Apple (AAPL) this week launched its much-anticipated mixed reality headset, the "starting at $3,499" Apple Vision Pro. Despite months, even years, of VR skepticism, the first reviews of the Vision Pro are stellar — and regenerating dormant interest in the AR and VR space (often referred to jointly as XR).
So, it's a technological marvel, but is it revolutionary?
Yahoo Finance asked six experts what they thought. Some hailed the unveiling of the Vision Pro as a genuine watershed moment, while others were more circumspect.
"The Vision Pro marks a revolutionary moment for spatial computing and the future of work," said Marcus Segal, CEO and co-founder of game developer ForeVR. "As these devices become accessible to the average consumer we will see how we work and play transformed... Apple entering the market absolutely moves XR into the mainstream."
Others expressed cautious optimism.
IDC Research Director Ramon Llamas said there are certainly parts of the Vision Pro that are truly revolutionary. But, he added, it's important to remember how many other Apple products and apps the Vision Pro pulls from.
"It borrows heavily from other devices (iPhone, iPad, and even the Watch), software (Swift and Safari among others), and services (Apple TV, Arcade, and security) that, while not particularly revolutionary, ... I do like the way that these seem to come together rather well into just one device," he said. "Let’s give it some time to grow and develop but also for consumers to wrap their heads and eyeballs around since we’ve become so accustomed to a 2D world. Let’s see where else Apple can take spatial computing and how willing people are to join them on their journey."
However, Vision Pro is clearly significant as a prototype — a new beginning for Apple and for the XR industry as a whole, said Cathy Hackl, Journey's chief futurist and chief metaverse officer.
"This is the most advanced tech product ever created," she said. "It’s a supercomputer. This device is a stepping stone toward a future AR device that Apple will continue to work on. The scanning and volumetric applications of the device, as well as the spatial video and images, will take entertainment and communications to the next level."
What does 'revolutionary' really even mean?
The fact that Apple is calling its device a "spatial computer" rather than a headset is also an important indication of the heights the company hopes the product will reach.
"Spatial computing is not only about the wearable you wear to interface with tech in a new way, it’s also about making the world we see through our own eyes something you experience in a new way," said Hackl.
That distinction, between escapism and vision, gaming and computing, is vital when it comes to understanding how big of a wave the Vision Pro can make, said Nanea Reeves, CEO and founder of VR app TRIPP: "The emphasis on the Vision Pro being a new computing platform is incredibly important to change the narrative on XR being only a gaming platform."
There's a reason, of course, that VR has struggled to take off so far: Though the tech has been impressive in many cases, it just hasn't been that easy to use. However, "easy to use" is Apple's calling card. Apple, after all, changed how we think about smartphones — and their keyboard.
"How well Apple has solved these challenges will greatly impact the overall user experience for a first-time user," said Cornell tech lecturer and XR collaboratory director Harald Haraldsson. "But just as physical keys on mobile phones were considered by many a necessity for text input before the iPhone's touch interface, we shouldn't be surprised if Apple manages to nudge the interaction design paradigm once again."
So, is the Vision Pro "revolutionary?"
That may not be the right question. After all, what does it even mean for something to be revolutionary? Is it something new in the most literal sense? Or is it the idea that, even if it's not new, something revolutionary changes the landscape in which it operates?
"This is not about invention, it's about execution," said Josh Constine, SignalFire venture partner. "It's about doing what's already been done, but doing it so well that it opens new doors. The hope is that the foundational tech is so much better than what else is out there that it facilitates adoption. I don't think the value of the Vision Pro is in mass consumer adoption...I think of it more like the iPad Pro, which is beloved by the people and enterprises who use it and is creating new use cases and applications. "
He added: "The measure of success for the Vision Pro is how many unicorn startups it launches, not how many sales it has."