Apple’s Vision Pro raises interest for extended reality technology, spurring broader demand for more affordable headsets, Rokid CEO says

The Vision Pro, which Apple first rolled out in the United States earlier this month, will help the whole extended reality (XR) sector grow and generate greater consumer interest, while expanding the development of relevant software and content, according to Rokid founder and chief executive Misa Zhu Mingming.

“We’re very happy that Apple got into the industry,” Zhu told the South China Morning Post, referring to XR – also the catch-all term for AR, VR and MR technologies. “This [initiative] will mobilise the whole developer ecosystem.”

He pointed out that there are already some developers who are making apps for both the Vision Pro and Rokid’s AR glasses for consumers.
Rokid founder and chief executive Misa Zhu Mingming. Photo: SCMP

Zhu’s assessment of the XR industry after the Vision Pro’s release shows how the stakes have increased for other companies to somehow match or even surpass the features and consumer appeal of Apple’s first new product category since 2015.

The Rokid founder’s analysis also echoes the remarks made last year by Denny Zhou Qinghui, founder and chairman of XR start-up Shanghai Graphic Design Information Co, who said the Vision Pro would unleash the potential of similar products and benefit smaller players in the industry.

After another lacklustre year for AR and VR headset shipments in 2023, tech research firm IDC has forecast the market to rebound this year, growing 46.8 per cent year on year on the back of Apple’s Vision Pro launch, new hardware from Meta Platforms and the growing presence of smaller companies.

The market is expected to reach 30.3 million units globally by 2027, up from about 8.5 million last year, according to IDC.

Launched in 2023, Rokid’s Max augmented reality glasses are compatible with video game consoles like Nintendo’s Switch, Sony Interactive Entertainment’s PlayStation 4, and Microsoft Corp’s Xbox Series X and Series S. Photo: Handout

The Vision Pro, which Apple markets as a “spatial computer”, is an MR device that enables users to integrate digital media with the real world, while interacting with the system via motion gestures, eye tracking and speech recognition.

AR devices, such as a number of high-end smartphones and Rokid’s Max glasses, deliver an interactive experience by superimposing digital images in a real-world setting. By contrast, VR devices immerse users in a computer-generated virtual world.

Prices for the Vision Pro, which weighs between 600 and 650 grams (21.2–22.9 ounces), start at US$3,499.

By comparison, Rokid’s Max AR glasses, which weigh 75 grams, currently cost US$379 a pair, according to the company’s website.

A customer tries out Apple’s Vision Pro headset at an Apple Store in Los Angeles, California, on the first day the mixed-reality headset went on sale on February 2, 2024. Photo: Reuters

“Rokid wants to popularise AR products,” company chief Zhu said. “We want to make products that people would not only like, but also have easy access to and could afford.”

With the growing interest in XR gear, Zhu said Rokid aims to double unit sales of its AR devices to around 400,000 this year, from nearly 200,000 in 2023.

In January alone, Rokid saw sales surge for its Max glasses, the second-generation of its AR glasses for consumers, on the back of the attention brought by Apple to the XR industry, according to Zhu.

He said the company now has more than 2,200 developers making applications for its ecosystem. They have already launched more than 200 apps, from gaming to streaming and entertainment content, for Rokid’s AR glasses.

China augmented reality start-up Rokid gets US$70 million in new funding round

Rokid last month said it raised 500 million yuan (US$70 million) from a group of investors led by the municipal government of Hefei, capital of eastern Anhui province.
The company – founded in 2014 in Hangzhou, capital of eastern Zhejiang province – also signed in the same month an investment and cooperation agreement with Hefei to set up its industrial metaverse headquarters, ecosystem hub and research and development centre in the city’s New Station Hi-Tech Zone.

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