Since Facebook’s questionable and speedy Meta rebrand, Mark Zuckerberg and company have tried in vain to own the conversation surrounding AR & VR. Nearly two years later, it’s safe to say that Meta has yet to convince consumers or the broader tech sector that they’re capable proprietors of this technology, let alone fitting guardians for its future. Now with Apple’s AR entry, what can we hope to expect in the near term?
To date, AR appears to be the stumbling block of many a tech firm. But could the combination of product development and the immense budget of Apple surpass the efforts made by Meta (which itself spends 10 billion+ per year at Meta Reality Labs) and drive the technology onto a new horizon? From the first look of its Vision Pro product and its price tag, it appears the same mistakes are being made over again.
Vision Pro appears incredibly large, not overly mobile, and not something that users could feel comfortable wearing outside of their homes – an issue that could deter AR mass adoption.
In its purest form, AR should offer an alternate reality that you step in or out of at will, without needing to find and switch on external glasses or headsets that you may not have with you. This means a seamless and easily-mobile product for access, one that’s easy to carry around and store, and that you seldom worry about having to charge. This needs to be a bit of tech that you won’t notice you’re carrying around all day.
The answer to this is? Smart AR-capable contact lenses. Mojo Vision, an innovative tech company, had been leading the charge in developing this product for a number of years but has had to pivot to focus its resources on microLED technology. However, Mojo has shown that it is possible to make headway in this area. It could be a matter of time until another business picks up where it left off.
One can only imagine that AR will become normalized in time. And with it comes the ability to seamlessly transition between digital and real life. However, this technology and access to it are only truly valuable with an always-on device such as contact lenses. As it stands, access to AR (headsets, smart glasses, etc.) is, at best, still very much a work in progress as tech firms come to grips with a product that is more in line with consumer needs.
It might be that Apple has the knowledge and the wherewithal to evolve AR to the point of mass adoption. It will certainly be a benefit to the tech giant to bring its iOS operating system and
appearance to AR (which it has done already through ARkit and VisionOS), an OS that millions of users have grown accustomed to through Apple’s products over the years. Meta had to start from scratch here and its customers, experiences, and engagement would signal that it fell flat.
Only when we start to see advances made into faultless and easy-to-wear AR technology that users can wear without feeling inhibited, can we expect to see the technology rewarded with increased adoption. Until then, regardless of which tech giant takes the AR baton next and runs with it, the technology will struggle to reach a point of mass adoption as we’ve seen with smartwatches and other products that have emerged over the past five to ten years.
It is a bold move from Tim Cook and the team at Apple to endeavor down this path that has historically left many a bruise on tech innovators, but few have the history of success as Apple. Perhaps this has been one of the missing pieces of the AR puzzle, but until the product used to access AR platforms becomes as simple as putting on a watch, a piece of the puzzle will remain undiscovered and mass adoption will be unlikely.
Mike Rhodes is CEO and Founder of ConsultMyApp