What might the future of Vision look like?
At WWDC, Apple launched their most existing product in at least a decade: Apple Vision Pro.
And I truly could not be more excited for it! There is, however, one odd thing about the Apple Vision Pro: it is, as far as I know, the first time Apple has ever introduced a major product line starting with a “Pro” variant. There is no lesser version of the of the Vision line, and Apple seems to be marketing Vision Pro towards everyone (unlike their other Pro products). You might say that “Vision Pro” is just the name of the device, and that Pro is just a marketing term to make it seem better. But I disagree: regardless of rumors of a future lower-cost variant aside, I think Vision Pro’s presence on Apple.com is telling: it got it’s own navigation bar element (something that didn’t happen for AirPods until recently), and that element simply says “Vision”. This is in line with “Watch”, cutting off “Apple” and taking you to where you can view all variants of the Apple Watch.
So what’s next for Apple Vision?
So, with all that in mind, it’s clear that Apple has plans for future variants of the Vision line. I think the first variant we see will be just a normal “Vision” or “Vision Air”, which will end up being the more average-consumer-targeted device. It’s hard to say what Apple will end up removing to make it cheaper, but I imagine a cheaper construction and maybe less niche features (like Spatial Photos and Videos) will help bring down the price. This would also happen alongside a hypothetical second generation, meaning that would have new features and the costs for today’s Vision Pro components will have reduced. Unfortunately, one thing that would probably make it a good bit cheaper would be removing EyeSight. But Apple is very intent on saying that this is a device meant to keep you connected with the world around you, so I doubt that will happen.
What about the more distant future?
Now, I want to talk about the more distant future. We all know Apple wants and has been working on AR glasses. I think that the inevitable future of the Vision line will be this: Vision Pro will be the ultimate device, encompassing the best augmented reality and virtual reality experiences by using camera-based passthrough. The regular Vision will be a glasses-type product, that uses projection, see-through screens, or some other type of technology to put AR objects over your real-world vision. This is obviously even more complicated than the already marvelous Vision Pro, so this is certainly many years away.
There was one statement from Tim Cook’s interview with Good Morning America that stood out to me: “Vision Pro will do anything that your Mac or iPhone can do, and more”. While this isn’t actually true yet (can it run Xcode? No.), it signifies what I think is Apple’s end goal for the Vision line and spatial computing: to replace all physical computing (Mac, iPhone) we have now. Being able to slip on a pair of glasses makes that goal significantly more viable. They would be more geared toward every day use while out and about (like iPhone), while Vision Pro would be for more stationary and in-depth experiences (like Mac).
It’s also important to remember that this is a first-generation product, and Apple devices typically take 3-4 generations to get truly incredible and commonplace. For example, the first Apple Watch from 2014 was extremely slow and required an in-range iPhone to do… well, anything. By the time the Series 3 came around, it was a speedy, waterproof, health-monitoring device that many people had. An even more recent example is AirPods. Since AirPods don’t follow a typical release cycle, I’ll instead use time to make my point: the 2016 AirPods 1 were quite basic, pretty large, and didn’t have all that many features. Three years later, the 2019 AirPods Pro had incredible noice cancellation, “Hey Siri” support, Spatial Audio, unbeatable Transparency mode, and so much more. And of course, the iPhone. The 2007 iPhone was missing some basic features even competing phones had at the time, but it got the concept right and showed its potential. By the time the iPhone 4 came around, smartphones were becoming the norm and the iPhone had gone though a remarkable amount of innovation. I can’t wait to see where Apple Vision is in ~2027. I can’t even imagine where we’ll be in ten years.
I am beyond thrilled to experience Vision Pro next year (or hopefully sooner with a development kit🤞🏻), and I do think that spatial computing will eventually be the main way of using technology.