Will Apple Vision Pro Be Game-Changing for the AEC Sector?

Apple Vision Pro 2024

Despite their potential, AR and VR have yet to impact the construction industry substantially. Could Apple’s new spatial computing device open the floodgates for mainstream adoption in the AEC sector?

Customers in the USA received the first units of Apple Vision Pro last week. MacRumors said Apple sold around 200,000 units in the first ten days. Reviewers generally agree that the product is the best in the consumer-grade mixed-reality class. They also point out certain shortcomings of the available software and user interface, which are natural for a first-generation product.

Apple has not specified the target customer segment for its headset. Based on its advertising, it’s meant for home use: entertainment and personal productivity. Its price, starting at $3,449, is not consumer-friendly. This first iteration of Apple Visio Pro attracts geeks and software developers, but also some business users will be intrigued.

A capable device

Apple Vision Pro is a well-designed and technically capable product. It is a powerful computer with ultra-high-resolution displays that deliver more pixels than a 4K TV for each eye. It does not require controllers; you control it with your eyes, hands, and voice.

The device provides spatial audio and pass-through video so that you can see your surroundings as a stereo video image. 

The headset has a LiDAR that enables mixed-reality functionality. In other words, you can, for example, place virtual objects on physical objects, and they stay there. The LiDAR is like that on the 2020 iPad Pro, so it has a maximum range of about 5 meters with one-centimeter accuracy.

What’s different?

AEC users already have a few headsets available that can match Apple Vision Pro in some respects. For example, Microsoft’s Hololens 2 has spatial, eye, and hand mapping, and the Varjo  XR-4 series has a 4K display per eye. XYZ Reality’s Atom allows positioning 3D model holograms to millimeter accuracy onsite. 

What would make Apple Vision Pro stand out from an AEC point of view? 

Ease of use and familiarity for iPad users are essential factors, as is the whole Apple developer ecosystem, which has already provided more than 600 apps and games that use the device’s capabilities. But do they give so much value that an AEC professional would trade their phone, tablet, or laptop for a headset?

Is this the future of computing?

The crucial success factor is software that solves everyday problems for an AEC user. Future editions of Apple Vision Pro could greatly benefit collaboration, design, and virtual reviewing, inspection and installation. But even today’s version could gain users if tech developers become financially motivated to develop good software for the platform.

The reviewers note that even Apple could not resolve the issues of previous generations of head-mounted displays, including the weight (600 to 650 grams or 21.2 to 22.9 ounces). The company has tried to ease the social isolation caused by wearing an eye-covering mask. Apple, if anyone, has the resources to solve many problems, but more needs to be done.

Apple touts spatial computing as a paradigm change. Meta tried the same with the metaverse but soon turned to AI as a more lucrative business. Still, Meta has sold over 30 million of its Quest headsets. Was Apple too late to the game or too early?

Anyway, the concept of spatial computing is captivating. Yet, fully incorporating it into our professional lives will require significant advancements over several years, even for Apple.

Title image: Steve Zhang

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