Apple’s Virtual World

Over the past couple of months, I’ve run across multiple articles that have declared the metaverse dead. RIP, only two years after Zuckerberg changed the name of the company to reflect the new focus.

Or not dead but slowly evolving through the hype into… what?

Then again, maybe the metaverse is just waiting for Apple to save it.

Except that I watched the video Apple created to introduce their Vision Pro platform (announced last week at their developer conference) and it doesn’t look anything like the kind of immersive virtual world that Meta appears to be betting the company on.

Apple’s system, which they call “spatial computing”, is more augmented reality than virtual. Taking the traditional computer desktop metaphor and hanging it in the real world.

Instead of creating new, virtual worlds, they are taking stuff you already do in the real world – watch movies, flip through your photos, work with spreadsheets – and gluing it to your eyeballs. Replacing the mouse and keyboard with eye movements and gestures.

At least that’s what appears to be happening in the promotional materials and a few early impressions I’ve read.

Of course, this is only version one. As with most new tech categories, it will go through many iterations before the system is useful for a meaningful part of the population.1 Or maybe it will never reach that point and disappear into the history archive of a Wikipedia article.

As for me, with an initial price of $3500, I certainly won’t be at the front of the line to get one. When they set up demos at the Apple Store, I’ll stop by to see what the system looks like and make a more informed judgement.

But is any of this really “new”. I started playing with “virtual reality” way back in the previous century (Anyone remember QuickTime VR?) and have been actually doing some form of VR ever since, in the form of 360° photos/videos and Google Street View.

Although Google and others have tried to turn those into immersive experiences for the “average” consumer (like the late, semi-lamented Expeditions), the technology still has a long way to go before it will have any kind of significant impact on the classroom.

Maybe Vision Pro will evolve into that system. Possibly Meta will figure it out. Possibly both will flame out.

For now, I’m watching for the first articles about how to use Apple’s new headset in the classroom. And about how it will revolutionize education. You know they’re coming, just like with the first Oculus headsets and ChatGPT.

However, for me, none of this stuff will be of much value for learning until it becomes a platform that goes beyond the standard student-as-consumer applications. Don’t show me another five-minute field trip to see the dinosaurs.

Unless your system includes some easy-to-use tools for students and teachers to create with, the real educational value is just not there.

I’ll be waiting.


The photo shows the new headset on display at Apple’s developers conference last week. Stylish, although a meme on the socials seems to think that Randy Savage, a wrestler popular in the 80’s and 90’s did it first. You be the judge.

1. Think smartphones, digital cameras, Bluetooth, flat-screen TVs, even computers themselves.

2 Comments Apple’s Virtual World

  1. DOUG JOHNSON

    Your post came at a timely moment. I am reading The Skeptics’ Guide to the Future by Steven Novella – a study on how well humans can predict change. Apperantly, not very well. I think you’d like the book. (On the ship in Italy – biking again after breakfast.)

    Reply

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