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From Niche to Mainstream? The Future of Mixed Reality

Updated: Aug 16


Why Apple’s Vision Pro, GenerativeAI, and the Blockchain create a new vision for the metaverse.


By Danny Pantuso, Venture Investor, Decasonic


Apple’s Vision Pro announcement brings much excitement for the mainstream adoption of mixed reality, while establishing a new frontier; spatial computing blending the realism of life and technology of the metaverse. While no one has a crystal ball for the market implications of Apple’s pending launch, I’ve been diving in deep with conversations with innovators building this transition from the metaverse to mixed reality:

  1. I’ve mapped out 1000+ companies in AR/VR/XR

  2. I’ve connected with 250+ founders to review their financing strategies

  3. I spoke to 50+ founders about their product and growth strategies for fundraising

What I know for sure is that there are some amazing products right around the corner and that Apple Vision Pro is the introduction and reimagining of this space needed for the rest to thrive.


Apple’s Vision Pro announcement is a paradigm shift - a transition from Zuckerberg’s vision of the Metaverse to Cook’s vision of Mixed Reality.


Seven years in development, the Vision Pro headset aims to serve a variety of productivity and leisure uses, and I believe it'll be the best device you’ll ever use on your couch. Perhaps even more transformatively than an iPhone, certainly more than an iPad or gaming console and even a TV remote. But what I know for sure is that Apple did not use “the metaverse” in any marketing materials, and I for one am very happy to part with the old connotations and start anew.


Apple Ignites Consumer Mainstream Adoption of New Devices


From the iPhone to the Apple Watch, the company’s 1.0 launches often arrive with obvious limitations. Though through steady iteration — and support from third-party developers — the company’s devices eventually go from visionary proofs-of-concept to daily necessities.


Many critics said that Apple could never disrupt the watch industry — that it was a tech gadget and didn’t belong in the same room as Timex and Cartier. Last year, the Apple Watch division alone made $41 billion.


The iPhone, AirPods, Apple Watch, Apple AirTags, Apple TV…. they’re all best-in-class hardware devices. Full stop. As a venture investor, I’ve come to take a lot of stock in a track record that is bulletproof.



Will the Vision Pro announcement be the metaverse’s iPhone moment, as long-time Venture and tech thought leader Dean Takahashi suggests?


I think so, but mainstream adoption of emerging consumer devices takes time. My mom didn’t give up the convenience of her Blackberry and the reliability of its analog keyboard the same day that Jobs announced the iPhone. But 3 years later she got an iPhone 4 and never looked back.


So why now? What gives me realistic optimism that the Mixed Reality moment is today?

  1. The Power of Immersive Interfaces

  2. GenAI with 3D

  3. AI & Blockchain

The Power of Immersive Interfaces


In late 2021, Mark Zuckerburg co-opted the metaverse with a corporate rebrand, and attached to it a vision of Virtual Reality for niche utility and casual gaming use cases. Mixed Reality will be defined by Cook, AR, and Apple’s craftsmanship.


Meta’s vision for the metaverse created a beachhead for immersive reality, but hasn’t quite taken hold of the mainstream imagination. As of 2023, 13% of US households have at least one VR headset but only 4% of headset owners used it daily, and 14% used them weekly.


On the whole, they live in a box under your TV. As a lifelong gamer on both console and PC, I can tell you why: by the time you connect the various wires and dongles, clear a space big enough to move in, and download the latest updates, there isn’t really enough there to make all the hassle worth the effort.

I've spent nearly 10 thousand hours exploring countless virtual worlds and experiencing the evolution of interactive interfaces firsthand. I've witnessed how the gaming industry has consistently been at the forefront of innovation, constantly raising the bar for realism, interactivity, and engagement. This in turn has significantly impacted consumer expectations, fueling the expectations for AR/VR experiences. To date, Meta’s metaverse hasn’t lived up to the bar the gaming industry has set.



​​What’s more, Meta’s vision of the Metaverse relied on people saying goodbye to the physical world and fully buying into Meta’s closed playground. I don’t think anyone is eager to sign away their physical selves for Zuckerburg’s vision for humanity.


The resounding Husah! when Facebook servers went down 2 years ago is a case in point. Moreover, it was the overall reliance on completely immersive VR and highly technical setup that turned users away.


Alternatively, Apple’s Vision Pro promises a more balanced, consumer-friendly layer on top of physical reality. The Vision Pro is a screens-based interface - it’s layers of 2D screens projected into 3D space. Your surroundings become an infinite 4k TV / screen.



“Zoom out to the future and look back, you’ll wonder how you led your life without augmented reality,” - Tim Cook


Every Apple platform is defined by an innovative new input model. Mac → Mouse. iPod → click wheel. iPhone → multi-touch. The ProVision will be defined by Touch and Feel.


Every graphical element will respond to your eyes. Every hand gesture is designed to be as subtle as possible; pinch to select, flick to scroll.


Additionally, there will be no more dizziness from headsets thanks to 12-millisecond input lag, and graphics quality so good some thought was physically impossible. Each lens in the headset will have more pixels stuffed into the size of a postage stamp than there is in a 4k TV (23 million pixels).


Plus, Apple has an unfair advantage. Apple’s ecosystem is second to none and its hardware is always backwards compatible with the App Store. Today, Meta has around 1,000 apps; Apple has 1.5 million apps.


GenAI Accelerated the Mainstream Creation of 3D assets



For the first time since the ‘metaverse’ was coined in 1992, Generative AI makes creating 3D content both accessible and cost-effective.


Before Generative AI technology, the average cost and technological skills needed to create any given Virtual Asset created high barriers to entry for creators. However, with generative AI technologies, like text-to-2D and text-to-3D, the barriers to content creation are rapidly diminishing. The advent of generative AI has revolutionized 3D and virtual content creation, making it accessible to a broader range of individuals.


Previously, content creation required technical expertise and came at a significant cost. It meant we were all reliant on Meta, game studios, visual effects labs to create the immersive virtual world for us.


This breakthrough empowers anyone to become a creator, not only expanding the potential pool of content creators by hundreds of millions, but allowing for gaming studios building for XR and the metaverse to ship products at unprecedented speeds.

Companies leading the charge in AI-assisted 3D asset generation include: Scenario.gg, Masterpiece, Alpha3D, Houdini, Curie, Common Sense Machines, and many more.



Generated by AI, Monetized on Blockchain:


While generative AI democratizes content creation, the true unlock lies in providing everyone the ability to own, buy, and sell their creations. Many generative AI companies have been stuck in the ‘Race-to-Zero’, their natural tendency to commoditize and eventually price their services at costs. Few to date have developed a competitive moat and sustainable business model

.

Blockchain technology plays a vital role in enabling AI users to monetize their work and receive royalties for their contributions. By minting content on the blockchain, creators can establish ownership and ensure fair compensation. This opportunity particularly resonates in developing regions, where individuals will find a lucrative income stream through their creative endeavors.


Putting it all together

Apple's Vision Pro announcement will shift the paradigm from old visions of the Metaverse, toward Apple’s consumer-oriented vision of Mixed Reality.


Apple Vision Pro version 1 won’t be the right time to judge whether Apple has succeeded or failed. But they’re picking up the mantle for the immersive internet, and have never failed to redefine any category they’ve entered.


Apple's history of iterative hardware development, combined with the democratization of content creation through generative AI and the monetization enabled by blockchain, is the perfect storm for a variety of new killer apps and startups to take advantage of great timing. It’s a great time to be a Venture Investor with dry capital in this space, and we're taking full advantage of it. If you are working in this space, and want to connect with our investing team, you can drop us a line here, dm me on Twitter, or connect with the rest of the Decasonic team on LinkedIn. If you’ve made it this far, then I truly look forward to hearing from you.


About the Author

Danny is a Venture Investor at Decasonic - a Chicago-based web3 native venture fund. With a technical background from Stanford University and experience as a product manager, CEO/founder, and now a venture investor, Danny is the in-house expert on product-market fit within web3. He spearheads investment theses in web3 gaming, AR/VR, and web3 x AI, working with startups to develop tokenomics, core user loops, and investing in the future of fun. Danny's mission is to identify the best entrepreneurs in crypto, connect with them, evaluate the opportunities, and help them succeed post-investment.






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