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Apple is right about the Vision Pro
it's about presence, productivity and creativity!
I’m enjoying the summer days and a lighter workload now that conference season is over.
And you can help me: if you have established Equal Pay, or know someone who did, I would like to interview you. Are you up for a conversation on lessons learned? Let me know!
Did you watch Apple’s WWDC23 keynote? I wrote a LinkedIn post about the new headset that went viral. It received a lot of comments, which inspired me to explore spatial computing for the enterprise. Are you ready to enter the officeverse?
Vision Pro: the perfect work device?
Here’s what I posted on LinkedIn:
We are wrong about the Vision Pro
and Apple is right
The metaverse might be dead but the office isn’t. And the Vision Pro is Apple’s entry into the officeverse: This is our future work UX.
Consider the price point: $3500 sounds expensive. But when it saves corporate travel, time, and real estate costs, it’s a bargain.
Think about it: zoom fatigue is real, and virtual meetings are often a waste of time. And when CEOs insist people should work in the office, they are addressing two concerns: presence and productivity.
Apple didn’t show a weird avatar (aka HR nightmare) in an imaginary world. They showed a business meeting.
People look like themselves. They collaborate in real time using their hands, not clunky controllers. Sensors are recording the output. Your face is visible to others and they are visible to you. It’s an immersive experience, blending physical & virtual reality. And it’s so normal.
This is a business device that addresses work issues by increasing presence, productivity and creativity using a human interface.
Which means the Vision Pro is for business and Apple is targeting a completely different audience. An audience that has no problem with this price point because despite the costs, it delivers savings. Even at this price, it’s cheaper to send a headset to your customer than have your team fly there.
The 2024 version will be for early adapters, and general adoption will be next as more apps become available.
I have no doubt: we’re looking at our next UX.
Well, people had a lot to say about that. And I mean a LOT. Some readers agreed with my vision of the officeverse, while others commented that it was obvious that Apple has no idea what to do with this device at all.
Today, I dive a little deeper into spatial computing and the officeverse, and my thinking was sharpened by the comments of over two hundred people (thank you!). Bottom line, the more I comments I read, the more convinced I became on the Vision Pro being aimed at the enterprise, and not at gamers (who mostly use Windows) or consumers (same).
In the remainder of the article, I’ll address some of the comments I received.
Spatial computing is our new UX
Some people mentioned that the keynote showed people at home, and because of that, people assumed it’s aimed at consumers. And I don’t dispute that there are consumer applications and watching a movie on a huge screen would be a great experience (“the ultimate theater”…). Also a lonely one. And I really hope it will become socially unacceptable to wear a headset when interacting with your family, the exact opposite of what Apple showed in the ad. Because, who needs that in their home? Can you imagine what it would look like if the whole family wore one? Exactly!
Apple introduced the headset as spatial computing - a blend of digital and physical spaces. They did not mention the word ‘metaverse’ at all (they also did not talk about AI!). This is not meant as a metaverse device, where you are closed off and in your own space. Spatial computing blends the physical and virtual environment seamlessly together. While EyeSight looks a little weird, it also allows you to interact with others in a physical space. You have peripheral vision, and you don’t have to be afraid that people sneak up on you. There might still be pranks, but it’s safer to use in an office environment than VR glasses - which means less risk of an accident.
I think the uses cases we saw are just the beginning: we did not see third party apps. In addition, Apple have already filed a number of patents and I assume they will evolve their platform with a variety of spatial computing devices that go well beyond this Vision Pro headset. There will be many interesting ways to collaborate and interact through spatial computing. It’s an exciting time for companies, as this allows us to reimagine our physical and digital workplaces like never before. We might even be looking at the real future of work UX…
We have to wait until 2024
The headset won’t be available until 2024 and then only in the US. And who knows if there will be delays? So why reveal it now? Because it is smart to give everyone a heads up:
Developers have time to work on applications and deliver a 1.0 version of their app.
Business software vendors can work on a Vision Pro edition of their solutions.
Apple has more time to test and work out the kinks (while reducing weight).
Corporate budget season starts in September. If you want to pilot this, you will have to allocate a budget for this project, because it isn’t cheap. It’s the perfect timing to allow for decision making and inclusion in the 2024 budget proposal.
Keep in mind that Apple does product iterations every two or so years for a new device. So, we are looking at early adopters next year with potentially a larger adoption when business vendors are releasing stable Vision Pro editions. Apple’s closed ecosystem might become a problem when it comes to adoption. We also need vendors to combine spatial computing with other technologies and create a middle layer with compatibility and inclusion for people that do not own Apple gear.
It’s too expensive
The first edition will cost $3500. That’s exactly the price of a Microsoft’s Hololens, that’s also aimed at business. Microsoft advertises their headset as a “mixed reality” device while Apple introduced theirs as “spatial computing”. According to Microsoft’s website, the Hololens is aimed at three industries: manufacturing, healthcare, and education. My first VR experience had an educational purpose too: I liked that it was immersive, and how everyone was present, but did not see how this could become an every day all day device.
People also brought up the fact that when you want the full experience, you need other Apple products, like a MacBook. Most businesses have standardized on other hardware. And that means the investment is closer to $6000. Fair point, even though MacBooks have become somewhat of a corporate standard in a number of businesses. Even so, you’ll need the latest hardware to run this properly.
But then, someone also reminded me of this famous quote about the iPhone:
“Five hundred dollars?! […] And it doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard!’”
Also, people added that the cost might seem high initially, but it is less than one business class flight across the Atlantic. And reminded me that when people use more than one monitor, not having to replace those would be a good start. But then you would have to use the headset all day and I don’t see that happening.
Others responded by doing the math for all employees of an enterprise. And obviously, in that case it’s prohibitively expensive. But let’s look at the current situation: if you work for a company with 1000 employees, does everyone have the exact same kit? Probably not - some people are on the road all the time, some work in a production facility and others in the office. Employees receive devices based on their role. And this will be just like that: not everyone will need a headset, so not everyone will get one.
And remember, Apple always plays the long game - they have more than enough money in the bank to let this play out for a while. Let’s revisit this topic in five years.
How does it improve presence and productivity?
When CEOs want people back in the office, they typically mention improving presence, productivity, and creativity as the reasons. Even though there is surprisingly little evidence for that assumption. We see more companies switch to a hybrid model with on average three days in the office. But that is not always possible, and given the labor shortage due to demographics, we will have to be creative to fill positions.
Interestingly, the remote workers that commented on my post immediately understood the productivity benefit and saw an opportunity to reduce their travel footprint. An issue with remote meetings is that they are not as productive as they could be. There are many reasons, but one of them is that people tune out. They do other things, like reading email, and are not fully present. And that has a negative impact on the quality and output of the meeting.
A headset solves that in two ways: there is no multi-tasking when you are in a meeting. That means everyone is present, without distractions and that should make for shorter, focused meetings. It obviously requires us to rethink the way we organize our workdays, but that’s needed anyway. And we need companies that want to experiment with this. A couple of people mentioned that they would love to try this, but feared their companies would not be willing to invest until it was proven. Or they wondered if their employer would have the tech vision or knowledge to properly implement this.
It’s just not the same as socializing
Correct - that’s not what this device is for. But then, that’s not what Zoom is for either. We use it that way, but it’s not the same as being together. I also believe that this is why the metaverse tanked: we just came out of the pandemic, and now tech people were telling us to strap on a headset and visit the metaverse, and wander around in a wonderful virtual experience? After two years of isolation, we wanted to be out and about. We wanted to meet our friends in person again. We have rediscovered the value of going out without restrictions - why would we voluntarily lock ourselves up again?
I’d recommend that when you want to socialize, you meet in person. Or you could buy a Meta Quest, since Mark Zuckerberg just said in an internal employee meeting that his vision of the metaverse is “fundamentally social” while Apple’s demos were “a person sitting on a couch by themself”.
It’s not healthy and what about motion sickness?
A headset is heavy and that’s problematic. And I agree that using a headset eight hours a day would be an uncomfortable experience. However, I don’t think this would be used for a whole working day. I haven’t tested it so I don’t know how comfortable it is and Apple hasn’t disclosed the weight specs. I’m going to assume that it will be doable for a short period of time. And if it helps to bring down meeting duration, I’m all for it! My position has always been to qualify activities, and that meetings must have a clear purpose and be as short as possible. If you follow those principles, then it should enhance the meeting experience because people have no choice but to be present.
The headset allows you to overlay your view on the physical world, in AR. You’re not as closed off as with a VR headset. The overlay means that you have anchor points in the physical space around you and should experience less motion sickness. In addition, Apple seems to have managed to reduce the latency (lag time) to less than the blink of an eye, eliminating the main cause of dizziness. I’ve read some articles where reporters mentioned that the first 15 minutes felt strange, but they did not experience motion sickness or dizziness. Obviously, everyone is different, and we won’t know until more people use it.
People also wondered about radiation and other effects this might have on your eyes. And that is an important point of clarification, as we can’t let this damage our eyesight. But I haven’t seen any specifics on it, so I’ll leave that to the experts.
The avatar is not human
I have always considered avatars an HR nightmare, because the opportunity for misappropriation is huge. In a business environment, you can’t have people show up as someone else, or even worse, something else like an animal or a monster.
But Apple showed a nifty way to create your personal avatar: you use the device to scan your face and create a virtual image of yourself. That’s an absolute must to keep it business-like.
A lot of people commented that the mouth was weird, and the teeth were clamped together while speaking: lips and teeth are the most difficult things to properly draw. We haven’t solved the issue of mouth movements to properly replicate a speaking person. Generated lip movement is often lacking in expressiveness and details. We are also not able to properly render micro expressions, which are hugely important in conversation. And then there are the nonverbal cues and emotions to express. A daunting task!
But what you see in the above image is already much better than everything that we’ve seen so far, and over time, developers will get closer. Apple also showed natural body movements like hand waving without controllers. I am optimistic that developers can solve many of the issues mentioned above as these are not Apple specific and many vendors are working on solving these issues.
It’s not attractive to wear a headset
Yeah, I don’t really have an answer for this one. But considering that you probably won’t wear this in public, does it really matter? The thing is, Apple products have become status symbols: if you can afford it, you buy an iPhone (even if you can’t). With the Vision Pro, I see two options: either it will join the Apple lineup and become a status symbol, or it will completely flunk. But given the many business opportunities, I don’t think so.
If this device is functional and does the trick, why wouldn’t we use it?
As you can see, people had a lot to say, and the above answers are based on my vision for what this headset could be. But there’s no way of knowing if this corresponds to Apple’s vision. I found it interesting that reporters didn’t pick up on the enterprise angle but focused on personal pictures and watching videos. Maybe they are more used to evaluating tech on the merits and have less experience with enterprise needs.
One reader remarked that Apple doesn’t mention the device on their Enterprise page. So yes, I could be totally off the mark. But I don’t think so.
Between now and the 2024 release Apple has a lot to figure out:
The glass and aluminum give the headset a sleek look but also add weight. Less weight is better!
Is the device sturdy enough for everyday wear? Is it light enough to travel with?
What about eye health? Motion sickness? Dizziness?
Will software developers, and especially enterprise software vendors see this as a worthwhile device to develop versions for? And will they be available on time?
Will enough enterprises buy a few Vision Pros to experiment? So that an improved version 2 or 3 will become available?
What do you think: will spatial computing make its way into your office?
Have a great day, Anita