UK metaverse firms expect Apple Vision Pro boost

Apple Vision Pro Image credit: Apple

This week Apple unveiled the Vision Pro, its long-awaited and much-speculated upon entry into the virtual and augmented reality world. Notably, Apple refers to this new product line as “spatial computing” rather than the metaverse, the term favoured by Facebook owner Meta.

Apple CEO Tim Cook sees the Vision Pro, which is similar in appearance to ski goggles but will cost $3,499, as a paradigm shift in computing.

“Just as the Mac introduced us to personal computing, and iPhone introduced us to mobile computing, Apple Vision Pro introduces us to spatial computing,” said Cook.

The Apple Vision Pro will have no controllers, instead relying on hand, eye and voice control. When around another person, it displays the user’s eyes on the outside of the screen.

The technology has sparked a flurry of interest in virtual reality once more, with Apple’s sleek presentations being compared to Meta’s clunky and frequently memed avatars.

But is the Apple Vision Pro enough to rejuvenate the subsided metaverse hype?

Metaverse is no ‘passing fad’

Funding for metaverse companies received a post-Facebook rebrand boost, with investors putting a record £150m into UK virtual reality firms in 2021.

Interest in the metaverse has since waned – particularly in the age of generative AI – and funding levels have plummeted amid a wider investment downturn.

However, Herman Narula, CEO and co-founder of the British metaverse company Improbable, told UKTN the entrance of Apple to the VR and AR market is a “clear indication that the metaverse is far from being a passing fad”.

Narula added: “Although the value of the metaverse is not solely reliant on a single piece of hardware, this release represents an exciting stride towards delivering enhanced experiences.”

Meta’s Reality Labs division, which houses its metaverse efforts, lost $13.7bn in 2022. Critics point out that despite the company’s high spend, retention for Oculus headset users remains underwhelming and an all-encompassing metaverse remains a distant dream.

When asked by UKTN how metaverse momentum compares between Apple’s Vision Pro announcement and Facebook’s shift to Meta, Frankie Cavanagh, CTO of virtual training company Gemba, said:

“It’s not about more or less, it’s about continued momentum in the sector and proof of positive movement in the space.”

Referring to Vision Pro as “‘spatial computing” over the metaverse, Cavanagh thinks “Apple has nailed it”.

Driving mainstream adoption

“Virtual reality and augmented reality have been around for some time now, in their infancy, but no one has really cracked that mainstream take up,” says Martin Rosinski, chief of technology and founder of WOLF, a British tech company building services for mobile and the metaverse.

“However, we see this announcement from Apple as putting the use of ‘mixed reality’ in consumers’ everyday lives onto the horizon.”

Despite the “high price point” starting at $3,499 (£2,800), the Apple Vision Pro will help “eventually” usher in mainstream adoption of VR and AR comments Rosinski.

Leo Gebbie, principal analyst of connected devices at CCS Insight, said: “VR and AR have been through a period of intense scrutiny and scepticism in recent times but if one company has the star power to revive the segment, it’s Apple.”

“At CCS Insight we predict that Apple’s entry into the spatial computing market will lift the fortunes of all players, but the Vision Pro is some way away from being a mass market offering given its price tag, clearing the way for some rivals for now. “