Stir-fried to 3499 US dollars a unit, where is the cow of Apple Vision Pro

Stir-fried to 3499 US dollars a unit, where is the cow of Apple Vision Pro


As the product goes on sale, a new batch of media experience reports are also lifted simultaneously. Most of them praised Apple Vision Pro’s innovative technical practices and finely polished experience. This is an MR headset built by Apple, which represents the world’s top software and hardware design level. But at the same time, most experiencers also pointed out that Apple Vision Pro is still an MR headset. The various physical and technical limitations, such as weight, battery life, and the discomfort of being alienated from reality, have not been fundamentally solved . Apple Vision Pro is the product with the largest initial development investment and the longest cycle in Apple’s entire company history, but its start is destined to be slow. Previous market agencies have estimated that Apple Vision Pro’s first-year sales are expected to be about 300,000-400,000 units. Even if it is successfully completed, it will only bring Apple $1.4 billion in revenue. For Apple, $1.4 billion is only equivalent to 0.4% of the company’s total revenue . But last year, the total market size of XR hardware in the United States was only US$660 million. Can Apple and Apple Vision Pro once again turn the tide and create a new era of consumer electronics?

01 A headset full of “apple flavor”

From the order page, Apple Vision Pro shows its specialness in every aspect. For users with different face shapes, Apple Vision Pro provides up to 28 different sizes of “gaskets” to ensure that users can fit tightly without light leakage when wearing Apple Vision Pro. On this basis, there are also three straps of different lengths to ensure that users can wear the body firmly and comfortably. When placing an order, users need to scan their face with an iPhone or iPad with Face ID function, and the system will automatically match the size of the accessory that suits you. The whole process is very similar to the Face ID setup. Use the front camera to scan your face, then turn your head in four directions, repeat twice, and you can complete the setup. In addition to the seals and straps, the Apple Vision Pro also works with Zeiss to provide built-in optics. Users can upload their own optometry prescription data after placing an order, just like wearing glasses. This is also to provide the most comfortable and fitting wearing experience.

image Apple Vision Pro uses gesture recognition to interact | Apple Entering the main interface of Apple Vision Pro, its core design is also very “Apple”. For example, it does not come with any external input devices such as a controller. Instead, it tracks eye movements to navigate the cursor and interacts with fingertip pinches. You can look at an icon and pinch your fingertips to enter the app, or you can pinch your fingers and use a “drag” gesture to zoom in or out of the window. By installing 4 cameras inside Vision Pro, Apple achieved extremely accurate tracking effects and won unanimous praise from all experiencers. This design is easily reminiscent of when the iPhone was released. Jobs emphasized that the iPhone did not have a “stylus” and instead used the user’s fingers to click and slide. This interaction later became the cornerstone of smartphone interaction design. In addition, Apple Vision Pro also achieves the ultimate display parameters. The total number of pixels in the display module alone is as high as 23 million, which is equivalent to a super 4K resolution screen in front of each eye . On this basis, Apple also specially designed an R1 chip for Vision Pro to reduce the delay of the entire display module and ensure that users can see a smoother and more natural picture when turning their heads. Finally, Vision Pro also has a unique “3D display” function. Users can see three-dimensional images through it. Based on this feature, Apple also equipped Vision Pro with 3D photo and video shooting functions. In the future, 3D images will also be captured through the rear camera of the iPhone 15 Pro series. This is the most unique feature of Vision Pro and the experience that Apple focuses on most.  image Vision Pro has a screen in front to allow the outside world to see the user’s eyes | Apple The hardware configuration and design of Vision Pro are very luxurious and even a bit extreme. The most typical example is EyeSight. In order to ensure that users are not completely isolated from the outside world when wearing Vision Pro, Apple also built a screen on the outside of Vision Pro that can display a pair of simulated “eyes” to facilitate “eye contact” with other people. When the user is in immersive mode or in the App, this screen will also have a corresponding light effect display to tell others that the user may not notice their presence. Almost all Vision Pro experience reports have praised Vision Pro’s interaction and display effects. The 23 million pixels are close to the “retina” level. This is the result of Apple’s massive investment in technology and design over the years, and it has also formed its own barriers. From the display module, chip, to the dozen sensors inside and outside the fuselage, they are all technologies and configurations that only Apple can achieve, which ultimately led to  the price of Vision Pro reaching US$3,499, which is also very apple .

02 The unavoidable “laws of physics”

Early last year, the Financial Times reported that Apple Vision Pro had been quietly developed within Apple for seven years. Until a few months before its release, the internal team was still arguing about whether to release it. From the experience of Apple Vision Pro, it is easy to understand the cause of the internal controversy. There are many problems and physical limitations that VR headset hardware cannot avoid, but Apple still cannot solve them. The most critical issue is weight. The middle frame of Apple Vision Pro is made of aluminum, which is already very light, but it is still not comparable to the plastic frames used in mainstream head-mounted display products. Including the glass and display module used for the EyeSight display on the outside also increase the weight of the entire product.

image Apple Vision Pro Most of the weight is in the front | Apple Finally, the overall weight of the Vision Pro is 600-650g (different sizes of straps and gaskets will cause weight changes), which is smaller than the 722g of the Meta Quest Pro, but still heavier than mainstream VR head-mounted products, such as the 515g Meta Quest 3. Moreover, the weight of the Vision Pro does not include the battery. Most of the weight of the whole machine is at the front of the head, which will also cause a more obvious drape. Most other VR headsets have the battery pack placed on the strap behind the head, so the weight distribution will be more even and balanced. Therefore, most experience reports point out that Vision Pro is still “unable to be worn comfortably for a long time . ” A complete set of experience demonstrations designed by Apple for reporters lasted about half an hour. Many people felt slight discomfort in their neck muscles after half an hour of experience. Some people said they did not feel any discomfort after half an hour, but as the time of use increases, the problems caused by the weight will become more obvious. In the official function demonstration of Vision Pro, film, television, entertainment and work occupy a large space. At least for now, watching an entire movie on Vision Pro and working for half a morning may not be a good experience. Another problem is energy consumption. Apple Vision Pro has a built-in M2 chip and an R1 chip to drive the 23 million pixels inside, and more than a dozen sensors in the whole machine are in working condition almost all the time. This means that its workload is only higher than that of the iPhone, iPad, and even MacBook. Apple has designed an external battery for the Apple Vision Pro. The specific parameters of this battery are not yet known, but based on its weight of 353g, the capacity is likely to be more than 10,000mAh, which may even be close to the battery capacity of the 13-inch MacBook Air. But such a battery can only allow Apple Vision Pro to work for 2 hours. More often than not, the Apple Vision Pro is designed to work connected to a power source, like a “desktop computer.”

image Apple launches a power bank specifically for Vision Pro | Apple Factors in weight and energy consumption determine that Apple Vision Pro is not a “mobile device” , and it will even be difficult to iterate into a mobile device in the short term. The “heavy” issue has always been the biggest stumbling block that the entire VR industry cannot avoid. From the HTC Vive, which required a pre-installed tracking base station on the ceiling of the room and an external computer graphics card to provide computing power, to today’s Apple Vision Pro, the technology has been fully developed and the degree of lightweight has been greatly improved, but it is not enough. This also indirectly caused the problem of “alienation”. Many experiencers have said that when wearing and using Vision Pro, even if they can see the outside world and have EyeSight, they will still feel a clear sense of psychological alienation and loneliness. It’s not difficult to understand. When your vision is blocked, even if you can indirectly see the external situation through digital means, you can still realize that this is a virtual image, and your skin will feel that there is a physical shield blocking it. In front of my eyes, it brings bad feelings. This is why  VR equipment often appears in some dystopian films and television works, with a negative image - humans naturally don’t like to be blindfolded . With the further lightweighting and iterative popularization of future devices, this problem may be solved, but there is still a long way to go. The future destiny of the entire XR headset industry is still highly dependent on the development of chips, sensors, materials and battery technology. The Apple Vision Pro is no exception.

03 MR’s killer app

Technology aside, the most fundamental problem Apple Vision Pro wants to solve is “application.” As the product goes on sale, Vision Pro will also have its own App Store. Apple said that on the first day of launch, there will be more than 1 million visionOS-compatible apps ready to go. However, most of the apps currently logged into visionOS are only compatible versions of iPhone and iPad apps. In visionOS, they are still just “flat windows suspended in the air.” So, the question is not how many apps are available for Vision Pro, but what is the real killer app. Neither Apple nor developers currently have a definite answer to this question . There are three : The first is 3D image shooting and review, just like Live Photo launched with 3D Touch; The second is film and television entertainment, including Apple’s own TV+, Disney’s Disney+, and a dedicated “Meet the Dinosaurs” App; The third is work. Vision Pro’s factory-installed apps include Boundless Notes, Keynote and Safari. Whether it is film, television or work, it is currently difficult to imagine how Vision Pro can replace traditional monitors and TVs. The Vision Pro may be able to cast a larger window, but it cannot be shared with others, can only be used by one person, and the weight will bring a certain burden.  image 3D videos captured using the camera on iPhone 15 Pro can be enjoyed on Vision Pro | Apple 3D images may be a key breakthrough, but the logic of spending $3,500 on Vision Pro just to shoot and review 3D images, and the content is also difficult to share, is still a question mark. This situation is very reminiscent of the early Apple Watch. Apple designed a series of social functions based on its hardware features, such as sending its own heartbeat to lovers, and placed these functions as a high design priority. However, after the product was released, users did not buy into the social functions, so in subsequent product iterations, Apple gradually shifted the focus of product design to health and sports. Similar situations include 3D Touch and Touch Bar, which are technologies and features that Apple had high hopes for but were not accepted by the market. They ultimately proved to be failures and were abandoned. For Vision Pro, the problem may not be whether the function definition of the first-generation product is 100% accurate, but how to find a killer app that can break through from the cold start process. In addition, it is worth mentioning that Apple has almost ignored the game scenes that mainstream VR devices will focus on . There will be games on Vision Pro, but they are still just flat windows hanging in the air, and interactive devices are limited to traditional game controllers. As for somatosensory interactive games that can better utilize the characteristics of VR devices, at least currently Vision Pro does not support it, and there is no sign of support. The current product status of Vision Pro has led many developers to decide to wait and see. Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, and the New York Times will not launch visionOS versions of their apps immediately . Considering that these products have developed on the wave of iPhone and iOS, their wait-and-see attitude also represents the pessimistic thinking of a considerable number of developers.

04 The hardest bone to crack

Previously, market research institutions estimated that the cold start speed of Apple Vision Pro would be relatively slow. It is expected that shipments in the first year will be between 300,000 and 400,000 units. Multiplied by the starting price of US$3,500, this will bring Apple approximately US$1.4 billion in revenue. This figure is compared to Apple’s total revenue of nearly US$400 billion. To put it simply, insignificant. The key to success or failure still lies in “growth”. In the first year of its release, the iPhone only brought Apple $1 billion in revenue, but in the second year this number became 5.2 billion, and then 18.6 billion. In the past two years, Meta’s practice has proved that VR headsets may not have such growth potential . In the fall of 2021, before Facebook officially changed its name to Meta, its Reality Lab had annual revenue of US$1.39 billion. In the fall of 2022, after a year of huge investment, this number has only increased by 3% to 1.43 billion. By 2023, this number will shrink by 40% year-on-year, recording only 830 million (including software and hardware revenue). Meta’s performance is actually a microcosm of the entire XR hardware market.  image visionOS is the focus of Apple’s “Spatial Computing” | Apple In 2023, the market size of VR and AR hardware in the United States dropped by 40% to only US$660 million . Apple Vision Pro, which is currently only available in the United States, will directly triple the market if it successfully achieves its first-year sales target of US$1.4 billion. Even so, this is only the first step in a journey of a thousand miles. For Apple, VR is a track with a long history, but it has no rivals here. No one knows what the “critical mass” is that triggers the fission development of the MR headset, and where the detonation switch is. What Apple wants to reverse is the fate of the entire industry. But that’s what Apple has done time and time again. From Apple II to Macintosh, from iPod to iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods, each of Apple’s revolutionary product definitions has turned something that others have tried and considered impossible into a reality. From the attempts of Nintendo Virtual Boy in the 1990s, to Carmack’s 3D graphics technology gradually becoming the mainstream of gaming in the 2000s, to the last round of VR trend in the 10s, headsets have never been a new concept, but there is no single product. Make it successful. It is the simplest human imagination of “immersive experience”, and it is also the hardest nut to crack in the field of consumer electronics . Now it’s Apple’s turn to challenge it.

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