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Apple Vision Pro and Wevr
June 4, 2024
Updates

Neville Spiteri

March 6, 2024

Wevr is currently developing spatial apps and experiences for Apple Vision Pro, Meta Quest, HTC XR Elite and other devices. As lovers of the spatial medium, both as users and creators, we’re super excited about the Vision Pro and the evolution of the hardware/software ecosystem today with multiple providers in the market.

Background

We were first drawn to the spatial medium due to 3 main characteristics, and what it unlocks for creativity and communication across human endeavors:

  1. Presence - the transportive quality allowing for the collapsing of physical distance and increased levels of connectedness with others;
  2. Embodiment - the affordance of body movement and physicality in the user interface and user experience;
  3. Immersion - the breakthrough of media and communication from a 2D window “frame” to an unbounded 3D “canvas” layered into our perceived world.

Over the last few years we've experimented in spatial (aka VR/AR/MR/XR depending on the specific use-case) across a broad range of content from documentary to fictional interactive storytelling, from mindfulness to fitness, from training and education to simulation and enterprise applications. We always saw that gaming isn’t the only killer app for this medium. And we continue to see how the medium is so effective for both fully synthesized real-time 3D worlds as well as sampled 360/immersive video, and any degree of blend in between the two.

It’s because of all these aspects of the spatial medium that we’re so excited about the Apple Vision Pro and for this time in our industry at large. With that as context I wanted to share some thoughts about Apple Vision Pro, not intended as a comprehensive product review, but from an engaged developer’s point of view.

Three top aspects I love about Apple Vision Pro:

  • It’s the kind of computing device I just want to use. The full integration with the Apple ecosystem is awesome and a joy. The simple use case of viewing photos is a pleasure. That moment when “Connect to Mac” just worked instantly. Having the apps I use frequently, be it ChatGPT, HBO Max, Notes, Messages, etc… all seamlessly accessible is just great and really useful! I find myself wanting to use AVP more than other devices including my MacBook and iPad, and it’s not just to justify the cost!
  • The sheer polish and quality of the hardware is a beautiful and remarkable thing - an undeniable milestone in the history of computing. This is a luxury item! (I don’t wear jewelry but I can imagine what that feels like now). And it’s not just aesthetics for the sake of aesthetics. The pixels are mind-blowing. Screen door non-existent. Apple Immersive Video is so incredibly good. Super accurate gaze and hand tracking matters. It’s unexpectedly relieving not having to think about controllers. Leaning back comfortably with my arms behind my head in the Mindfulness app is a different experience altogether.
  • Another thing I love about the Apple Vision Pro is that it is not an entirely new thing - at all. It’s exciting for all developers in the space that the learnings of the past decade totally apply going forward even on the VisionOS platform (despite the fact that Apple is using “spatial” instead of “VR/AR” lexicon). Meta, HTC and other device makers I’m sure must feel pretty great right about now. AVP challenges competing providers to improve the respective hardware/software stacks (not eliminating them from the playing field), and collectively inviting developers to deliver better value to users and audiences.

Some observations and questions I have about Apple Vision Pro:

  • Why is passthrough blurry when you move your head? It is slightly nausea inducing, depending on your sensitivity. It's odd to me that a $3400 HMD device in 2024 is even remotely nausea inducing in the most basic mode of usage ie. looking around. The AVP specs boast sub 12ms photon latency. To me that means the passthrough pixels I look at as I move my head around should refresh crisply.
  • Gaze select is unnecessarily fatiguing and error prone in many use cases, like the virtual keyboard. I’m a fan of gaze tracking because when it works it’s great. (After a month of daily use my behavior is already changing. When using my desktop I now find myself increasingly eye/gaze tracking, with my head still, and clicking-to-select). That said, finger select has been proven to work more favorably in many contexts.
  • The Apple Vision Pro feels totally “pro”, arguably in every regard except the head strap. The Solo knit band is nice but beyond an hour of usage you really do need more support and weight distribution than the solo band provides. It would be great to have an optional upper strap (like the Dual loop band) that you can clip on to the Knit band. That would be a great option for starters.

In terms of how Apple Vision Pro compares to other HMD options in market, I’ll say this:

Apple’s market positioning suggests that they don’t consider that they are even competing with other devices in market. It is indeed a very different product optimized for different use-cases than other HMDs. And at 7X the price point of the Quest3, it really is in a different competitive category. That said, Apple Vision Pro should have crushed Meta Quest3 on many axes. But it didn’t, IMHO. I can understand how Zuck and Boz say that the Quest3 is not just a better-value-for-money product, but a better product period. From a product-market-fit perspective, Meta Quest3 is really solid on a relative basis.

I also think that the HTC XR Elite, considering the combination of 1) passthrough quality, 2) comfort (lightness/weight distribution) and 3) price point, is a very strong contender, especially for enterprise applications.

Of course, none of this is a fait accompli. The evolution to spatial computing clearly doesn’t happen overnight, nor even over a decade. It’s interesting to see how Apple’s competitors will evolve their product lines in response, in particular Google + Samsung. And the current Apple Vision Pro is very likely the most expensive and least powerful headset that Apple will ever ship. All this is to say that we’re super excited about what this market competition will bring. Wow!

Building applications on the platform:

It makes sense that most HMDs in market started with a focus on gaming, with additional key categories emerging later such as Fitness, Simulation, Training and other verticals. It also makes sense that Apple is starting with a broader productivity and entertainment focus. The opportunity to develop a wide range of spatial applications on Apple Vision Pro is staggering, with hundreds of native Vision apps already available. I’m personally stoked to see Immersive Video re-emerge as a content category on a whole new quality level. And similar to many other developers we’re interested in developing native apps using RealityKit in addition to Unity or Unreal.

Worth noting is the Encounter with Dinosaurs app which showcases the potential of “MR” anchoring synthetic real-time 3D worlds in your physical space. This is reminiscent of TheBlu Whale Encounter app Wevr developed nine years ago for the launch of the HTC Vive, an experience that made people cry with joy (and still does to this day), and since inspired many developers to get into this medium.

The biggest challenge facing spatial developers quickly becomes discovery and driving installs from the Stores. Even though Quest3 alone eclipsed the Xbox console in units sold, achieving a meaningful attach rate is very hard and expensive. And similarly to mobile, spatial developers will have to consider shipping on both Apple and Android stacks in order to maximize reach.

Coming Soon

We’re excited to be developing fully immersive experiences and spatial apps on Apple Vision Pro, Meta Quest, HTC XR Elite and other devices, in entertainment as well as other verticals, both for the home and location-based. More specifics on that coming soon!

Say Hello

Lastly, if you’re a brand owner or IP holder looking to leverage spatial platforms, Wevr can support you from concept to ship. And if you’re a developer interested in the space, please reach out too! Please say hello @ wevr dot com.

Thanks,

Nev