Summary: The Apple Vision Pro, released on February 2nd, is one of Apple's most significant product launches since the iPhone. It marks the beginning of the spatial computing era and brings us closer to the vision of a metaverse-enabled society. Even though it may not seem like there are clear connections between it and cryptocurrencies, there ...
The Apple Vision Pro, released on February 2nd, is one of Apple's most significant product launches since the iPhone. It marks the beginning of the spatial computing era and brings us closer to the vision of a metaverse-enabled society. Even though it may not seem like there are clear connections between it and cryptocurrencies, there are some areas where the technology could work together to create exciting new ways of distributing and owning data.
There has been a growing trend among tech companies to focus on augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology over the past few years, the primary examples being Meta and their Ray Ban AR glasses and Meta Quest VR headsets, Microsoft and its HoloLens AR headset, and now Apple with the Vision Pro. Even though this technology is incredibly exciting, it is still years away from true mainstream adoption - the $3,500 price point of the Vision Pro guarantees that it will only be adopted by developers and wealthy enthusiasts. In the meantime, the applications and ecosystem for these products will continue to be built out, allowing mass adoption to come more seamlessly in the next five to ten years.
Part of this product discovery and creation process is implementing new systems and protocols that have not been a part of our current generation of the internet and computing. Cryptocurrencies and blockchain, in particular, could play an important role in our metaverse world as a place to store and transmit data and value.
In a metaverse-enabled world, there is a looming question about what entity will control the “digital mask” in the world that we see. As we go about our lives, digital advertisements, interactive artifacts, and art may appear around us in an AR environment. With several different headset and tech companies working on this technology, the simple answer is that each will control and silo its own network and digital real estate. However, there is another solution that would give individuals more power and ownership over this land, and one that would enable interoperability between headsets and operating systems: blockchain.
Indeed, imagine a world where a pizza company can create a digital, NFT-based coupon visible to users in the Vision Pro. As they look at the pizza place, they see a coupon floating in the air that entitles them to a discount, and they can collect the NFT by grabbing it out of the sky and using it on their next order. They can pay for the pizza with crypto and automatically apply the coupon by sending it with their payment. Though this may seem like a far-fetched example, the seamlessness of this type of system and the problems it would solve for consumers, namely around the transfer of value and data in AR environments, make it a compelling use case of blockchain.
The biggest barrier to this vision is Apple and other companies’ tight grip on their app stores and what they allow to be published on their platforms. Until now, Apple has been very defensive of what crypto-enabled products they allow in their ecosystem, and this type of environment may not be something they want to enable, as it siphons value from any sort of Apple-native system they could create. On the other hand, this business practice is becoming increasingly scrutinized, and new regulations in the European Union require them to allow third-party apps on iPhones. It may only be a matter of time until similar requirements are enforced on AR headsets, especially given their proximity to a user’s real-life environment. When more competitors to the Vision Pro release and target the average consumer demographic, Apple and others may be forced to collaborate on solutions that work together to satisfy regulators and maximize the network effects of a fully connected metaverse. For both of those problems, blockchain is a solution.
It is by no means guaranteed that blockchain will play a significant role in our future metaverse. However, it is certainly exciting to ponder how the technology could be integrated into our daily lives to make value transfer, authentication, and ownership a much more decentralized and democratic experience available to anyone, regardless of which type of headset they own.
By Lincoln Murr