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Virtual Reality (VR) Mixed Reality VR Headset

Why wait for Apple’s Vision Pro? Now’s the time for affordable spatial computing

By David Mather, Head of marketing

Zappar

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June 14, 2023 | 7 min read

With Apple’s Vision Pro headset coming soon but not immediately, Dave Mather of mixed reality specialist agency takes a good look at today’s spatial computing market.

Apple's new Vision Pro headset

Does Apple's Vision Pro announcement mean it's time for brands to jump into spatial computing? / Credit: Apple

With the long-awaited release of Apple’s Vision Pro headset, spatial computing and mixed reality are well and truly back in the limelight. But with the headset not set for release until 2024, and the price tag set at $3,499, how can brands and businesses take advantage of the medium, but in a more affordable and accessible way that’s available right now?

Here’s my take on why affordable, smartphone-powered mixed reality can be the starting point for the mass adoption of spatial computing.

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Advancements in smartphone technology

Smartphones have become increasingly powerful over the years, with significant advancements in processing power, graphics capabilities, and camera quality. These technological improvements enable smartphones to track the world around you through your device's camera, processors, and motion sensors to create immersive 3D experiences, in-app and via the web.

With smartphones becoming more capable, they provide a cost-effective way to leverage spatial storytelling, right now, without the need for expensive hardware.

Widespread smartphone adoption and portability

Smartphones, unlike the major players in the headset market (like Quest, Magic Leap, and HTC Vive) already have mass adoption. According to Statista, smartphone penetration was at 6.3bn in 2022, a number that Zuckerberg can only dream of for Quest. This widespread adoption creates a fertile market for affordable mixed reality using smartphones, ripe for brands and businesses to take advantage of.

Yes, Apple is the dominant player in the space, but brands need to tap into both iOS and Android users to truly reach a global audience and drive return on investment from their campaigns. It’s cross-platform, smartphone-powered headsets (like our own Zapbox) that will enable them to do that, without the need to buy multiple headsets.

Smartphones are highly portable too; I can’t remember the last time I left my house without mine (without immediately rushing back into the house to retrieve it). This means that mixed reality content can be experienced anytime, anywhere, without the need for carrying additional bulky equipment.

Growing interest in mixed reality and spatial computing

If the Apple release is anything to go by, there’s clearly a mass market for spatial computing, and spatial storytelling more broadly. Immediately after the release, my LinkedIn feed was flooded with posts about the Vision Pro, peppered with key takeaways and reasons for and against why the headset would succeed (or fail).

Alongside this was a real backlash to the price and accessibility of the headset; it just doesn’t scale to meet the needs of brands and businesses who need wider adoption in markets to devise and develop content that has a real impact on target audiences.

A vibrant developer ecosystem

Let’s not forget about the developer ecosystem for spatial computing. It’s now at a much more mature level than when I started working on AR. With the advent of AR content authoring tools from Snap, Spark, Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore, and indeed our Zapworks AR platform, designers and developers are much more familiar with creating compelling and immersive experiences for smartphones than they were three or four years ago.

Creators, brands and businesses now more readily understand the value of short-form immersive experiences on hand-held devices. It’s now about capitalizing on those experiences and bringing them into mixed reality to increase engagement and interactivity – in a more affordable way.

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What does this all mean for brands?

With Apple also publishing their ‘Principles of Spatial Design’, brands and businesses should take note, lean in, and embrace the technology to understand how they can effectively leverage headsets like the Vision Pro for branded activations, e-commerce and experiential retail.

But, if brands want to get ahead of the game, the time is now. It’s headsets like Zapbox, Xreal Air, and indeed the Quest 3 that can get them there quicker.

The possibilities really are limitless. It’s up to creative marketers and brands to start defining the rules of this new spatial storytelling canvas.

Virtual Reality (VR) Mixed Reality VR Headset

Content by The Drum Network member:

Zappar

Zappar is the world’s leading augmented reality platform and creative studio for mobile and web apps. Since 2011, Zappar’s mission has been to democratise AR...

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