Immersion as Sales Strategy. Apple’s “Vision Pro”

Robin Baum
3 min readJun 7, 2023

So far, the next big thing hasn’t worked out so well — virtual, mixed, and extended reality haven’t made it to the broad market despite the efforts of big players like Microsoft, Meta, Sony, or Google. Now Apple is the next of the usual suspects to try it.

They call the matter, already a bit more humble, Spatial Computing. And “Vision Pro” is a somewhat precise name since it alludes to the optical perception the device wants to hijack. To produce smooth, i.e., pixel-free images despite the short distance to the eye, the glasses deliver an extremely high resolution, which — a media classic — is supposed to make the technical arrangement finally forgettable. Thus, the marketing trump card is — as with the in-house M-chips of the last few years — the hardware.

The point here is to highlight Apple’s strategic imagination briefly. The brand uses the top media-historical reference for immersion: the movie theater. In this room, which tries to eliminate the visual and acoustic stimuli of the first reality as effectively as possible, we have learned the maximum immersion in the audiovisual space — and Apple tries to copy this experience into the new setting to make it palatable for us. If you look at the accompanying promotional video, the consumption of image-heavy media is front and center: Movies, games, and private photography. To mitigate the horror of the new, the focus is directed to situations of reception in which immersion is known, learned, and desired.

The goal of immersion can be seen above all in the glasses’ design. The approach is the same as with Oculus, HTC, and others — the headset completely covers the eye area so that we can only see what the device shows us — unlike Microsoft’s HoloLens, for example, which allows an electronically unfiltered view at least in peripheral perception. With Apple, on the other hand, you still look like a diver from the 19th century — a lot of stuff on your face with a hose on your body.

Apple uses sophisticated camera technology to mirror the first reality in the second. But no matter how high the resolution is, it does not change the fact that we are neither dealing with Mixed nor Extended Reality, but with Virtual Reality. There is, in a strict sense, no mixing or augmentation, because the environment never appears as such but always as an artificial image. The light that hits my eyes is electronic — and the function of the tight-fitting mask is precisely to block away extraneous light. For spectators, the view of my eyes on the outside of the device is also electronic — what appears to be transparent glass is just a screen. Anyone who thinks there is no loss of location or sense should scratch their head.

Das eigentliche Pfund des Teils liegt ohnehin in der Interaktivität, die Blicke und Finger miteinander verknüpft. Mit derartiger Magie oder sogar Telepathie rücken wir wirklich ein ganzes Stück näher an Spielbergs Minority Report heran. Werbestrategisch aber sollen wir anfangs nur dazu gebracht werden, den Film im neuen Gerät zu schauen. Der Zukunft bleibt, den Brocken im Gesicht so zu miniaturisieren, dass die Trennung der Räume endgültig aufgehoben wird.

The device’s real asset lies in interactivity, which links glances and fingers. With such magic or telepathy, we get much closer to Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report. Regarding advertising strategy, however, we shall be persuaded by watching the film on the new device. The future remains to miniaturize the chunk in the face so somebody will finally remove the separation of spaces.

Originally published at https://diedinge.net on June 7, 2023.

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Robin Baum

Design practitioner with a background in media/culture theory.