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The potential of virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) is certainly not a new topic of conversation, but it could become significantly more relevant this year. Despite a prolonged period of VR optimism in 2016, adoption rates have so far fallen short of expectations less than one in five Americans have ever used VR as of 2023.
Certainly 2016 was a watershed moment for VR, with the long-awaited consumer release of the Oculus Rift and Sony’s PSVR prompting tech journalists to proclaim:the year when VR transitions from virtual to reality.” Businesses raved about the technology’s potential, and industry leaders described various ways VR could revolutionize their marketing.
Google trends show that VR and virtual reality searches peaked in 2016 – only to decline from 2017, marked by occasional spikes due to new industry announcements. However with WWDC Once again, the door is knocking at the door: 2023 could be the year that VR returns to mainstream consciousness as Apple brings its groundbreaking marketing and pricing strategies, acclaimed hardware design, and elegant UX (user experience) to the virtual world brings.
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1. The power of pricing
Apple’s influence on the smartphone market is well known. I fondly remember 2007 when the first iPhone launched — it cost a whopping $499, but that was offset by network contracts that offset the cost and subsidized payment in exchange for a two-year contract. Apple made this ingenious move, creating a de facto standard for selling expensive consumer devices in exchange for enforced loyalty. Roughly $499 for a phone, even adjusted for inflation to $720 today, doesn’t seem unreasonable anymore.
In 2023, Apple could try to replicate the success of this model by subsidizing the $3,000 price of a VR device and offering a payback period of 12 to 24 months. However, even with a pricing strategy that has historically been fixated on consumer and iPhone user numbers steadily increasing Year after year, $3,000 in consumer spending may not come at the right time given the cost of living crisis in key markets including the US and UK.
2. Comfort and Satisfaction
However, it’s very likely that one of the key success factors for Apple’s device is how long people can actually use it without discomfort. For many, that’s only around 15 minutes at the moment, and it seems Apple can’t afford to release a device with such a high potential for fatigue. The weight of the device on the head, how it stays in place when a person moves, how it rubs against skin and reacts to sweat are all concerns, and that’s before we even consider motion sickness, some experience in VR – and that’s some Two-thirds of people, according to a Study 2021 by 4,500 German VR users. With that in mind, overcoming this long-standing industry hurdle of making VR headsets more comfortable should be a priority.
Another important factor is that with a medium like VR, the focus is still on the content. Focusing solely on the hardware – however sleek and sophisticated it may be – will fail. Even if the headset is a technical marvel, the question remains: what should we do with it?
The cornerstone of VR is gaming, but not all gaming genres translate well to VR. The fast, frantic movement induces nausea fairly quickly, so it requires a different pace and approach. Also, Apple’s gaming reputation has come under some criticism lately, mostly due to the App Store’s offerings.
Sure, Apple Arcade — a paid service — has been lauded for curating lists of quality mobile gaming experiences, but the rest of the App Store has perfunctory free-to-play games designed to extort money from players and games with more ads than The actual game can be experienced quickly and then forgotten again.
While Apple’s gaming strategy appears to need a major overhaul, streaming and other content could represent a secondary audience. VR in education, manufacturing, shopping and healthcare are useful but still niche. At this point, it’s not clear which use cases Apple will focus on given its core competencies, other than perhaps streaming from Apple TV into a VR headset.
Related: 3 Aspects of the Real Estate Industry That Can Benefit Hugely from the Metaverse
3. Leisure and storage space
Another struggle Apple faces worldwide is the lack of free time that many people suffer from today. The 4-hour life concept suggests that a typical worker only has four free hours a day, and Apple’s VR headset will compete for some of that time against a heavily saturated entertainment technology market (in addition to other pastimes). The user experience is crucial so that even in short sessions the device can be used repeatedly without suffering the same fate as a tennis racket, which is often used three times before always resting in the back of the closet.
Speaking of closets, another issue is space. When the VR headset is not in use, it needs to be stored somewhere. Although the dimensions of the device are unclear, we can use a human head as a reference. So expect the headset to become just another item in the living room or, heaven forbid, the bedroom. As a fan of decluttering, I’m worried.
As Apple prepares for June’s WWDC, it’s throwing its headset As we step into the ring, we will almost certainly see a surge in VR-focused discussions and debates. However, unless content, convenience, technological advances, cost and strategy are perfectly aligned, chances are this launch and mainstream interest in VR will only become another short-lived surge.