America is (almost) ready for Apple Reality distortion

As we wait on Apple’s iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods Pro refresh event later today, spare a thought for another big reveal, mixed reality glasses branded Reality One.

Apple, ARKit, AR, VR, mixed reality, Apple Reality, Reality One, iPhone 14

Ahead of what will be Apple’s iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods Pro refresh event later today, don't forget another big reveal we think it has plannedmixed reality glasses branded Reality One. What kind of reception can these things expect?

A lot of Americans are already interested

When Reality One appears, it will hit a US market that’s already interested in VR headsets, according to fresh research from Arris Composites. That research makes numerous claims based on a survey of 1,000 people in America and confirms that at least at this point, gaming and entertainment dominate.

(Apple watchers may also recall that Apple’s former advanced materials lead, Simon Lancaster, left Apple to join Arris Composites in 2019 but he was later sued by Cupertino over leaked trade secrets concerning Project X.)

The research also points out that 29% of the people surveyed plan to buy a VR headset next year, though price is a big obstacle to mass deployment. It seems 67% see these things as being too expensive. Given that gaming has been the main push of VR solutions brought to market so far, it is worth noting that 51% of people haven’t used AR yet. Those who have are using them for Pokemon, Street View, shopping and Snapchat, the report claims.

Looking forward, 71% of the survey group said they expect AR to become part of daily life in the next few years, while just 57% feel the same way about virtual reality. And over half of consumers expect to buy an AR/VR headset in the next three years.

What does this mean for Apple?

Apple has been talking up augmented reality for years. It has developed tools with which to create mixed-reality experiences and continues to innovate in user interface design to enable non-traditional human/computer interaction. With help from machine intelligence, particularly machine vision intelligence, mouse, keyboard, touch and gesture all figure in its journey to find a new UI for Reality.

During this time, the market has evolved. Consumers, enterprises, and developers are thinking about how these technologies can work for them. The existing installed base of AR/VR solutions is primarily defined as being for gaming devices. Perhaps Apple’s biggest competitor in this space, Meta’s initial attempts at creating immersive environments have attracted ridicule, but that company seems set on introducing the next iteration Project Cambria VR headset in October, maintaining its go-to-market lead on Cupertino.

At the same time, for one of America’s favorite tech company’s (which Apple certainly is) the inflection point has arrived. Consumers are aware of mixed reality. They are developing an understanding about it, curious to explore it, and are ready to be introduced to ways of using these technologies they may not have experienced before. There will be some resistance, but early adopters will be looking for finessed articulation of Apple’s technology brand and searching for unique new uses and experiences.

What it means is what it means for you

We’ve discussed some of these before. I'm convinced that some of the most profound use cases for these technologies will be built around digital healthcare, enterprise development, engineering, emergency services, and educational uses. It’s easy to imagine how a field service engineer using an iPhone or Apple Watch today might benefit from a gesture controlled computer they can wear on their face and use hands-free. Medical professionals could diagnose, treat, and even perform surgery remotely using tools like these. Delivery and logistics services may also see benefits, and there will be many more such uses revealed as the tech matures.

And make no bones about it, Apple’s incoming Reality will dent and distort existing market realities and force new modalities to emerge. That’s what the company always does.

"Apple's entry into the eyewear market will be the game changer for all participants as the technology gets normalized and popularized. Apple has a long history of disrupting new markets and ultimately growing the addressable market size well beyond initial expectations,” wrote Morgan Stanley earlier this year.

What the survey suggests is that people (both enterprise and consumer) are primed and curious to discover how these tools can make a difference to their lives. Apple’s hope is that its focus on the user — the human at the center of the experience — will help its Reality One win what may yet end up becoming an incredibly short ‘metaverse’ war.

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Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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