With the advent of autumn, we are gearing up for the arrival of the Meta Quest 3 headset. Meanwhile, next year promises even more excitement with the debut of Apple’s Vision Pro and Samsung’s XR headset. The XR hardware market is expanding rapidly, and every new XR glasses model brings fresh possibilities.

However, it’s essential to recognize that the market is also grappling with specific challenges. From limited product availability to inflated prices, it’s a turbulent time for both manufacturers and consumers. Even Apple has had to recalibrate its 2024 sales plan, dropping from an ambitious 1 million units to a more realistic 400,000 due to supply chain constraints.

Interestingly, amidst these challenges, there’s been a subtle yet significant shift in the market dynamics. It’s a change that has largely gone unnoticed.

Let’s take a moment to examine this shift and explore what has evolved between the time of Meta Quest 2’s rise to fame and the upcoming launch of the Apple Vision Pro. There’s plenty to unpack and analyze. Stay tuned!

Turbulent Associations Between VR and the Metaverse

Virtual reality continues to carve out an increasing share of the business solutions market. With its high knowledge retention rate, immersive and interactive user experiences, and the ability to simulate risky or costly scenarios, VR training has established itself as an optimal tool for effective and cost-efficient knowledge management tool within organizations. It’s easy to see why more and more businesses are turning to VR solutions to meet their needs.

However, the end-user market for VR remains primarily concentrated among gaming and social app enthusiasts who aren’t particularly devoted to the technology. The recent hype surrounding the Metaverse concept, coupled with disappointment and some misunderstanding about its implementation, has generated more negative publicity than anticipation about the future of VR. It’s challenging to persuade individuals that VR promotes social connection and provides distinctive and safe experiences when the headset doesn’t facilitate interactions with those close-by, and merely offers problematic and improperly moderated spaces instead of unique features.

While businesses and institutions continue to consider social spaces, still frequently referred to as the metaverse, as valuable tools for various purposes – from recruitment to customer service – the initial excitement has diminished. This has led to a slight regression of VR in the consumer market.

A girl with a Virtual Reality headset on

Full Immersion Is Not for Everyone

Even though VR technology is packed with immense potential, it also comes with its own set of hurdles that can put off end-users. This is a key reason why VR has not yet found a consistent place in our everyday lives and work routines. For those who aren’t particularly tech-savvy, the prospect of setting up and efficiently using a VR system can seem overwhelming. Then, there’s the issue of physical discomforts like eye strain or neck fatigue, linked with extended use of VR headsets, which may put some potential users off. Moreover, cases of disorientation or the infamous “motion sickness” reported by some users during VR sessions can limit the technology’s allure.

Although VR burst onto the scene with much fanfare, it did not manage to encompass all potential user groups. While VR still offers an exciting and interactive way for entertainment or professional skill-building, its widespread adoption has been stifled due to the limitations faced by end-users.

Building the Bridge

Apple doesn’t refer to virtual reality (VR) in its communication about Apple Vision Pro but to augmented reality and spatial computing—Meta mention VR in the description, but Meta Quest 3 is a “mixed reality” headset. Do you feel this difference? What do those technologies mean?

Augmented and mixed reality

While augmented reality or mixed reality aren’t the new terms on the market, they are now gaining a new, expanded dimension.

Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that overlays digital information – images, text, and sounds – onto the real world. Unlike VR, which creates an entirely artificial environment, AR uses and enhances the existing environment with additional virtual details. A good example of AR is the mobile game “Pokemon Go,” where players can see and interact with virtual creatures in the real world through their phone screens.

Mixed reality is somewhat of a blend between VR and AR. It overlays and anchors virtual objects to the real world and allows users to interact with them. These virtual objects are aware of their environment and can interact with the real world more complexly than AR.

The main difference between AR and MR lies in the interaction between real and virtual worlds. While AR merely overlays digital elements onto the real world, MR goes a step further, allowing for more sophisticated interactions between the two.

But those terms are now more often used interchangeably.

Apple Vision Pro

[Source: Apple]

That’s how they want to fill the gap

Apple Vision Pro aims to bridge the gap by intertwining reality with virtual elements. It’s about harmoniously merging our real world with digital items and applications. Although this headset offers what’s known as ‘Environments’ – their spin on virtual reality, it brings two major innovations to the table.

First, the control is in your hands – you can decide when to switch on the full immersion, allowing you to dictate when you want to isolate from reality and focus entirely on the virtual experience. Second, even when you’re deeply engaged in this immersive experience if someone near you wants to interact, the software lets you see and converse with the person.

Those changes are fighting with the two essential anti-VR arguments. Now you aren’t socially isolated, even using fully immersive experiences. Moreover, the headset is multi-functional and lets you be in charge of how deep you want your interactions with the digital world to be.

Additionally, when it comes to augmented reality technology, the Apple Vision Pro appears to be an excellent choice for professional use. Rather than disconnecting you from reality, it enhances your everyday environment with added value. Your surroundings transform into a canvas for apps, collaboration tools, and communication platforms. Now, you can conveniently work on screens as vast and as numerous as you desire.

Meta Quest 3

[Source: Meta]

This feature is also mentioned in the Meta Quest 3 description, so it looks like both companies strongly focus on mixing rather than replacing realities. Meta called it “Meta reality that lets you blend virtual elements into the physical world around you.” The technical specifications of both new devices differ, so we are curious how this blending will look on each piece. But this major change of turning to mixed reality headsets is noticeable – the full-color passthrough allowing mixed reality features to work is also offered in Meta Quest Pro.

Meta will surely win in two different ways, thanks to its hardware diversity. As many people will be considering which headset to choose, having options is a perfect way to satisfy different audiences. Virtual reality (AR) enjoyers will now have a chance to buy Meta Quest 2 cheaper. But those who are not convinced to fully dive into the digital world have an option – mixed reality Meta Quest 3. Moreover, due to the price tag of Apple Vision Pro, some users can approach a bit more favorably to the cheaper Meta headset to try this new kind of experience.

Development Based on Challenges

The unfolding narrative of the XR market is fascinating to observe. It appears as though companies are striving to democratize these technologies, making them more attainable and adaptable for as many people as possible. Though the leaps in technology, particularly evident in Apple’s Vision Pro headset, come with a steep price tag, it hints at a promising future for augmented reality.

Let’s dive deeper into how this hardware evolution influences those who remain skeptical about virtual reality.

  • You are in charge. Today’s headsets offer you the flexibility to decide whether you want to plunge into a fully digital world or blend digital elements into your real-world surroundings. They no longer restrict you to a single technology.
  • It’s a familiar environment. This is a significant factor, especially in the case of Apple’s Vision Pro. The interface, apps, and communication platforms are familiar territories; you don’t need to start learning from scratch. Transitioning from phone to Vision Pro should be a seamless, intuitive process.
  • It doesn’t isolate you (unless you want it to). Even with a mixed-reality headset on, you remain anchored in your physical environment. You can still interact with your surroundings as you would typically do. Far from being a barrier, it’s now a bridge.
  • It’s easier on the senses. One of the main reasons people report discomfort like nausea or headaches when using VR is the dissonance between what you visually perceive and what your body experiences. Mixed/augmented reality uses your physical reality as a foundation, reducing the sensory mismatch. Although, it’s worth mentioning that this is still a developing theory, and we didn’t try those headsets ourselves 🙂

Moreover, these advancements strive to empower users, offering an even more personalized and comfortable experience. By breaking down the barriers of the digital realm, these technologies aim to create a more immersive and holistic user experience. All these elements combined signpost the way towards a more inclusive and accessible XR future.

It’s Only a Small Piece of All of This

In this article, we only focused on this interesting change that is leading to advancements in how we interact with the digital world. Stay tuned for more cause the Apple and Meta headsets will probably be a hot topic in upcoming months, and we also want to provide you with some interesting insights.

From our perspective, mixed-reality headsets are a big step forward to real integration of the digital and physical world. And we are still far from glasses-like hardware with all the features offered by MR, but every new development shows us that there’s more to come, and we’re on the right path to achieve this.

Some people are against such an intrusive presence of technology in our lives. And it’s worth keeping that in mind. Despite the hardware development, we need to take care of our privacy and security as well as the standards and ethics of the software we develop or use.

The Headsets Aren’t Here Yet, but We Are

While we eagerly await the release of these groundbreaking headsets, we’re not idling around. With a rich history in crafting VR/AR/MR solutions, we see this shift in the industry as a promising opportunity, particularly for work-focused applications. We believe many of you are already buzzing with ideas on how to harness the potential of mixed reality.

Engaging discussions about prospective apps for these new devices have already started sparking around here. Feel free to drop us a line if you’d like to join in these fascinating conversations! Remember to keep an eye on our updates too – we’re excited to bring you more news and insights on the future of augmented reality technology.

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New technologies enthusiast. She bought her own VR headset after using one for a few minutes. Always a busy cognitive science student 🙂