Why fashion can’t ignore augmented reality

Apple’s Monday announcement of its Vision Pro augmented reality headset wasn’t just about introducing a fun new product it thinks consumers will buy.

It’s a bet on the future of computers.

As CEO Tim Cook sees it, Vision Pro is the next step in a long evolution that began with the advent of personal computers in the 1970s. Another leap occurred in the 2000s with the rise of smartphones, which put billions, essentially portable computers, in the hands of people around the world. The final stage of this process, at least according to Cook, is “spatial computing,” where digital elements are overlaid on the user’s physical world.

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

Apple is not alone in thinking that the future of computing will combine the digital and the physical. Companies like Microsoft, Google, Magic Leap, Snap, and others have all created devices that show at least some faith in this vision. Meta went ahead and changed its name. his confidence was so great.

Whatever fashion businesses think about it, the idea that computers will soon merge the physical and the digital isn’t going away, even if we don’t call it the “metaverse.” Apple is now working to create a content ecosystem for the future, and fashion may be involved.

One of Apple’s draws has always been the apps available for its devices. In the early years of the iPhone, “there’s an app for that” became Apple’s catchphrase as the company worked to convince consumers that its device offered enough uses to justify the price. With Vision Pro, the company is hinting at a similar strategy. Much of its presentation focused on how it brings Disney content, multiple games and work tools to the AR platform it has created. It also aims to engage app developers to create their own content.

Fashion companies can find it hard to resist. Many have smartphone apps for e-commerce and enhanced storytelling (often finding customers who download their apps tend to spend more and return more often). It’s not hard to imagine different brand experiences, such as immersive e-commerce stores or realistic product showcases, that brands and retailers could develop.

While fashion hasn’t rushed to create similar experiences for other AR products, Apple may be more tempted to do so given the company’s reputation for design and fashion. Meta may have partnered with Ray-Ban on smart glasses, but Apple’s most famous fashion partner is luxury Hermès. As a brand, Apple certainly has a reputation, and at least so far its AR experience seems more polished than others.

The Verge’s editor-in-chief Nilay Patel was able to try out the Vision Pro at an Apple event and called it “the best headset demo ever,” adding that “Apple’s ability to do mixed reality is seriously impressive.” Joanna Stern, technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal, says “this is the best virtual or augmented reality headset out there right now.” In an interview with CNBC.

On the other hand, both emphasized that Apple can call it a “space computer” all it likes, but the device still works and feels a lot like a VR headset. Patel noted that as impressive as the Vision Pro is, it doesn’t answer the question of what problem it solves better than a 2D display.

That’s a question Apple needs to answer for consumers, and fashion businesses may understandably decide to wait and see how they react before jumping to its AR platform. Currently, analysts predict that widespread adoption of Vision Pro will be years away. According to Reuters, estimates of how many units Apple could ship in its first year range from 200,000 to more than 1 million units, still short of the 1.4 million iPhones shipped in the product’s launch year. thanks in large part to Vision. The Pro’s top price is $3,499.

Meanwhile, Apple seems intent on doing what it can to attract app developers who have a good incentive to oblige. Last week, Apple announced that its App Store ecosystem “contributed to $1.1 trillion in developer payments and sales” by 2022 and attracted more than 650 million average weekly visitors worldwide. While Vision Pro’s audience will be much smaller at first, a number of developers will likely still want to jump in to try and capitalize early.

As the company works to expand its content, it and others seem poised to continue developing augmented reality products for years to come. Meta continues to invest billions in the development of its own headphones. Its Reality Labs unit lost $13.7 billion last year, a testament to the scale of its spending. It reportedly plans to release smart glasses in 2025 and full AR glasses by 2027. Microsoft has said it hasn’t given up on HoloLens, despite rumors last year that it would kill the device. Meanwhile, startups like Humane continue to try to launch their own products.

These may or may not become the dominant way people shop online. But they don’t go away. Fashion can also think about how to take advantage.

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