December 22, 2023
In 2023, we said goodbye to Google Glass and hello to next-gen XR devices including Vision Pro. Generative AI generated more buzz than the metaverse, though that didn’t stop big brands from exploring new realities in the form of digital twins and immersive marketing. Here are some of the biggest developments in enterprise XR over the past year.
Apple & Meta
June 2023 gave us both the Meta Quest 3 and Apple Vision Pro headsets.
Just ahead of Apple’s WWDC, Meta unveiled the Quest 3. The official release, however, coincided with its own Connect event in September. At $499 and powered by the brand new Snapdragon XR 2 Gen 2 chip, the Meta Quest 3 is thinner, lighter, and more powerful than its predecessor, with better displays, full-color video passthrough, and new controllers. Meta Quest for Business, a subscription service offering “enterprise-level features and customer support,” launched in the Fall.
On June 5, Apple unveiled its first spatial computing device: The highly anticipated Vision Pro runs on visionOS and boasts dual 4K micro-LED displays. The headset will cost $3,499 and hit stores around February with support for nearly all iPhone and iPad apps along with Microsoft productivity apps. Apple is reportedly working on two more headsets.
In other news, Meta showed off several impressive prototype headsets highlighting the advanced visualization technologies that have been incubating inside Reality Labs, and may partner with Magic Leap and/or LG on future hardware including AR glasses. Most recently, Meta released Haptics Studio and Haptics SDK for devs to add advanced haptics to Quest apps.
Magic Leap & Microsoft
In April, it was announced that Magic Leap 2 now supports OpenXR, an open standard that aims to make XR hardware and software more compatible. 2023 brought a number of updates to Magic Leap 2, including features to enhance collaboration, automatic dynamic dimming, improved hand tracking, biometric ID, and more. The headset was also cleared for use in clinical settings and achieved ANSI/CAN/UL 8400 certification, “the world’s first safety standard dedicated to spatial computing and extended reality equipment safety.”
Microsoft began 2023 with layoffs spelling doom for mixed reality at the firm. In February, the company assured customers of continued support for HoloLens 2 in a widely circulated blog post. A few days later, it shut down its industrial metaverse team after only a few months. So where does Microsoft stand? Will there be a HoloLens 3?
Patents like this one spotted during the year hint at a potentially modular HoloLens 3, and in October Microsoft released a major update for HoloLens 2 including hand tracking improvements, faster eye tracking, security updates, and Windows Copilot, an AI assistant designed to help users with everyday tasks. Microsoft’s other activity in the XR space mainly concerned app integrations: Snapchat (AR) Lenses, avatars, and Microsoft Mesh for Microsoft Teams, Copilot for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Guides, and Microsoft Office apps for Meta Quest headsets. In July, Microsoft teased an industrial metaverse initiative as part of its AI Cloud Partner Program, seemingly shifting its focus to scaling the industrial metaverse through solutions like Copilot and Azure Digital Twins. Most recently, the software giant discontinued Windows Mixed Reality.
HTC, PICO, and RealWear
In January, HTC announced the $1,099 HTC VIVE XR Elite, followed by the launch of VIVEVERSE for Business, a solution for building collaborative virtual workspaces, in February. June brought the VIVE XR Elite Business Edition headset and VIVE Business+ device management app. HTC also revealed a new inside-out tracker that can be used for body tracking or attached to props to bring them into VR.
Reports of mass layoffs and canceled plans at PICO in the last few months suggest there won’t be a Pico 5. Instead, we may see an update for Pico 4 and a new headset meant to compete with Vision Pro in 2024.
As for RealWear, 2023 marked the release of the intrinsically safe RealWear Navigator Z1, the company’s “first set of AI capable hardware” that “can run AI algorithms directly on device.”
In 2023, Lenovo debuted the P-Series ThinkStations, workstations purpose-built for XR, the ThinkReality VRX all-in-one VR headset (starting at $1,299), and the ThinkVision 27 3D monitor aimed at “professional content creators who require immersive 3D visualization” (coming in February). Varjo announced support for Nvidia Omniverse and revealed the $4,000+ XR-4 portfolio of headsets consisting of the XR-4, XR-4 Focal Edition, and XR-4 Secure Edition. Though the high-end headset maker continues to target enterprise use cases, the XR-4 is the first of its devices that will sell directly to consumers, too.
In May, Sightful revealed Spacetop, the first AR laptop. Attendees got to try the $2,000 product which essentially turns a pair of Xreal AR glasses into a large virtual desktop computing environment at Augmented Enterprise in October. In August, Immersed announced Visor, a VR headset “purpose-built” for work. The $500-$750 compact productivity headset with OLED microdisplays, inside-out tracking, eye and hand tracking, and HD color passthrough is set to release next year.
Pimax announced a VR headset specifically for VR simulations, and Shanghai-based DPVR launched the enterprise-grade DPVR P2 headset. On the non-headset front, Ultraleap launched the Leap Motion Controller 2 hand-tracking module compatible with mobile XR devices like Lenovo’s ThinkReality VRX headset and Pico 4; and Brilliant Labs unveiled the arGPT Monocle, an iOS-compatible platform that enables ChatGPT on smart glasses.
Samsung may be getting back into the XR game: In February, the company announced it would work with Google and Qualcomm on a high-end XR headset. This, in addition to leaks and the unveiling of two new sensors this month, suggests Samsung will debut an XR device (to compete with Vision Pro?) in 2024. In June, it was reported that Google killed its Iris smart glasses project and is instead developing an Android operating system for AR.
XR companies expanded support for both (generative) AI and digital twins as enterprise interest in both technologies grew in 2023: In April alone, Magic Leap announced that customers can now render and stream full-scale immersive 3D digital twins from Nvidia’s Omniverse platform to the Magic Leap 2; and Matterport announced the ability for customers to connect data from AWS IoT TwinMaker into its digital twins.
Qualcomm & Nvidia
Qualcomm unveiled its latest XR chips: The Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 for VR/MR and the AR1 Gen1 for AR glasses. Meta Quest 3 is the first headset to use the XR2 Gen 2, which offers 2.5x higher GPU performance, 8x improvement in AI, and increased energy efficiency. AR1 Gen 1 is designed to deliver premium camera quality, on-device AI, and fast connectivity. Qualcomm may unveil another chip in early 2024 that could power new XR headsets from Samsung and others.
In 2023, Nvidia teamed up with Intel on chips for the next generation of metaverse workstations; and in March named Microsoft as one of its first cloud partners, bringing Microsoft 365 apps including Teams to Omniverse and Omniverse Cloud to Microsoft Azure. This means real-world sensor data from Azure digital twins can be transferred to Omniverse models.
CGS unveiled Immersive Learning as a Service (ILaaS), an out-of-the-box solution for deploying and scaling immersive learning experiences. McDonald’s and Scoot Airlines were among the first to use the solution to onboard and train employees in MR. Scope AR announced support for Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Spaces, meaning that any headset that supports Spaces can also natively run Scope’s WorkLink solution. Campfire’s 3D product design app got an AI assistant, and ARway announced integrations of its AR wayfinding solution with Magic Leap and HoloLens.
What products and solutions caught your attention in 2023?