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  • Writer's pictureEric Nentrup

The Week in Review: Choose Your Mixed Reality

This week, Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference was crowned with their latest new product line entreé, the Vision Pro headset. We know from each innovation installment since 2007's iPhone launch, that Apple doesn't make many flops when taking calculated risks of market disruption and that any short-lived products they shutter were never projected to hit revenue goals that held the shareholders' attention. However, a $3,500 headset is an expensive entrypoint into a submarket with prior marked failures from both Google and Facebook to overcome. And so is the idea that such a product could open the door for a new genre of human-technological relationship (but not the type you think I mean). They call it "spatial computing" and like "Certs with Retsyn" or "fine Corinthian leather", spatial computing sounds more like marketing speak than designer speak.

What does this have to do with our work concerning AI? John Gruber says it best on his venerable site, Daring Fireball: that technological breakthroughs are not enough...products must be compelling. Like ChatGPT. And more specific to edtech, like Khanmigo. Though under Tim Cook's leadership we don't see compelling products as often as we did during the Jobs/Ives era of Apple, we know Cook didn't amass a two-trillion-dollar market cap because Apple Maps put motorists in cornfields or because the iPod Hi-Fi caused too many spontaneous dance parties with it's sick bass. Cook has stewarded disruption extremely well according to Wall Street, which is why a very deliberate choice of semantics was more noticeable than the Vision Pro's dangling battery pack.

What's compelling is that for the entirety of the keynote, AI wasn't mentioned. It would appear as if Apple is intentionally avoiding saying AI even while confidently talking about all the sensors and machine learning embedded in the Vision Pro, and certainly derived from their engineers working on related AI componentry (both soft and hard) in the rest of the Apple product line. The motion, light, and sound sensors in the iPhone and Apple Watch need software to algorithmically-adjust and respond. Siri's hallucinations and sudden onset amnesia preceded those of ChatGPT and Bard.

So, what is Apple doing in AI? Obviously, they lead with their unique hardware. Currently, they perceive their software and data management as ancillary. This may very well be consistent with their modus operandi, but is it the right way for all other vendors and their product announcement. As campaigns continue underscoring Apple's commitment to user data privacy, we shall see if they stay equally private about the efforts their war chest is funding in Cupertino.

There are a few related headlines below among the others that stood out this week. Enjoy and please write back with your thoughts.

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