will likely drop to between $1,000 to $1,500 in the future. Initially, the price was very high and the Vision Pro would require users to wear a battery pack, creating additional inconvenience during exercise.

The advantage Apple offers is a customer base “who will be more likely to pay for a subscription,” providing a recurring source of revenue, he said. And based on Morin’s experience so far, most current Quest users are gamers who are more accustomed to one-time in-app purchases.

Morin said that although Apple’s product has not yet been released, he noticed an increase in the number of people using Litesports’ VR fitness apps once it was announced, underscoring the general excitement of the VR community.

“They put out their headphones and said let me see what’s going on over there again,” Morin said.

Ultimately, Apple’s move into virtual reality is proof that it’s not just an ambitious side project at Facebook.

“It’s not like Mark’s little toy anymore,” Morin said. “Now it’s for everyone.”

He watches: The smart glasses reveal was a “big yawn” and Meta knows it