Could Apple Vision Pro be a serious competitor in the enterprise AR market?
While Vision Pro was mainly pitched as a consumer product when revealed at WWDC in June, Apple also teased enterprise use cases, including room-scale augmented reality apps.
The two enterprise apps mentioned during WWDC were PTC and JigSpace, and this week Apple published brief interviews with the companies behind these apps discussing their experience with Vision Pro.
PTC's CAD Software
PTC has been making CAD (computer aided design) software for over 30 years and remains one of the market leaders.
Desktop PC workstations and tablets are still a great way to design intricate engineering components and machines, but AR & VR are far preferable to a traditional screen for actually visualizing what they'll look like in the real world.
On Vision Pro PTC's app will even support multiple headsets in the same space, seeing the same shared CAD models at true scale.
PTC has also built a networked real-time editing feature so that changes to CAD models in their iPad CAD app are instantly reflected in Vision Pro at true scale.
“I almost get so blasé about VR. But when I had [Apple Vision Pro] on, walking around digital objects and interacting with others in real time — it’s one of those things that makes you stop in your tracks," the company's AR/VR CTO told Apple.
JigSpace's Airflow Visualization
JigSpace claims it already has the "world's highest rated AR app" on iPad. It lets you import 3D models and customize and animate them in 3D presentations that can include images, audio, text labels, and more.
It's an ideal app to come to Vision Pro, and the company partnered with Alfa Romeo to create a demo 'Jig' showing a C43 Formula 1 car at true scale and visualizing the airflow over it.
“One of our guys is a senior 3D artist,” JigSpace's CTO told Apple, “and the first time he saw one of his models in space at scale — and walked around it with his hands free — he actually cried.”
Like PTC, JigSpace will also support colocated collaboration, with multiple headsets in the same room able to see the virtual objects and even draw in 3D to circle points of interest and leave persistent notes floating in space.
Competition For Magic Leap, Microsoft, And Varjo?
Targeting enterprise customers and applications will put Vision Pro in direct competition with the existing trifecta of enterprise AR headsets: Magic Leap 2, Microsoft's HoloLens 2, and Varjo's XR-3 series.
Magic Leap 2 and HoloLens 2 are similarly priced to Vision Pro, but use transparent optics with a much narrower field of view and feature older and weaker CPUs. Magic Leap 2's battery lasts notably longer, though, and both it and HoloLens 2 should be more comfortable to wear.
Varjo's XR-3 series has somewhat comparable field of view and superior clarity in the central foveal display, but costs almost twice as much per headset and has to be cable tethered to an expensive Windows workstation PC. That does greatly expand the potential fidelity and scope of the software it can run, but limits its usefulness for large collaborative spaces.
Another dark horse in the enterprise AR space could of course be Meta's Quest 3. While it offers a noticeably lower quality passthrough experience than Vision Pro or Varjo and features like dynamic occlusion are not yet usable, its much lower price could tempt some organizations, especially smaller companies where seven headsets would be preferable to one.
One of Apple's key advantages though is the ability for companies to relatively easily extend their existing iPad apps into AR using the suite of Apple developer tools they may already use. This could lower the cost, time, and complexity of companies adopting headset-based AR in a way that other companies dependent on Unity and Unreal engine won't be able to easily match.
Of course, Vision Pro has yet to launch and we've only spent a brief time with it. But existing hardware platforms in the space would be unwise to underestimate the competition Apple could soon bring.