How Google's VR Project Could Compete With the Apple Vision Pro

Using Android to get ahead

Fact checked by Jerri Ledford

Key Features

  • Google is planning a headset to compete with Apple’s Vision Pro.

  • The new augmented reality device will be made with Samsung and may run Android.

  • Experts say that Google can use its software expertise to catch up with Apple.

<p>Justin Sullivan / Getty Images</p> Apple Vision Pro

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Apple Vision Pro

Apple's upcoming Vision Pro headset faces stiff competition that may benefit users.

Google is reportedly proceeding with a partnership with Samsung to build an augmented reality (AR)  headset even though the project is facing delays. But if and when the headset hits stores, it could be a game-changer.

"A Google AR headset would revolutionize user experiences," tech analyst Mark Vena told Lifewire in an email interview. "Imagine navigating cities with real-time augmented directions, enhancing productivity with virtual workspace overlays, or enjoying immersive gaming. Google's extensive services, if integrated effectively, could redefine how we interact with digital information, making everyday tasks more intuitive and engaging."

Apple’s Competition

Google is teaming up with Samsung to build the new headset. Together with Qualcomm, they hinted at a joint venture to challenge Apple's mixed-reality initiatives in February. Although the headset's release was postponed following the debut of Apple's Vision Pro, the trio is eyeing a summer 2024 launch.

Samsung supposedly plans to create a headset akin to Apple's Vision Pro under the codename "Moohan," which will operate on Android. Having acquired hardware-focused firms like Micro-LED maker Raxiom and smart glasses company North, Google is shifting its focus toward software, aiming to replicate its Android success.

"Google's foray into augmented reality (AR) is poised to be a formidable competitor to Apple's Vision Pro," Vena said. "While Apple has a head start in AR hardware with the Vision Pro, Google's strengths lie in its extensive ecosystem and software prowess. Google's AR project may focus on integrating AR seamlessly into everyday life through Android devices, leveraging its vast user base and Android's open platform."

The Apple Vision Pro, an upcoming mixed-reality headset, was unveiled in June during Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference. The gadget is slated for an early 2024 release in the US, followed by international launches later in the year.

Marketed as a "spatial computer," the Vision Pro aims to blend digital media seamlessly with the real world. Users can interact with the system through various physical inputs like motion gestures, eye tracking, and voice commands. While designed primarily to operate independently, the device can also connect wirelessly to a Mac.

"While Apple has a head start in AR hardware with the Vision Pro, Google's strengths lie in its extensive ecosystem and software prowess."

The $3500 Vision Pro is already generating excitement among potential users.

"In any context, that's expensive, but it's justifiable; theoretically, you can replace your TV and computer with the Vision Pro, the cost is similar," Reddit user Subtleiaint posted on the online forum. "It's not a problem that the Vision Pro is expensive, the problem is how Apple are selling it."

To close the gap with Apple, Vena noted that Google needs to invest in both hardware and software. He said that Google must refine its AR headset design, ensuring comfort and style while maintaining affordability.

"Google should also enhance sensor technology for precise tracking," he added. "On the software side, Google must create a compelling AR app ecosystem, enticing developers to craft innovative experiences. Seamless integration with existing Google services like Maps and Search could set them apart," Vena said.

Memories of Google Glass

Google has a checkered history with augmented reality headsets, marked by the introduction in 2013 of Google Glass. Resembling a pair of spectacles, the device sported a heads-up display intended to superimpose digital data onto the user's real-world surroundings. The goal was to provide a seamless way for users to receive notifications, navigate, and access other contextual information, all while enjoying hands-free interactivity.

<p>Boston Glob / Getty Images</p> Google Glass

Boston Glob / Getty Images

Google Glass

Despite its innovative design, Google Glass encountered a range of hurdles. These included concerns about privacy, given the device's recording capabilities, as well as practical issues like limited battery life. Additionally, the device struggled to provide compelling applications that could warrant its high cost. Socially, it ignited public discomfort; people were uneasy about the idea of individuals wearing a potentially recording device on their faces in social settings, giving rise to the term "Glasshole."

"Lots of people are comparing Vision Pro to Google Glass and its hurdles and failures," Reddit user Knighthonor wrote online. "I have to but wonder, if people realize that Google Glass was simply a Notification/Display glasses with very limited tech. It's not close to what modern AR glasses can do, let alone a Mixed Reality Headset can do, which is what Apple Vision Pro is."