Chat with any Apple executive about the Vision Pro, the company’s new $3,500 virtual reality headset, and they hasten to describe the product not as hardware but, ahem, a platform. The bull case goes something like this: Sure, it’s expensive, and heavy, and a little bit dystopian, but few people predicted the ubiquitous multi-purposing of the iPhone when it launched, either. The device only became central to our daily lives once developers began amplifying its ability to become a walled garden for every need imaginable—Netflix, Twitter, Uber, mobile banking, etcetera.
Apple is betting that augmented reality devices have the same platform potential. The Vision Pro, in particular, certainly has the opportunity to change how we watch content. But Apple can’t pull it all off on its own—the world’s largest company needs substantial buy-in from sports, media, and streaming partners to evolve the V.R. experience from a niche product to mass adoption. As a Meta executive once told me, entertainment is crucial to the success of V.R. since it’s the most accessible entry point for early adopters. Apple, which has patented a new ultra-high-resolution 3D camera that can film in 180 degrees, would seem to agree.