The Apple Vision Pro Reinforces The Continuing Problem With VR Adoption

Apple has reportedly decreased the number of Vision Pro VR units that it was going to ship in 2024, cutting them nearly in half, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. They’re going from 700,00-800,000 expected to 400,00-450,000 — implying that things really did not work out how they imagined.

Kuo says that demand has “fallen sharply beyond expectations” in the U.S., though to most non-tech-industry-immersed observers this does not seem terribly shocking.

The Apple Vision Pro is a $3,500 headset with some of the best technology on the market, and yet it cannot do basic things like have a native Netflix app or play loads of VR games that work on other devices. Plus, it’s heavy enough where people were reporting fatigue or pain while using it for any extended period of time.

But I think this problem extends past the Vision Pro, its pricing and its features. It’s just yet another example of VR/AR tech failing to become mainstream, and a sign that this road ultimately leads nowhere if one thing remains true: You must wear something large on your face.

That’s it, really. The appeal of VR and the coolness of this or that you might be able to do with it is simply overwhelming by no one wanting to wear stuff on their faces. With cords, without cords, it hasn’t mattered. This is just not going to happen to the extent these companies want it to, and if Apple of all companies can’t figure out to make a widely appealing device in this market, I don’t know who will.

This thing could have cost $1,000 and we’d still be here having this conversation.

It’s not that no one uses VR. Every time one of these conversations happens the comments will fill up with “well I use my Meta Quest nightly,” but in the near-decade since VR arrived, do you know anyone in your life who routinely uses VR? More than one person? Hell, even if you personally own a VR headset, do you use it regularly? I firmly believe that VR sales, where a 2022 estimate put the market size at $23 billion, are overstating the actual use of this tech. I don’t believe there have been studios about this yet, but you can bet that if someone spends $500 on both a PlayStation 5 and VR headset, they are probably using the former a hundred times more than the latter. An iPhone or PC? A thousand times. And I am speaking as someone who owns two VR headsets which have been in a closet for roughly three years.

This just isn’t going to happen. If you want to keep throwing money at this tech to please this overstated market, you are wasting your time. Meta tried to fashion the metaverse out of this idea, and all they did is made a system that can play a handful of decent video games (though far fewer than consoles or PC). Apple was more focused on the Vision pro being some sort of beacon of productivity both at home or at work, and instead people mainly are just watching movies in the Safari web browser. If it’s on your face, it is not practical for any significant task for 99% of the population. This is a dead end.

I also don’t want to hear that in “just 10 years” VR will replace anything. Trends do not suggest that, and hopefully tech companies will wise up and realize this is not a market worth cultivating. Almost no one wants to wear things on their face. I don’t know how much more clearly to say that, but these companies keep pursuing what they believe is sci-fi tech that has few actual use cases and is an almost impossible sell for the majority of the general public. And if you do get them to buy one, a huge percentage of those will likely regret it and shelve it in short order.

So no, it’s not shocking that the Apple Vision Pro isn’t meeting expectations, but all companies, not just Apple, really need to wake up to what’s going on here, that this just isn’t going to happen.

I’ve reached out to Apple for comment and will update if I hear back.

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