2024 could be the year. I can feel it in my bones, I swear! This could be the year you get into VR. But why now? Well, I can’t blame you for asking: a lot of things have been going on in the XR realm lately and putting all the pieces of the puzzle together has become a bit of a challenge.
So I decided to help you! Because what I said at the beginning is not clickbait: 2024 could turn out to be the year when VR becomes more than just a trend or a gaming option. And you may hate me for saying this, but it may or may not be due to Apple’s upcoming Vision Pro headset.
Here’s the deal: let me try to explain why, and then you can disagree with me all you want in the comments. And I won’t be mad if you still buy a headset in 2024. I mean, some of the best VR headsets could very well be released next year, so how could I blame you?
Vision Pro is about to be released
… And it could happen as soon as January, which is less than a month from now.
We’ll talk more about what that could potentially mean later in this article, but what you need to know now — as an extra bit of context related to everything else before we get there — is that just the announcement of Apple’s first headset really sent ripples across the XR industry.
Money was flying left and right, investments were made, feature sets of planned products were changed… There really is a lot to explain. But basically: many companies and manufacturers reacted to Apple’s announcement about Vision Pro.
And now we’re practically waiting for Samsung — a company that never showed interest in VR until Apple’s announcement — to reveal a VR headset. It means something, doesn’t it?
The Elephant in the Room: Quest 3
Well, there’s no point in beating around the bush: the Quest 3 is, at the end of 2023, the best commercially available XR headset worth your money. Why? Well, here are some factors that can help you get an idea:
- The Meta Quest store is home to the largest library of VR apps and games
- It can entertain you in standalone mode, but it can also be linked to a PC
- It has cutting-edge cutting-edge features such as Full Body Synthesis, which essentially enables full-body tracking without any external trackers: a first of its kind
- Finally, impressive mixed reality features are enabled, and even more are expected to arrive in 2024
- All this for around $500
Now, don’t get me wrong: the one Mission 3 is far from perfect. But here’s the key:
- If you compare it to its predecessors or competitors, you can quite easily see how far VR has really come
- If you pick up a headset for the first time and it is Mission 3you won’t run into many of the meme-style obstacles that the rest of us have had to deal with for the past five years or so
And that means a lot. The question is what will that mean in 2024 and beyond?
Gaming still dominates the VR market
This is what 2023’s most anticipated AAA VR games look like.
Now, that doesn’t mean that great VR apps aren’t available to consumers at all. Lots of good choices for multitasking, 3D modeling or even painting are available. But for the most part, people are still attracted to VR for the gaming possibilities.
But honestly Vision Pro can change it for the first time. But more on that later.
Pico’s exciting fate
If you haven’t heard of the Pico brand, here’s what you should know:
- Manufacturer of headsets
- Quite admirable software quality
- Competitive price tag
- The Pico 4 is a fan favorite and it’s available in the West
- The company is owned by ByteDance, maker of TikTok
- Oh no
And, yes, many events have occurred over the past few months related to the latest one, but here’s a TL;DR version:
- A Tencent-owned news outlet reported that Pico will exit the VR space
- Pico denied the claim and promised to show a roadmap for future products soon
- ByteDance went on to lay off thousands of Pico employees
- Pico announced that since VR doesn’t make much money from it, it will focus on making money VR headset(???)
- Tencent announced a partnership with Meta for a budget-friendly VR headset. Oh no II: oh god!
- Point 4 still doesn’t make sense, so Pico clarified that it will make a headset to compete with the Vision Pro
So, yes: the company with just a few devices under its belt, which just let go of most of its staff, announced its intentions to compete with Apple’s Vision Pro. And I know how this sounds – and I swear I don’t drink on the job – but this makes sense. I mean, we’ll talk about Apple’s plans later in this article, but what you need to know is this:
No one is brave enough to enter the same niche. Everyone is patiently waiting to see how Apple does first. And Pico? Well, it’s not like the brand has much more left to lose, right? So targeting the one niche that no one else is actually targeting does at on of reason.
How it all might play out is another story entirely, but it will certainly be interesting to follow.
A future where Meta and Tencent are partners
Did you think I am? not going to talk about the craziest thing from the list above?
Why is that crazy? Well, because Tencent — aka the company that owns the companies which owns Fortnite and League of Legends, and more — had a hand in when Meta’s services like Facebook and Instagram were banned in China.
But now the turntables have turned. In the latter half of 2023, we heard many rumors surrounding a budget-friendly headset from Meta, but personally: I didn’t see any of them hinting at the idea of this Meta x Tencent partnership.
Of course, the duo will be a force to be reckoned with. Tencent’s involvement could see some of the world’s most profitable franchises join the largest library of VR apps and games, owned by Meta. And all that, at a record low price.
With no plans to limit the headset to Eastern markets, by the way.
The idea makes for an absolutely irresistible deal, especially given that gaming remains at the center of VR culture. But could something like this derail Apple’s plans? Well… Honestly, it’s up in the air for now.
Vision Pro: a new frontier for XR?
Okay, I’ve teased you with the whole article. What is Apple’s big secret?
Well, it’s simple really: Big A is not do what everyone else is make.
Right now, headsets are either:
- Consumer oriented, allowing enthusiasts of all budget backgrounds to enjoy VR gaming and entertainment
- Enterprise-focused, allowing the true professionals to shape and improve the future of humanity in ways we’ll probably never even see
But here’s the deal: unless you’re aiming to get a high-end gaming simulator headset, like the Pimax Crystal, consumer headsets won’t break the bank. Enterprise headsets, on the other hand, have crazy asking prices, often exceeding the five-figure mark. And that’s without the annual support feeling. Which are mandatory.
So in that context, does the Vision Pro’s hefty price tag still seem crazy? Because for that you get:
- Everything that consumer-grade headsets offer
- Access to the Apple ecosystem
- Pro-grade features that aren’t super-modern, but still allow plenty of enthusiasts and advanced workers to use XR to work in new and exciting ways
Also, did you notice how during the headset showcase Apple didn’t put any emphasis on gaming? Well, that’s because Vision Pro may actually be the first consumer-grade productivity-oriented headset. I mean, obvious it lets you play games. But the point is that this is no longer the selling point, which is a first for the industry. Oh, and let’s not forget: whether you want to admit it or not, one of VR’s biggest problems is the user experience (UX) that the technology often offers. For someone new to technology, UX can be abysmal.
Which may or may not explain why VR hasn’t blown up yet as much as smartphones have.
But after mentioning phones, can you think of a company that has made UX one of its selling points? Because you can’t really talk about human-centered design without mentioning Apple for a very good reason.
Yes, Vision Pro’s announcement sent resounding vibrations throughout the XR industry. But depending on how well Apple plays its cards, the release of the thing could change the entire industry itself. And we all get to see it happen in 2024.
2024: a very exciting year for VR!
Now that you’ve seen the bigger picture, all in one place, you can see that the state of the XR industry isn’t exactly complicated, but it’s not easy to explain or follow either. Sure, you may not agree with me on every point, but this was just me trying to give you a better idea of where we are.
But whether you agree with me or not, one thing is for sure: 2024 is going to be an insane year for the XR. Not only because we’re destined to see some of the coolest tech to come out in years, but also because the way we look at tech could completely change moving forward.
Who knows? We might be better for it. And I can not wait to find out.
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