There was a time in this country when a Presidential candidate could slip up – often while making a perfectly innocent statement – and a sink a campaign. History has a lot of these moments. But one that I always remember was when President George H.W. Bush (#41) admitted he struggled with “the vision thing,” a clear way of articulating his administration's goals and aspirations. That admission was a factor in sinking his re-election attempt against Bill Clinton in 1992.
In the world of technology, “that vision thing” is taking on a whole new meaning and significance, especially with the plethora of goggles, glasses, headsets, and similar apparati we saw at CES 2024 a couple weeks ago. Our takeaway? It looks like the world's “vision” is about to improve based on the numerous offerings throughout the Las Vegas Convention Center and CES' innovators space, Eureka Park.
While the much-hyped and “epic fail” Google Glass may have had the right idea, smart glasses are now becoming more ubiquitous and more capable. Combined with fashion brands, innovators in this space might be on the right track. Although some still question how these devices will actually be used. Note that Apple struggled with its Watch in the early years, a technology looking for a purpose.
I saw much traffic at exhibits by Ray-Ban, for example, glasses and headsets that open the door for other activities and functions.
You can make calls, capture video and photos, livestream to social media, improve your hearing, and other functions using your glasses.
In collaboration with Meta (yes, Facebook and Instagram), Ray-Ban and many other brands are going well beyond fashion and shading your eyes. There were dozens of similar products on display at CES, all redefining “the vision thing.”
AR/VR googles or headsets have been slow to catch on with most people outside of the gaming community. In our 2023 Techsurvey, only 6% of our total sample told us they owned “a virtual reality headset,” and that low level has been pretty stagnant going back more than five years. So, is this the moment?
Even though Apple wasn't at CES (they never show up), they often release new products that same week while the world is focused on new technology and innovation.
This year was no different as Apple unveiled their long-awaited entry into this space, Vision Pro. As some have noted, its look isn't typically sleek Apple, but the functionality is pretty cool.
I've attached a 10-minute video (longer than I usually post) to show you how “vision” is being expanded in spatial audio and video.
The video is hosted by a real Apple employee, Alessandra McGinnis, the company's senior product manager, AR/VR/3D technology. She walks a human who's never experienced the product through its features:
The cost? A whopping $3,500, which might make you wonder if Apple isn't overshooting the space. Early reports is that Vision Pro headsets – thanks to preorders – are flying off the Apple Store shelves (or will be early next month).
A story in The Verge by Sheena Vasani fills in more details. You'll be able to make an appointment at your neighborhood Apple Store beginning on February 2. The demo has a run time of up to 25 minutes, covering most of the features in the above video.
I took note that those of us who wear subscription lenses will not only be able to test drive Vision Pro, but also buy the product with our vision setting built in (for an additional $99, or Zeiss prescription lenses for $149 more).
There are already third-party apps, something I'm sure our jacapps team will be exploring. Like Apple CarPlay and their Watch series, it's always exciting to see radio station apps on new devices. Touring the jock lounge or the engineering shop virtually may be a bridge too far.
By all accounts, the “view” of Vision Pro is beautiful. It delivers 4K video and because it runs visionOS, it is compatible with other Apple products, like iPhone, Apple TV, etc.
Not surprisingly, Apple is marketing its new headsets both creatively and with media heft. A new spot gathering TV and movie scenes featuring goggles, helmets, and headsets was all over this weekend's NFL Playoff games. (How many can you correctly name?)
It will be fascinating to see if Vision Pro will enable Apple to own this space and/or spawn a series of new competitors. As we know, it wouldn't be the first time Apple has swooped in with a better (or more attractive) product, taking the market by storm.
Interestingly enough, while the Metaverse had considerable presence at CES in 2023, at this year's event it was barely there. While Paul and I love to track trends at CES, it is true that innovations often come and go with each passing show.
Autonomous cars, for example, have greatly diminished these past couple years, while EVs continue to grow. While the Metaverse took a back seat this year, it will be interesting to see if Vision Pro (and similar products) don't end up spurring innovations in the AR/VR environments.
One of the reasons we go to CES year in and year out – without fail – is to help us refine our “vision thing.” The trends and innovations we witness in Las Vegas each early January show up sooner rather than later in the worlds of radio, media, and tech.
Some of these trends are long-lasting, others are transient, while still others come and go. Wrapping out heads around where we're going is what it's all about.
As we've learned over the past couple decades, simply running our businesses well and keeping them in the groove is no longer enough. We've got to apply innovation to our practices to not only keep up with competitors, but to also keep up with our audience.
Running in place is not a strategy. It's what hamsters in cages do.
Vision is about going somewhere and evolving with the times. Radio's future is acquiring that vision and applying it to our operations…and our careers.
A favorite quote about vision is from someone who knew a little something about it:
Speaking of vision, we'll be sharing our look at CES 2024 in a free webinar on Thursday, February 8 at 2pm ET. Register here.