Apple's Vision Pro: Is Spatial Computing The New Frontier For Brands?

Should marketers be adding the new VR headset to their advertising armoury?

By Avnie Bansal

Apple's £3k Vision Pro headset, covered in sensors that detect a user’s gestures, expressions, and even their emotions, has just made its market debut, heralding a new entertainment era and a new platform for brands and advertisers.

But while some interested observers anticipate that the device opens up next-level interactive, anticipatory, gesture- and voice-led - and hopefully more human - interaction, others say the device is really only aimed at developers and early adopters, not the mass market. For now.

So are we on the brink of a new type of hyper-targeted, hyper-personalised interactive advertising revolution? And what form will content and content creation take next? What should brands and marketers expect? And how are agencies preparing themselves?

We ask industry experts.

Oliver Feldwick​​​​, Head of Innovation, The&Partnership

In 10 years time, it’s unlikely we’ll be engaging with the digital world through exactly the same ‘big screen, medium screen, small screen’ paradigm of the past 15 years. A more interactive, anticipatory, gesture- and voice- led, and hopefully more human, mode of interaction will emerge. 

Brands should be thinking about how they can entertain and be useful in these environments. If we learn anything from the digital era, stalking and interrupting people might drive short-term performance, but it’s no way to build a brand. Ad-blocking, banner blindness, and ‘ad-free’ spaces like Netflix emerged as a result. 

Sensors-led, data-driven spatial experiences could be a new and better way to connect with consumers, but only if we learn the lessons from the past. 

One lesson from the past from ad man Howard Luck Gossage in the 60s: “The buying of time or space is not the taking out of a hunting license on someone else's private preserve but is the renting of a stage on which we may perform”. 

Spatial offers up a potential new stage. Let’s not waste it.

Tim Callington, Director, Digital Strategy, Flipside part of The Weber Shandwick Collective (TWSC)

It's interesting that Apple has named it the Vision Pro. Usually, they introduce a consumer-grade product first, like the iPhone, and then later unveil the iPhone Pro. However, in this case, they have launched the high-grade model, suggesting that we are still 12 to 18 months away from a more affordable lightweight consumer model - perhaps just the "Vision". Therefore, we haven't yet seen its final form for consumers and there will likely be a more accessible option available soon.

I believe there is a single type of content that could propel this beyond a temporary trend: photography. Most social media platforms fundamentally revolve around photo sharing. This is how Facebook initially gained traction, it's the essence of Instagram and even WhatsApp frequently involves sharing pictures and memes. The Vision Pro is positioned to introduce the next evolution of photography, offering 3D images of your loved ones, your pets, and everyday moments.

A 3D living photo of your child, for example, will make old-fashioned 2D photos outdated and start a new wave of sharing photos. By mixing regular tech with the future of photo sharing, we go beyond short-lived trends. And where the audience goes, marketing and advertising agencies are sure to follow closely behind, leveraging Vision Pro's innovative features to craft impactful campaigns through enhanced creative strategies and production techniques.

Peter Gasston, Creative Innovation Lead, VCCP

Apple Vision Pro is for sure the best XR device on the market, but it doesn’t push far enough into immersive 3D. Most apps for the platform are 2D windows in 3D space, like having a bunch of iPads floating around you. This is useful for having a lot of apps at launch (and for in-app advertising) but doesn’t feel like the future of spatial computing.

It’s aimed at developers and early adopters, not the mass market; the inevitable(?) announcement of a lighter, cheaper version, with a couple of years’ worth of developer experimentation under its belt, might be the moment for both consumers and marketers to really consider it. But even then, I think it’s unlikely that users will tolerate immersive ads unless they’re enjoyable experiences.

The current opportunity lies in building a library of immersive content using spatial video. This 3DTV-like format can be recorded on current top-range iPhones and played back on the Apple Vision Pro and on existing Meta Quest headsets (with a compatibility conversion), which gives it better reach.

Well-considered, richly immersive sponsored spatial video content, perhaps with product placement, will be the easiest path into the new space for most marketers.

Dan Hulse, CSO St Luke’s 

Roy Amara, president of the superbly named Institute of the Future, famously said that we overestimate the impact of new technologies in the short run, and underestimate the effect in the long run.  For the next few months, TikTok will be full of influencers freaking out pedestrians by driving their Teslas with a Vision Pro on their bonce. Pundits will be quick to herald the dawn of the spatial computing age, and just as quick to get bored and declare ‘we’ve passed peak AR’.

2024 won’t be the year advertising is transformed by this technology. Outside of some limited experiential marketing and PR, it won’t appear on many brand plans. But make no mistake, we’re glimpsing the future of marketing through a keyhole. There isn’t a big market for people willing to strap an uncomfortable £3k brick onto the front of their face.  But just look at how captivated we are by the 6-inch screens we carry around with us. We can’t live without them. Now imagine being able to fill your surroundings with as many screens like that as you like, floating around you, responding to your touch, your gaze, your smile. Imagine that all your favourite content, celebrities and games can be blended seamlessly into your surroundings. And imagine it on a device that doesn’t make you look goofy, but instead is no more obtrusive than a pair of ordinary glasses. That’s where this is headed, and the market for it will be at least as big as the one for smartphones.

At St Luke’s we’re asking what opportunities and challenges this will create for brands. One of the biggest is the way brands look and feel. In recent years we’ve been obsessed with creating brand worlds that can work in even the smallest space, like a mobile banner. But suddenly brands will be given a much bigger canvas - literally filling the vision of the audience. The brand guidelines of tomorrow won’t just describe social videos and posters, they’ll describe rich, immersive universes with their own feel, rules, characters, and even physics.

To get ready for that world, we’re doing two things.  The first is to double down on design capability, making sure we have the skills to create those worlds. And the second is to experiment with Augmented Reality. While we’re enjoying playing with the high-end headsets,  they’re years away from the mainstream. Meanwhile, the phones in our pockets offer a quick way to see what kind of AR experiences get people excited. Jules Vizard, our Creative Partner, has skilled up building AR experiences for mobile, and his work has racked up over a billion views on TikTok. While we wait for Tim Cook’s true vision of spatial computing to arrive, we’re scaling our AR experiments to see what resonates.

Alex Hamilton Head of Innovation Dentsu Creative

Whether it’s something small, like our increasing use of voice notes on WhatsApp, or something seismic, like Elon Musk’s Neuralink, how we use and ultimately interface with technology is evolving. “Interface” is the key word here. 

Solutions like the Apple Vision Pro, which is the new poster child for Spatial Computing, will likely become more integrated into daily life in the not-so-distant future, impacting sectors such as education, healthcare, and manufacturing.  

The speed at which we get there - going “mainstream” – will always be longer than we collectively predict, and depends on factors such as cost and accessibility.

As the hardware becomes more affordable and accessible, in time, and as software development advances, spatial computing will offer more intuitive and natural interfaces. 

This will enable people to interact with digital content through gestures, voice commands, and physical movement, making technology more inclusive and eliminating barriers associated with traditional computing devices. 

Ultimately, the days of using our fingers to interface with every technology solution we own are numbered. 

From an advertising perspective, it’s far too early to say what this means for targeting. The lens that we’re looking at the Vision Pro through relates to the experience challenges that the solution solves now, next, and the future.

We’re investing time in seeing how it can make our internal teams more productive and help creatives unleash their imagination.


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