Apple Vision Pro: Apple Vision Pro: social media gets a taste of forbidden fruit

In recent days, Americans have been treated to a slew of curious incidents. Sporting funky headsets, commuters on the New York subway have been grabbing, pinching and tweaking the air while others have been spotted reading out lunch orders from apps floating digitally in their line of vision.

Police, meanwhile, have hauled away drivers with headsets on while their cars run on autopilot. Every twist and turn in this futuristic saga is being captured on viral social media posts since the mixed-reality headset from Apple reached consumers earlier in February, only a fortnight after the technology giant had announced pre-orders for the Vision Pro, marking its latest product release after the Apple Watch in 2015.

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The rolling waves of consumer interest that the headset is drawing has prompted technology analysts to bill it as “the most complicated consumer device ever created”. Harmeet Singh Walia, senior analyst at Counterpoint Research, reckons “this is perhaps Apple’s most important new device since at least the smart watch, or some say the iPhone itself.”

Also read | Vision Pro headset is Apple’s next Mac and TV combined

What’s the excitement about?

The so-called ‘spatial computer’ seamlessly blends physical and digital worlds across domains of work and play.

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To be sure, early traction for the Vision Pro is largely in the areas of entertainment and gaming, or in cases of personal productive enhancement such as meditation or for leisure.Social media is rife with videos of users trying it out in the pool, using it to read recipes while cooking, and sharing their Facetime avatars.

Different digital windows stay exactly where a user leaves them – work windows at the desk, movie screens on the wall or ceiling, recipe videos in the kitchen.

While the technology is being heralded as a leap forward in the realm of XR – a broad term encompassing augmented, virtual and mixed reality – experts estimate that sales are likely to remain muted.

Counterpoint estimates that globally, the Apple Vision Pro, launched in the US on February 2, will sell 500,000 units in 2024 – a small niche even for the American market.

In India, there are no visible plans for a launch of the Vision Pro this year.

India’s share of global XR shipments is still at low single digits and is expected to remain so for the next two years, Walia said.

“What is actually happening is that awareness is being created around the technology, which among tech enthusiasts was already there, but among the general public was relatively limited,” Walia said.

To be sure, Apple is not the first in the XR space. But the interest being stoked by the Vision Pro could spur users to test the genre more.

They could turn to relatively affordable, albeit less sophisticated, alternatives that are available in India, such as Meta’s Oculus Quest headsets or Sony’s Playstation VR.

What will it cost?

Moreover, price is the key factor for India, Techarc chief analyst Faisal Kawoosa said. If launched here, the Vision Pro is likely to remain in the hands of a few Apple enthusiasts for at least a couple of years with the device expected to be priced at $3,500 or nearly Rs 3 lakh.

Specialised use cases in education, medicine and healthcare could evolve with time.

Navkendar Singh, associate vice president, IDC India, said that the high price point makes it unlikely that Apple will roll it out in stores in India. A strategy focusing more on enterprise use could be more suitable here.

“Apple might work with some enterprises and create some solutions for them in R&D or simulation or training,” Singh said.

The Vision Pro is a great first step, but “people should not get ahead of themselves and think that this will revolutionise everything”, he added.

Especially as consumers might prefer a lighter and smaller form factor for greater comfort.

“Would Steve Jobs have shipped isolating digital ski goggles that leave a red mark on your face when you take them off?” one X user asked.