Imagine shopping for furniture in the comfort of your own home by scrolling through hundreds of 3D items and placing the ones that you like in your own space. All hands-free, enhancing the immersive experiences we now enjoy with mobile devices.
Then, you purchase your dream three-piece suite or home appliances, with no fear of having to return an item that doesn’t suit your decor. Because, after all, you’ve already seen it in your space, and it looks perfect.
This concept is now closer to reality than you might think.
The launch of Apple Vision Pro (AVP) has stirred up interest from many different industries all eager to work out how the technology will enhance – or alter – life as we know it.
Apple Vision Pro and commerce
The eagerly anticipated mixed reality headset was finally launched on Monday at Apple’s annual WWDC software conference.
After years of teasing, the first version of the tech giant’s wearable computer was available for attendees to see, and more importantly, test.
But is it really all it’s cracked up to be in the world of commerce? The simple answer is yes, and once the glasses are on the market, both B2C and B2B will likely see huge disruption.
The retail industry has already adopted augmented reality (AR) for virtual try-ons and ´see in your space’ virtual furniture tryouts at home. This new tech represents the next phase in fully immersive shopping experiences.
Why brands must invest in 3D and AR now
Apple’s latest product further cements its ecosystem of wearables. The company has already proved itself time and time again as revolutionary, and the Vision Pro headset is no different. It unlocks the value of a huge new category with a sophisticated headset that looks and feels more ‘human’ than any other device of its kind on the market.
This hardware is a reminder that 3D digital assets are not confined to 2D screens anymore. We can now evoke them in our unique physical spaces. The implications are phenomenal for commerce, and also affect education, entertainment, and industry, through enhanced connectivity.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said many times that he’s a true believer in augmented reality, and products like this will pave the way for the technology to further become part of everyday life.
Exceptional 3D and AR product experiences are already possible using mobile devices. Companies that want to get ahead of the curve should start positioning themselves in this space now to fully leverage the benefits that future technological advancements will bring.
The future of 3D and AR is in our own spaces, with a field of vision not constrained by the dimensions of a mobile phone. When these glasses come to market, they will change commerce as we know it, so brands need to be ready.
Apple has made a big statement with the launch of this product, which introduces us to the world of spatial computing.
The message is simple: there is no going back.
Announcing the product, Apple CEO Tim Cook said: “It’s the first product you look through, and not at...You can see, hear, and act with digital content just like it’s in your physical space. You’re no longer limited by a display.”
As an evolution of the iPhone’s “mobile computing,” Cook dubbed AVP an introduction to “spatial computing,” adding that it will be available to buy in 2024 at a starting price of US$3,499.
Apple said the three-dimensional camera will see memories “come alive” through two ultra-high-resolution displays which will bring “engaging entertainment experiences,” while visionOS will “free apps from the boundaries of a display, offering an “infinite canvas for apps at work and at home”.
Additionally, Apple Vision Pro will be built on a “strong foundation of privacy and security”, keeping users “in control of their data.”
These all point to a win for commerce, which is a visual and immersive experience, and suggests that the aforementioned concept of buying any item without leaving your home is the optimum way to shop, and new hardware such as AVP is only going to enhance these experiences.
Apple Vision Pro overview
Let's shift our perspective to a more tangible context: how will this technology reshape the realm of commerce, and what opportunities might it open for businesses to harness its power?
Here’s our take on the game-changing elements of the new hardware – and the elements that potentially need revising before they come to market.
1. 2D screens go spatial
Monitors will be a thing of the past as multiple windows will be available to view using the impressive field of vision.
It sounds like next-level multitasking – WhatsApp messages to your right, FaceTime in front of you, and a virtual changing room somewhere to the left.
But really, it just takes the various apps that are open together on a phone or tablet and places them in the user's environment together, effectively in full screen.
Additionally, the concept of ‘see in your space’ would be taken to the next level and could be crucial for the successful completion of high-end purchases, such as kitchens, living room suites, and electronics.
2. Quality and human-centric design
The personalized nature of shopping will align perfectly with what Apple does well – quality, convenience, customization and ease of use, with the user at the center of everything.
All this, coupled with the fact that users can (on paper) do all this while working or looking after their family in the real world.
Using your eyes as a cursor and minimal gestures for selecting, moving, and changing products, 3D images, and video is likely to be revolutionary.
3. 3D models and ‘see in your space’ automatically supported
If software that you already use to display your products on your website is built on AR kit/AR core – the same technology AVP uses – then it will automatically work with the headset. So, businesses already using 3D and AR software such as Enhance – which allows you to place 3D products in your space – will not have to add or change anything to your existing code.
All the features of Safari will work on VisionPro by default, which means accessing 3D models via Quicklook. Since Enhance technology uses this to preview models in AR, it will work out of the box with VisionPro.
Apple is known for its high price tag. The first iPhone, which ran on 2G network technology, retailed for US$599. It featured a 3.5-inch screen and a 2-megapixel camera, with up to 8 GB of storage – all without an App Store in sight.
So, it goes without saying that its first mixed reality headset would follow suit regarding cost. But at US$3,499, it remains to be seen who (and how many) early adopters will pick one up on launch day.
From a commerce perspective, this will initially limit the reach of some businesses that are not on the luxury end of the scale. So, while prestige car showrooms may benefit, high street stores may not.
Ben Lang theorizes that while the price is “insane” – Apple knows exactly what it is doing, and positioning itself in the place it wants to be.
He writes: “This device is for ultra-Apple enthusiasts, exceptionally wealthy people who want the latest and coolest tech money can buy, and developers who think they might be able to build a business from the headset and its eventual progeny.”
As with the iPhone SE, a more reasonably priced version will likely be released. Prices cascade quickly with all technological advances, often helped by the arrival of other products into the space from competitors. With this in mind, we can expect gradual penetration over time, which will benefit users, brands, and manufacturers.
2. Battery life
AVP can stream new images to the displays “within 12 milliseconds — 8 times faster than the blink of an eye.” Enter the two-hour battery life. This is not nearly long enough to watch the average new release film, never mind enjoy an extended virtual shopping trip.
For a high-end headset that can be controlled by the eyes and respond fluidly to hand gestures of users trying on clothes, testing make-up, or placing furniture in their living room, battery power is something that will likely be improved before it goes on general sale.
They will hopefully replace the wire too. This brings us to....
3. Design and portability
There is something about the fancy ski goggles that doesn’t exactly scream the tech-chic Apple is traditionally known for. Tech blogger Skarredghost mused: “It’s not the Apple-pretty I was expecting.”
It is hard to imagine many style-conscious users donning an AVP while they browse the racks of their local Prada store, with a heavy battery pack hanging out of the back pocket of their Armani jeans.
Back to that wire and battery. For years the tech rumor mill was speculating about a stylish, portable, cable-free offering from Apple that would revolutionize the in-person shopping experience by serving up real-time information projected seamlessly into the user’s field of view.
The important thing to remember is, by the time the glasses are available to buy in-store, the design will likely have been streamlined into “Apple”, and the little niggly things that are being criticized will have been ironed out.
So, the fashionistas needn’t worry about a style clash, and can instead concentrate on enjoying an exciting shopping experience that will likely change their lives forever.