Virtual Reality Industry Excitement Said to Hit ‘Fever Pitch’ Ahead of Apple Launch

Will Apple’s planned mixed-reality headset lead to a virtual reality (VR) funding renaissance?

That’s the hope of startups in the VR space, according to a Sunday (June 4) report by the Financial Times (FT), looking at the anticipation for Apple’s new headset, rumored to be unveiled at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday (June 5).

The headset, as the FT notes, will likely sell for about $3,000 and combine augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality.

Tipatat Chennavasin, co-founder of the Venture Reality Fund, told the news outlet he expected the Apple headset to feature a new App Store — “the next ecosystem where millions of developers are making millions of dollars selling to billions of people.”

Chennavasin added that startups had for years been showing potential backers “hockey-stick” charts to forecast rapid revenue growth once Apple enters the VR space.

“I’ve been seeing people promise the Apple device in their pitch decks for like six years,” said Chennavasin, whose fund has invested in 50 VR companies in the industry since 2016. 

With the promised headset launch possibly coming this week, sentiment has reached a “fever pitch,” Chennavasin added.

The report notes that hype around AR/VR technology has been overshadowed in recent months by the rise of artificial intelligence tools such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT. But there was a time when the excitement over virtual worlds was so pronounced that Facebook changed its name to Meta in 2021 as it began investing heavily in its metaverse.

And as noted here recently, years of hype and billions in research and development have done little to convince people to see augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) goggles as a viable consumer product.

It’s core to the broader discussion about how consumers will (or won’t) want to experience the metaverse. As PYMNTS’ Karen Webster wrote: 

“Most people — as in mostly all of them — don’t want to give up the physical world to live mainly via avatars in a virtual one. Even though most — as in mostly all of them — very much want to use technology to improve their interactions with people and businesses in the physical world where they live right now.”

However, people in the VR/AR space are hoping whatever Apple has planned will change people’s perceptions.

“Metaverse isn’t really a term anyone wants to use anymore to get funding,” Tuong Nguyen, an analyst at Gartner, told the FT. “But there’s this idea that Apple can raise the tide for all boats.”