Apple’s Vision Pro could change the way people watch TV at home and how they use computers at work, potentially making the headset the successor to both the traditional TV and the Mac.
The $3,500 headset, which combines three-dimensional digital material with a view of the outside world, landed in the company’s physical stores in the United States on Friday. The headset enters a market flooded by cheaper rivals from Meta Platforms, HTC and others, which have mostly been confined to the video game market and failed to find a mass audience.
But Apple’s expensive device comes with custom computer chips and difficult-to-manufacture screens that rivals lack. Analysts who have tried the headset say these features could make the device a threat to almost any large two-dimensional screen at home or work.
Walt Disney has been quietly working with Apple for years on an app for the launch of the Vision Pro, the latest in a history of collaboration between the two companies.
When we saw this, it became clear that it was a new canvas for how we can tell stories in a way that hasn’t been done before, said Aaron LaBerge, Disney Entertainment’s chief technology officer. And so it became pretty clear that we wanted to do something here, just as a way to expand ourselves.
The Disney+ app immerses movie viewers in one of four environments, allowing them to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens from the seat of a fictional X-34 landspeeder on the planet Tatooine, as a futuristic drive-in movie theater, or Avengers: Endgame from Avengers Tower in downtown Manhattan. Viewers can also watch 42 Disney films in 3D, including the blockbusters Avatar: The Way of Water, Black Panther and Inside Out.
Jamie Voris, chief technology officer at Walt Disney Studios, said filmmakers such as The Lion King director Jon Favreau and “Avatar’s” James Cameron are interested in telling stories in new ways. Disney has developed an experience that it showcased in a video at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in June, in which consumers interact with Marvel Studios’ animated anthology series, What If?
The device also opens up new ways to experience live sporting events or theme park attractions, Voris said.
It really ties in with what we do best, which is bringing our characters and stories into the real world and bringing you closer to the people you care about, Voris said.
It’s not clear whether a mixed-reality device was what late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs had in mind when he confided to biographer Walter Isaacson that in developing a new generation of television, I had finally cracked it. But for analysts like Ben Bajarin of Creative Strategies, the Vision Pro seemed to deliver on that long-ago promise.
“I don’t know if this is what Jobs meant when he said ‘I cracked TV,'” Bajarin said. “But the platform element is what makes it more interesting than if they were to launch a TV. It could be productivity. It could be social. … It could be a much bigger deal and a much bigger opportunity than if it were just a TV are.”
The Vision Pro will certainly not become a bestseller anytime soon. In a note to investors, Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst at Bernstein, said Apple has told its supply chain that only 1 million units will be built — and even that could mean Apple is preparing excess capacity for consumer demand.
Apple’s approach suggests a lack of confidence that consumers will feel compelled to buy right away without needing to be convinced by in-store demos, Sacconaghi wrote.
But the high price is less of a barrier for business buyers.
Jay Wright, president of Campfire, a startup that makes software for using headsets to collaborate remotely on three-dimensional files such as engine designs, noted that the original Mac computer in 1984 cost the equivalent of nearly $7,500 today. But small businesses chose the Mac for its ability to create and print documents and brochures.
It’s important to realize that this isn’t a consumer accessory like the Apple Watch. This is a very new computing platform, Wright said. My opinion is that this is more like what comes after the Mac than what comes after the iPhone. (Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco and Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Henderson and Lisa Shumaker)