Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you’ve probably seen Apple’s latest product announcement. The Vision Pro is a spatial computer, equipped with both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) capabilities.
AR and VR are types of interactive experiences. The two have quite similar concepts but complement each other well. AR combines the real world with computer-generated content and is something many will have already experienced, with a range of smartphones and tablets already boasting these capabilities. VR differs from this as it is entirely simulated and immersive. Fewer people have experienced VR as a specialised headset is required.
Although the Vision Pro will not be released to the public until at least 2024, millions of developers will be gearing up to secure a space as one of the first (non-Apple) applications for the system, so marketers should be taking notes too.
Metaverse deja vu?
We previously covered marketing within the Metaverse, a 3D virtual realm created by Meta, built off of VR technology that users can access in the form of a cartoon avatar. Users can access the Metaverse using a VR headset and hand-operated controllers. Meta’s goal was to use VR as a method to connect people to each other, without ever needing to leave their homes. It’s basically a 3D, immersive version of the internet.
Some brands and notable figures quickly jumped at the opportunity to present themselves in this virtual world, with artists holding concerts and brands hosting pop-up shops entirely inside the Metaverse. However, as of 2023, the Metaverse hasn’t quite picked up the traction that the developers had originally hoped for.
Apple has taken quite a different approach with the Vision Pro. To put it simply, it’s pretty much a Macbook in the form of a headset, with similar capabilities displayed under a new experience. Unlike accessing the Metaverse, the Vision Pro is entirely controlled by the user’s eye movements and simple hand gestures. Apple is aiming to showcase just how seamlessly VR and AR can merge with our everyday lives.
Both AR and VR technologies can provide unique and powerful opportunities for brands.
Accurate consumer data
There’s already a wealth of consumer data available at our fingertips. Google knows incredible amounts of information about its users through the way they navigate the web, and social media apps gather large volumes of data through the way users interact with the platform. That being said, Apple’s Vision Pro is likely to exceed what we’ve seen before in terms of accurate user data.
The headset is covered in sensors in order to map the user’s eye movements, hand gestures and environment. This is to do with the functionality of the system but will have plenty of other uses for businesses and marketers. Taking into account a user’s gaze patterns, gestures, expressions, interactions and even emotions will provide insight into genuine and trustworthy consumer behaviour. If what we currently have is known as targeted advertising, the Vision Pro will be able to facilitate hyper-targeted ads.
For an ad to be effective it needs to grab the attention of consumers and hold it long enough for them to be curious for more. The way we design and structure ad campaigns progresses with the times, following the latest trends and popular platforms, and the introduction of the Vision Pro will be no different. AR and VR technology will open new doors for marketers in the way of interactive ads.
Imagine an ad for a burger restaurant where you can assemble your perfect burger in front of you, picking all of the ingredients – and no, not swiping your finger on a screen, but visually building it in the space in front of you. That would definitely get me hungry! Or comparably, a furniture ad disguised behind an interactive space you could design with furniture and decor. Even if a user chooses against completing the ad to its full capacity, it will definitely have caught their attention.
Not only are interactive ads much more engaging and memorable than their 2D counterparts, but the enhanced immersion of AR and VR on top will allow brands to create a lasting impression on consumers. This will help build strong brand awareness and develop a deeper connection between the brand and the consumer.
Try before you buy
Think of a company that manufactures living room furniture. Traditionally, customers would need to measure their space and then either browse online or head to a showroom or storefront to compare different models and designs. This process could be streamlined for Vision Pro users, with ways to view items in their own homes before purchasing. Potential customers would be able to view a new sofa or coffee table exactly where it would be placed within their space, changing out different colour swatches to see what best suits their existing decor and making sure the product’s measurements will suitably fit within the desired location.
Viewing a prospective purchase within its desired environment allows for an easier and more confident decision-making process, increased customer satisfaction and reduced returns. Customers would be able to take a complete tour of the product, viewing all of the features, benefits and functionality, without the need for a physical sales rep to talk them through it.
Stronger market research
Before a product begins physical production, users could virtually interact with it, testing digital prototypes that feel as close to real as you can get without being… well, real! The data collected and the feedback given by individual users would be incredibly valuable to product developers and would make the entire process more cost-effective and efficient.
Product demos and guides
Companies like IKEA and Argos sell furniture items for relatively cheap with the caveat that customers have to build the items themselves. This often doesn’t deter people, despite the fact that it can be frustrating trying to navigate one large bag of mixed screws and fixings along with somewhat ambiguous diagrams.
The Vision Pro could make this process much simpler. Imagine buying a new shelving unit and instead of having to scrutinise the little drawings to figure out the building process you could physically (well, digitally) see the item being built in front of you. Step-by-step simulations would help enhance the customer experience and their understanding of the process.
Things like user manuals could also become a thing of the past. For new pieces of tech, like kitchen gadgets, a printer or even lawnmowers, customers could view an interactive version of the product, able to specify certain buttons or settings to learn more about what they do. This also ties in nicely with the ‘try before you buy’ aspect I mentioned above.
Showrooms, events and conferences
The Vision Pro could open a completely new take on a traditional showroom. Users could ‘visit’ a showroom from the comfort of their own homes to compare models, getting a much more realistic feel for each design than a 2D brochure could ever offer. This would also work well with a variety of businesses, such as kitchen or bathroom manufacturers and car dealerships. Similarly, companies and organisations would be able to host virtual conferences and events, reaching a much wider audience as venue capacity would no longer be a concern.
It’s still extremely early days for the Vision Pro, and with a $3500 price tag, the average consumer is unlikely to be delving in straight away. However, the potential that this new system will unlock is definitely worth exploring. I’m intrigued to see how this pans out, and excited for all of the new ways that brands will present themselves within the new space.