At its developer conference in June, Apple finally unveiled the wearable headset it had been working on, an AR/VR mixed-reality headset that will retail for $3,499.
But as with generative AI, Apple is not exactly the first to the game. Though the Vision Pro’s spatial computing design — which seems to make science fiction very real — seems new, even to the VR world, it’s really not. HTC Vive has been doing it for a while
DON’T MISS: Everything Apple Unveiled at WWDC 2023
HTC launched Vive in 2015 and has since become a beloved name in the virtual reality world. The company has branched beyond enhanced gaming experiences and has applied its tech to the medical field, the military, architecture, engineering, business and design, to name a few use cases.
HTC and its partners have found that VR-simulated training saves money and enhances efficiency, better preparing people — whether they be nurses or sales reps — to handle adversity in their work.
“Doctors, nurses that are trained in virtual simulation, they’re 29% faster on average in their actual surgeries. And they make 6% fewer errors,” Dan O’Brien, HTC’s President of the Americas told The Street. “Better outcomes for the patients, better outcomes for the doctors and the medical professionals.”
Though HTC does do plenty of work in the gaming sector, the company was committed to applying its tech to real-life use cases from the very beginning.
“We designed these products to be a benefit to humanity,” O’Brien said, adding that HTC’s work in real-life VR applications goes further to serve the company’s goals of data privacy. “The end user is not the product. The product is the product.”
The Adoption Curve
But there’s still a big obstacle to user adoption: namely, the ‘wear’ component of wearable technology. That obstacle, O’Brien said, will be breached first — and quickly — by businesses and corporations.
“Over the next year or two, you’re going to see a wearable on every engineer’s desk in Western Europe and in the US and in APAC. I think, within the next year to two years, every automotive and aerospace engineering company, major engineering company will have a wearable mixed reality headset on their desk,” O’Brien said. “So I do think in terms of the millions of headsets that can be deployed for those use cases, that’s only within the next year or two.”
But the key to consumer adoption, he said, involves better internet. Specifically, 6G.
“In terms of what I think is the hockey stick moment on the consumer side, I think it’s probably within the next five years. Probably about 2027,” O’Brien said. “And then we really hit mass adoption 2030 when those 6G networks hit, because at that point” the networks will easily be able to handle the kind of content being streamed through a VR headset.
Apple’s launch of the Vision Pro, O’Brien said, moved the industry a step closer to mass adoption; Apple putting its signature stamp on a VR headset helps to “validate” both the technology and its potential.
That said, “Apple did not bring anything new to the market when they announced this product. What they did was they took everything possible and put it into one headset and made a very, very expensive headset.”
The price tag, though, is a little “tone-deaf,” according to O’Brien.
Vive’s XR Elite has the same mixed-reality technology as the Vision Pro. But the price tag is much smaller.
“We have all of the features and functionality that the Vision Pro has, but you can add those on. You can add facial tracking, you can add eye tracking, you can add accessories and peripherals,” O’Brien said. “We build our products to be modular based on the customer’s needs, based on the developers’ capabilities and based on the consumer.”
“So we look at it and go, give users choice, give them flexibility. And don’t just burden them with this massive price.”