visionOS – The magic of the extended software and hardware symbiosis
The added value of Vision Pro is to visualise content three-dimensionally as virtual worlds or to augment the real world with digital elements. An improved input method with the help of gestures instead of touchscreen, keyboard or mouse, on the other hand, does not result for many use cases. Therefore, apart from video games, fitness and entertainment, XR will only achieve a breakthrough if the XR applications can be seamlessly integrated into the users’ lifestyles and augment them in a meaningful way. This requires integrating the advantages of existing interaction technologies and enhancing them with the possibilities of extended reality. It is specifically these challenges that correspond to Apple’s great strength in building a holistic ecosystem of software and hardware. To some extent, Apple has already demonstrated this with Airdrop, Handoff, Sidecar and AirPod Automatic Switch.
Through the symbiosis of Vision Pro with products such as MacBook, iPad, Apple Pencile, iPhone & Apple Watch, previous applications can be meaningfully expanded.
With Mac Virtual Display, work efficiency is not limited by the small size of the screen in the home office, on business trips or during workation. For example, existing applications can be freely placed around the Mac and, in addition, the potential of three-dimensional visualisation can be fully exploited. Using CAD software, products can be designed as usual and simultaneously visualised and discussed in three dimensions. The combination of hardware and software prototypes in product development also offers new and efficient ways of testing concepts. Interfaces can be designed with Figma, for example, and interaction can be tested directly on hardware prototypes.
Working with the iPad in Mixed Reality offers similar advantages as with a MacBook. In addition, the iPad offers more mobility, inclusion of the gyro sensor and further interaction opportunities such as the integration of the touchscreen or the Apple Pencil.
A big advantage of integrating the iPhone into XR is the already learned, fast and easy iPhone interaction and the fact that the iPhone is the most obvious access to personal content without having to learn any new interaction logic. The iPhone interface adds XR functionality as soon as it is viewed through the Vision Pro. Of course, new possibilities also arise by including the iPhone and its integrated sensors in gaming applications, for example.
The integration of Apple Watch into XR applications offers the possibility to analyse physical activities and movements and to adapt the XR experience accordingly, e.g. to generate customised training content.
Ideal XR applications require a realistic soundscape with 3D audio. Therefore, it is obvious to integrate the existing audio devices into the XR experience.
Extended Reality to distinguish Apple’s software services.
Monetisable software services are relevant growth opportunities for Apple. Apple’s services for movie streaming, music streaming, fitness training, video games or video calls offer no unique added value without XR. This could change with visionOS. The perfect meshing of hardware, software and extended reality content can create a unique experience that is easily accessible through Apple’s current services and offers added value over competing services.
Without XR, differentiation in music streaming is only possible through the quality of the music catalogue, own podcasts, the recommendation algorithm, as well as the design of the interface and the associated services such as Spotify Wrapped or Apple Music Replay. With XR Music Events, Apple now has further opportunities to differentiate itself from Spotify and, at the same time, to reinvent music consumption and fully exploit the advantages of spatial audio with dynamic head tracking. The potential is shown, for example, by virtual concerts by Epic Games, which succeeded in attracting 12.3 million viewers at the same time to a live concert by Travis Scott.
Standalone subscriptions for fitness workouts using smartphone apps or in VR are not new. Apple can now offer consistent, cross-device XR fitness training with one subscription. Fitness+ already demonstrates the dovetailing of hardware such as the Apple Watch, iPad, iPhone or Apple TV, as well as the integration of services such as Apple Music for motivational sound. Vision Pro adds an extra dimension to the service, thereby differentiating it from the competitors. The Apple Watch measures values such as heart rate and the camera including LiDAR scanner from the iPhone, iPad or Mac monitors, for example, the correct posture during Pilates. Of course, the iPhone or iPad with their sensors can also be integrated into the exercises as fitness devices. For providers of smartphone apps such as Freeletics or fitness games on the Meta Quest, it will become more difficult to compete with Apple’s ecosystem.
XR games are certainly the most obvious field of use and will thereby make the Arcade subscription more attractive. It will be interesting to see to what degree the rest of the XR ecosystem of devices and applications such as FaceTime, Maps and Fitness+ can be integrated into new games by game developers.
Exploring Apple Maps with the help of the Look Around feature is certainly the most obvious way to explore Maps with Vision Pro, but even more exciting would be social events and activities in any place in the world. The better certain locations are prepared for VR, the more logical their integration into Fitness+, Facetime or Apple Music experiences is, for example, to experience concerts at special locations. Apple Maps could become the digital twin of the real world and create the basis for many other application opportunities and thus be open to integration for third-party providers.
Currently, apps like WhatsApp dominate the video calling market due to their wide penetration, and Meta is working to secure its lead for the XR era with the help of Horizon Home, Worlds & Workrooms. For this, users are already being motivated to create avatars in apps like Instagram. Meta has the advantage that almost anyone with a mobile device can be called from the metaverse through apps like Facebook, Whatsapp or Instagram. However, with the TrueDepth camera system of the iPhones, iPads, Macs and the Animojis, Apple already has the option of integrating people as avatars into an XR meeting, even without them having to own an XR headset. In this way, Apple creates a seamless transition and can also integrate people into the XR experience who only have a normal Apple device and not a more expensive XR headset.
The market for video streaming services is highly competitive with Netflix and Disney+. Ultimately, the quality of newly produced content will determine future success. Apple could systematically optimise with Apple Immersive Videos new productions for the Vision Pro and create a completely new film experience. In addition to VR films, sports events in particular offer the potential for new immersive experiences, which no other provider could implement as well as Apple.
If visionOS becomes the leading XR operating system, digital goods sales will reach a relevant size and Apple Pay will be seamlessly integrated with biometric authentication, just as Apple Pay is already an integral part of AR Quick Look.