One of the legacies of Steve Jobs is customer experience perfection—or at least as near to it as Apple can get while still actually shipping products. While Apple may be gearing up for an AR or VR-enabled product set, they’re just now laying the groundwork for a product that, when it arrives, we’ll wonder how we ever lived without it.
Judging from past product releases, Apple is waiting to release its AR/VR headset because they’re not concerned with being the first out of the door. The OG Blackberry phone with email was released in 2002, five years before the iPhone. Tablet computers had been around since 1987, but it wasn’t until the release of the iPad in 2010 that the world realized the usefulness of the device. AR and VR devices have been around now for long enough that they’re starting to become commonplace, but few of us were brave enough to wear Google Glass in public, the Snap Spectacles have a distinctive enough shape but lack the popularity and while many gaming and corporate training programs work in VR, the headsets aren’t exactly streetwear.
Apple doesn’t seem to care about the clout of being first. They don’t care if the word metaverse is part of their company name. Instead, they want to be the best. Because when a truly groundbreaking product that integrates the technology with our lives is released, the FOMO will carry the market.
Meta’s vision disappointed
Meta’s Horizon Workrooms and Zuckerberg’s vision of the ways we can use VR in our lives was groundbreaking. The metaverse meeting rooms they showed off at last year’s events were thought provoking. They showed a vision of the future of work and life. In this vision, location doesn’t matter—as long as you have internet access. That is a hopeful and beautiful vision. But the product itself, the meeting room they showed, was a let down. It looked like taking a quarterly review meeting inside the Wii fit universe. Remember the legless torsos? The jerky movements from the participants? It was a vision that didn’t feel like it went far enough—it literally didn’t have legs.
And to some extent, Horizon workrooms feel par for the course for those who spend a lot of time in animated worlds like Minecraft, Roblox and other avatar-driven experiences that have so far been the mainstay of the metaverses. We rely on graphics to take us to new places because that’s where our imaginations find the most freedom. There’s also endless possibility to consumerize avatars, and NFTs have contributed to the popularity of limited-edition online avatars and avatar accessories—but that’s another article altogether.
Apple won’t get stuck in the uncanny valley
The assumption that Mark Wilson makes in his Fast Company article, that Apple is prepping their mobile OS for that AR world, feels correct. While the illustrated world of Meta is compelling, it’s not as potentially beautiful, or useful, as the AR world that Wilson envisions from Apple.
Our brains are trained to search for the human form and faces. We recognize the human form in animations and illustrations (and sometimes toast or cinnamon buns), but what is nearer to perfect is not going to be the uncanny valley of ever-better-illustrated humans and avatars. It’s going to be unifying humans with digital landscapes, apps and capabilities.
SEE: Metaverse cheat sheet: Everything you need to know (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
Don’t hold your breath for AR from Apple
I predict we won’t see a headset from Apple in 2022. They will let the Metas and other metaverse competitors build their completely immersive experiences. Facebook had the advantage of being the first follower back when MySpace dominated the landscape. It took some of Tom’s wisdom and built out one of the most successful social media platforms to date.
But Apple may be making the wiser choice by learning from the mistakes of Google, Snap, Meta and all the rest by waiting for the right confluence of technology. I predict—and very much hope—this waiting means they build a beautiful tool that people and companies will want to invest in because it makes life just a little bit better.