The longer the coronavirus pandemic has dragged on — which is to say, the longer I’ve gone without being able to travel, which is something I’d normally do multiple times a year — it’s gotten harder to resist plunking down a few hundred dollars for a VR headset like the Oculus Quest 2. I couldn’t care less about the games on offer, and I have no interest in slashing a lightsaber in sync with a beat as some form of exercise. No, the thing that’s been intriguing me about this headset from Facebook-owned Oculus is its potential for helping me scratch the travel itch, albeit in just a small way, until such time as most people have been vaccinated and authorities like the CDC say that non-essential travel is safe once again.
Oculus Quest apps like Wander and Google Earth VR can immerse you anywhere in the world you want to go, at least with visuals and sometimes other media formats that include video and sound — no vaccination card or quarantining required. The hardware’s graphics capability is generally well-regarded, the price ($299) is fantastic, and it doesn’t require any cords or need to be tethered to a PC. My, and I think many people’s, hang-up about the product, though, has to do with its parent company. The Oculust Quest 2 requires a Facebook login, which will give a not insignificant number of people pause, as a consequence of the social networking giant basically torching its own reputation repeatedly over the years. With brings me to a possible alternative, the apparently forthcoming Apple headset that tech blogs have been buzzing about this week — and which could get at least a first unveiling as soon as WWDC 2021, depending on whether you believe the most aggressive rumored timelines.
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Right away, a headset like this from the iPhone maker is intriguing enough on the basis of it being Not Facebook that this could be perhaps a more comfortable entry point into VR/MR for some people.
I’m already an iPhone/iPad/MacBook Air owner, so I’m sure that a headset of this kind from Apple might eventually open up all sorts of cross-pollination opportunities within the Apple ecosystem, similar to what Apple is currently doing on the entertainment front. For example, to complement For All Mankind, an Apple TV+ show that tells an alternate history of the space race between the US and the Soviet Union, Apple also offers a companion For All Mankind podcast, as well as a For All Mankind augmented reality experience that you can enjoy with your iPhone.
It’s not hard to see where a headset could fit into that same content equation, offering you a VR-style experience that lets you explore, say, the surface of the moon, or NASA’s Mission Control.
Apple gets my money when their VR headset arrives.
I have full confidence that this will happen.
It will kick off the avalanche and provide a secure market for indies. It will be like 2008 all over again.
— Anjin Games (Simon Gillespie) 🌟 (@anjin_games) March 29, 2021
As we noted in a post earlier today, Bloomberg got the Apple blogosphere fired up by reporting that Apple is “poised to announce a mixed reality headset, its first major new device since 2015.” Depending on which leak you put the most stock in, the Apple headset has been described as offering virtual reality and/or mixed reality, which are not the same things — terms which people may be lazily using here interchangeably.
“If history has taught us anything, it’s that Apple doesn’t go first in market, but somehow it manages to do it better,” tech blogger, vlogger, and startup adviser Hillel Fuld told me. “I expect the upcoming glasses to be no different and I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple’s entry into the AR world would be the beginning of this technology going mainstream.”
Ming-Chi Kuo, the most accurate Apple leaker in the world, has previously said the headset will carry a very Apple-like price tag. Which is to say, a it won’t be for cheapskates (around $1,000). It becomes a question of, once you’ve decided to go down the VR/MR road, whether Facebook’s offering is good enough — or whether it’s worth it to you to pay Apple for a more premium experience that also has the benefit of not locking you deeper into the web of one of the most hated companies on the planet.
I’ve found myself coming around to the possibility of these headsets not being super-expensive, barely-useful toys a la something like Google Glass. For me, the travel-focused experiences are definitely the most attractive element right now. Hopefully, whatever Apple is cooking up in this department can satisfy this kind of interest in customers like me, because the Oculus Quest 2 certainly has some fantastic, well-regarded apps and experiences along these lines at the moment.
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