The luxury VR headsets are coming, but they won't change the game
Apple Vision Pro will be followed by similarly expensive headsets from Samsung and others. But they won't move the needle (yet).
The Apple Vision Pro will be available in the US early next year. The starting price of $3,500 implies that the device could become even more expensive depending on customizations.
If rumors are to be believed, the competition won't be far behind: Samsung and Google are working on a device to compete with Apple's mixed reality headset, and Meta and LG are also making plans. All of these devices are likely to use a brand new Qualcomm chipset that could rival Apple's M-series silicon.
This means that these headsets will be expensive. They will be aimed at enterprise, professionals and enthusiasts, not consumers.
The tech isn't ready for prime time
Will Vision Pro and other devices in this price range expand the market significantly? I don't think so.
To be truly useful (e.g., as a laptop replacement) and become part of people's everyday lives, headsets must not only become easy-to-use general-purpose computers, but also be so light and comfortable that they're almost unnoticeable. Vision Pro and the like may be moving into the first area, but the second is still out of reach.
According to Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, VR headsets first need to become something everyone wants before they can become something everyone can afford. I, for one, am skeptical that with today's technology they can be good enough for everyone to want them. The form factor, quality, and usability are not there yet.
High-end drives innovation
In a broader context, however, the project of standalone high-end headsets is worthwhile in the sense that it drives technical innovation. Be it hardware or software.
Affordable headsets like the Meta Quest 3 do not even have eye tracking built in, and that alone is slowing progress in important areas like interface design. The same is true for other sensing technologies. It will be interesting to see what new applications higher quality hardware will enable by simply doing existing things well enough.
People who have been following the industry for ten years or more tend to forget that it's still early days for VR and AR. The best headsets right now are also the worst because everything that follows will get better. The first generation of high-end standalone headsets won't be a game changer for the industry, at least not in economic terms. But that shouldn't discourage anyone.