Apple is telling developers NOT to use “virtual reality” when talking about Vision Pro
The Vision Pro will go on sale next month, and we just learned that Apple has requested that app developers for visionOS (the operating system that runs on the headset) not refer to visionOS apps as “AR” or “VR.” .
We first heard about Apple’s latest innovation in June 2023, where it was marketed as a spatial computer that combines digital content with the user’s physical environment. It’s also equipped with some serious graphics specs from Apple and visionOS, which is Apple’s “the world’s first spatial computer system”.
At first glance, the Vision Pro certainly seems to be on par with existing Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) headsets, so it’s interesting that Apple is going to great lengths to ensure it isn’t mistaken for just one. The de facto ban on AR and VR references (as well as Extended Reality (XR) and Mixed Reality (MR)) was noted in the guidelines of the new Xcode update (Apple’s suite of developer tools) that came after the announcement that Vision Pro devices will be available in stores in early February.
Apple lays down the law
This recommendation is laid out quite explicitly on a new Apple Developer page, which details what a developer should do to prepare their app for submission to the App Store.
Apple insists that developers will also have to use the ‘visionOS’ branding, starting with a lowercase ‘v’ (similar to how they call their flagship operating system for desktop and laptop devices, macOS) and include the full name of the device use, “Apple Vision Pro” when referring to it. However, these aren’t as unexpected as Apple’s more notable instructions to avoid VR and AR. According to Apple, visionOS apps will not be considered VR, XR or MR apps, but rather “spatial computing apps.”
It’s an interesting move for a number of reasons; Coming up with a new term can be confusing for people, which means users have to build familiarity and actually use the term for it to stick, but it also means Apple can differentiate itself from the crop of AR/VR devices that there are.
It is also a pivot in reporting that has until now been dependent on existing terms such as augmented reality and virtual reality. Most of Apple’s current marketing refers to the Vision Pro as a “spatial computing” platform, but at the 2023 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple’s annual event for Apple platform developers, Apple CEO Tim Cook introduced the Vision Pro as a “completely new AR platform.” At its core, this is very much a marketing and branding move, as Apple grows more confident in its customers’ understanding of what the Vision Pro actually is. 9to5Mac reports that Apple engineers dubbed visionOS xrOS in the lead-up to the device’s official announcement.
Apple charts its own course
The focused effort to differentiate itself from its competitors is an understandable move by Apple, as some other tech giants have already tried to dominate this space.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, was one of the most notable examples. Maybe you have a not-so-distant memory of a certain “metaverse.” The Metaverse has had a reception that most people would call lukewarm, even at its height, and Apple is making a bold attempt to get its own association into people’s minds, with Apple’s vice president of global marketing, Greg Joswiak, doing the talking’ metaverse’ as a word he will ‘never use’ according to 9to5Mac.
I enjoy seeing Apple make bolder moves in existing markets because we’ve often seen new industry standards emerge, which is always exciting, whether you want to call it AR, VR or spatial computing.