Rich Stroffolino

Will Spatial Video Be The Thing?

The spatial video aspects of the Vision Pro have been a big question for me since Apple previewed the headset. John Gruber wrote up the most detailed look at how the feature will work with footage shot on an iPhone, so I was intrigued. But it leaves me thinking how Apple will actually market this.

Now I have no doubt in Apple’s marketing machine. It’s made Titanium a major selling point for the iPhone 15 Pro, so anything is possible. But I think the company may have something of a HomePod problem with the device and spatial video specifically. How do you get people to experience it?

I was never bullish on the HomePod because audio quality is remarkably hard to sell to consumers. Everyone can say their stuff sounds great, and when you’re in Target looking at a speaker or buying online, there’s no way to compare sound quality. Similarly, how do you show the spatial video of the Vision Pro?

Gruber described the fitting process for the headset as significantly refined but still cumbersome:

There are a few steps where you’re presented with a series of dots in a big circle floating in front of you, like the hour indexes on a clock. As you look at each circle, it lights up a bit, and you do the finger tap gesture. It’s the Vision Pro’s way to calibrate that what it thinks you’re looking is what you actually are looking at. Once that calibration step was over — and it took just a minute or two

That’s not the worst and the Wii sold millions of units with a much worse calibration experience. But still, the retail experience needed to get someone to try out spatial video seems steep. That’s non trivial for an extremely expensive device.

I thought at first the iPhone 15 Pro spatial video feature would be significant for the Vision Pro. But I didn’t realize the feature would be limited to landscape video. While I can be a snob and say that’s the only way to shoot video, the reality is vertical has won. It’s the de facto standard. When I’ll shooting with a phone, it’s now weird to shoot landscape. It makes sharing video harder since it will invariably be consumed on a phone.

The idea with special video capture on an iPhone is that you’d create this library of content that you’d get a value add experience when buying a Vision Pro. It solves the content problem. But not when it requires you to shoot in a way that has less utility now.

That being said, the Vision Pro is clearly being positioned as an early adopter device. But I’m curious how Apple pivots the device to a general market. Outside of the high launch price, I’m not sure what’s the feature that grabs people. Apple has overcome this before. The Apple Watch launched without a real use case and then doubled down on health and fitness tracking to great effect.

I guess I don’t see spatial video being the thing that gets people to buy the device. Generally people care much more about convenience than quality. Smartphones decimated the point and shoot camera market not because they were better but because they were supremely convenient. Spatial video (and the Vision Pro in general) seems inherently inconvenient.