The past decade has been a hugely important one for the development of consumer-friendly, mixed-reality wearables.
Looking back, the way we viewed 3D content was revolutionised by headsets such as the Oculus Rift in the mid-2010s.
Excitement reached new heights around pioneering models such as the Magic Leap, which found its calling by merging realities in the world of enterprise.
And, most recently, affordable headsets, such as Meta’s Quest 2, are providing audiences with new ways to enter virtual worlds and experience VR gaming at home.
However, none have so far triggered the mass adoption needed to take things to the next level.
All that could change if rumours surrounding Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) taking place on 5 June are to be believed, with many expecting the tech brand to secure their spot in wearables history by announcing their mixed reality headset.
If this is true, the effect on brand applications could be significant, with new creative opportunities opening up within the world of gaming, live entertainment, sports, utility and more.
Apple’s anticipated announcement will add to the building momentum around a new era of mass-adopted mixed reality wearables, with further headset updates also expected from fellow tech giants in the coming months.
If predictions are correct, the catalyst we’ve been waiting for to make hybrid experiences more seamless and accessible than ever before could be finally here.
Taking a closer look at some of the expected features of Apple’s Reality Pro headset, it’s clear to see that they’re gearing up for the mainstream.
Facilitating both VR and AR use, it seems users will be able to toggle between the different reality settings to experience content on their terms.
This means they can be open to the world around them one minute and be fully submerged in an alternative reality the next, offering a more social and flexible mixed-reality experience that’s sure to resonate with users.
The integration of audience-favourite apps is likely to be significant when considering projected uptake, merging the familiar with a new and innovative way of consuming experiences.
As if one big shake-up wasn’t enough, other new releases are also set to make waves in the months to come.
Scheduled for launch later this year, Meta’s Quest 3 promises more power, less weight, and a more natural way to stay in tune with the physical world compared to its previous model – all at an accessible price point expected around the £400 mark.
According to a recent Meta Reality Labs presentation, the company’s take on AR glasses and neural interface devices will follow soon after.
And while Google is keeping its big play in the wearables space a little closer to its chest, its recent advancements in Geospatial AR and the way we can map 3D content to the world around us lends itself perfectly to future headset integration.
The long-awaited release of these carefully-considered wearables onto the mass market means that the final barrier to totally seamless mixed reality experiences is about to be removed: smartphone screens can give way to cutting-edge head-mounted tech, bringing the digital world even closer to our physical one.
This presents brands with an option to flex their creativity by championing true world-first experiences through a range of immersive applications.
Gaming experimentation is a clear opportunity. Cutting-edge features such as eye-tracking and easily portable hardware will mean play can become more instant, intuitive and hands-free.
If real-world and virtual-world settings can be toggled with ease like Apple’s Reality Pro rumours suggest, brands can experiment with new multiplayer options to bring audiences together in a shared, sociable experience.
Live entertainment will also see a transformation: from real-time stat overlays while watching sports both in the stadium and at home, to effortlessly layering digital interaction on top of real-world events like live concerts.
Imagine Gorillaz’ landmark AR performances in London and New York, but without the sea of phones – each audience member enjoying frictionless content without a screen instead.
The form factor of these future headsets also means that consumers will be far more likely to wear them out and about. This will be key for utility applications like AR wayfinding, which can now be more seamless and convenient for audiences exploring new destinations, creating an elevating user experience.
This is where Google’s Geospatial API and 8th Wall's web-based VPS integration can take things to the next level as well, by anchoring contextual content to real-world surroundings.
The new dawn we’ve been talking about for years is finally here. What has felt like science fiction up until now – the seamless and accessible integration of AR into our everyday lives – will imminently become a reality.
Brands have an opportunity to be a part of this culture-defining moment and make history, because in another decade, we’ll look back at this time and remember it as the turning point for the future of immersive experience.
Adam Mingay is business director at UNIT9