Apple’s Mixed-Reality Headset is Headed For a Reality Check
Apple’s upcoming mixed-reality headset may or may not be ready for prime time, but it should launch anyway.
By all accounts Apple is gearing up for a release of its mixed-reality headset. But despite the steady stream of rumors and chatter in the media, thus far there has not been a lot of hype for the device. If news reports are to be believed, even Apple’s leadership team seems skeptical. I must admit, I have some doubts too.
Frankly, I’m still not sold on mixed reality as a standalone product category. Sure, being able to stay productive while freely moving around seems intriguing. But when push comes to shove, can it really compete with the likes of a Mac or an iPad?
Microsoft’s HoloLens is a good example. Despite the early buzz, after more than 5 years since its launch the device is still confined to niche industrial sectors, mostly in healthcare and manufacturing. Apparently, Microsoft shelved the next version of the device and there are no signs of a consumer model on the horizon either.
Utility aside, though, I am also not convinced about the ergonomics of mixed-reality wearables. I already feel fatigued after wearing my headphones for a while and can’t imagine any kind of headset can offer a more comfortable experience. Not to mention the issues of motion sickness and eye fatigue, which are common of such devices too.
Despite my reservations, I am curious to see Apple’s take on a mixed-reality headset. Apple has a lot to contribute to this product category: from its cutting-edge chip designs and outstanding industrial design, to its software engineering muscle and a growing knack for services integration. These strengths are simply begging to be applied to mixed reality as well.
But no matter how good Apple’s engineers and designers are, innovative products simply cannot be made in vacuum. There comes a time when you have to start testing your ideas with real people, in the real world. If Apple is ever to succeed in mixed reality, it must bring its first product to market. It’s that simple.
How well will that initial product be received is hard to gauge. But as feedback trickles in and as the underlying technology matures Apple should be able to iron out any kinks in the value proposition and industrial design. What may initially seem like a niche product, can over time evolve into another staple in wearables, along with Apple Watch and AirPods.
The world might not be anxiously awaiting Apple’s mixed-reality headset yet, but that shouldn’t stop the company from launching it anyway. While I continue to have serious concerns about utility and ergonomics of such a device, these challenges are also cut out for a company like Apple. All it needs now is to hear from its customers.