No, the metaverse didn’t die… neither did Interactive TV
June 8, 2023 - Gerard Kunkel, managing partner, NMP
Just as people were taking their first virtual steps into imaginative 3D worlds, the name “metaverse” got tainted, overhyped, and abused before anyone knew what it was. Hopefully that won’t be the case with spatial computing.
Some industry pundits debated whether this new experience should be called “metaverse” or “Web3” as if the two were interchangeable. Really? Tech and service companies jumped on the bandwagon to catch some of the investor interest in the metaverse. Is Snap really a metaverse experience?
Rather than debating what labels to put on a technology, let’s look at the enabling technology and explore the applications that bring to life new consumer experiences and business opportunities. Just as I told Chris Falkner this morning, this recent negative hype surrounding the metaverse feels very much like the early days of Interactive TV (ITV). For ITV, naysayers were calling it dead long before it evolved into a remarkable interactive media ecosystem. The early concepts and supporting technology behind ITV gave way to interactive on-screen guides, video on demand, dynamic ad insertion, DVR's, and today's remarkably robust streaming video business. Interactive TV never died, it evolved and found its reason for being with the advent of the Internet! All the high-quality product and service ideas born of the ITV era found a much better home on the Internet. Broader distribution was enabled by open standards, larger, more ubiquitous audiences, and a flexible more capable platform for feature growth using consumer-owned devices.
The term metaverse is a poor way of describing the myriad technologies that enable it. We're about to see a remarkable explosion of interactive experiences that operate cross-platform and are always available because of the cloud, wireless communications, artificial intelligence, beautiful displays, and limitless creativity from millions of creators!
Yesterday, Apple showed us just how amazing an experience can be when you embrace all these technologies and invent dozens more of your own. Apple stands on the shoulders of many great inventions and ideas over decades of pursuit or XR (AR, VR and MR), and brings both UX prowess and creative engineering might to their introduction of Vision Pro. Among the many impressive features of this device is the inclusion of custom chips – designed and optimized to manage the many sensors embedded within it. Additionally, the custom glass allows for a super high-resolution display while also providing the widest possible field of vision. And of course, there’s the new visionOS operating system that will support existing applications – making this a more attractive productivity and entertainment device from day one.
Put all of that together with a vision for an exceptional UX and what do you have? Welcome, spatial computing.
As others have been saying this may well mark a new era in computing. Apple did it before with the GUI on the original Mac, the portable computing with the iPhone, iPod, iPad and Apple Watch. Spatial computing is all about leveraging the computing devices and software that enable our work, play, learn, entertain, and relax into a new three-dimensional presentation and interaction form. The new Apple Vision Pro is not an XR headset as much as it is a powerful wearable computer that augments your vision and hearing with experiences that seamlessly integrates with your surroundings. Colleague and friend, Tim Bajarin, summed up the Vision Pro device feature set nicely in his recent Forbes article.
From a hardware standpoint, the headset has two micro-OLED displays packing 23 million pixels and optics capable of being fine-tuned for any person's vision needs. In addition, it is powered by an Apple M2 processor, and a brand-new Apple-designed companion chip called the R1 to handle related processing from 12 cameras, five sensors and six microphones in real time. More importantly, these chips are so fast that there is no latency, something that in other headsets with slower processors can cause nausea and dizziness.
- Tim Bajarin, Forbes
Without a doubt, Patrick Donoghue or I will purchase an Apple Vision Pro for development purposes. To be clear, we’re not giving up on other XR devices . There are many practical and more affordable XR devices already in circulation – and the installed base will only grow while we wait for the Apple Vision Pro to be released next year.
There’s no question that it will take time to establish a marketplace for these technologies, and we will have countless new app experiences created by talented designers and developers. However, Apple should be given credit for advancing these core technologies and packaging it into a hardware and software powered experience that paints a very compelling vision of the future of personal computing. Now, let’s not get too wrapped up in what to call this category. As we say at NMP… Let’s get together and work on next.