Apple joining the VR/AR race, among other things, means that the respective market will likely explode in the near future. However, in this particular case, the Cupertino company does not lead nor disrupts the established state of affairs. Rather, they’re catching up. On the one hand, given the price of Vision Pro and its capabilities, it is definitely aiming for the top shelf or even seeks to install one above that. On the other hand, while positively immature, the market of AR glasses for everyday use does have its staples, and most of them are much cheaper than what Apple brings thereto. We’ve scooped 4 top alternatives to Vision Pro below, including one that’s probably the best value for money.
Since Apple doesn’t position Vision Pro as gaming gear – in fact, they’re calling it a “spatial computer,” obviously seeking to establish a niche, at least in the domain of terminology, – we focus on the devices that have more use than fun.
HoloLens 2 by Microsoft
Dubbed a mixed-reality headset, HoloLens 2 has sensors, optics, and processing power to deliver a seamless augmented reality experience. The product has been around since 2015, and, while Microsoft discontinued Windows Mixed Reality, it looks like HoloLens isn’t going anywhere, likely because it’s a professional tool in the first place and not an entertainment gadget.
Compared to Vision Pro, HoloLens doesn’t do VR per se, but can actually simulate virtual reality. It comes in three variants, the cheapest at US$ 3,500, the most expensive – at US$ 5,199, with an integrated hardhat and a bunch of specific bells and whistles. Thus, if you’re looking for something to facilitate routine tasks, and your business ecosystem has its roots in Microsoft products, this may be the best option.
Meta Quest 3 by Meta
Ok, this one is marketed as a gaming platform, but given Zuck’s goal of building a VR metaverse, it may well have future-proofing inside that can turn the headset into an item of everyday use, both at home and at work. Something similar, in fact, happened to Kinect in its time: released as a part of the Xbox ecosystem, it was later employed to solve tasks that had nothing to do with playing games. In the case of Meta Quest, the most prominent non-gaming applications revolve around fitness, streaming, music, and telepresence.
The latest Quest 3 headset features better everything, compared to its predecessor: optics, CPU, ergonomics, etc. Retailed at US$499 for the 128GB bundle and US$649 for the 512GB version, it’s the gear of choice if you spend half of your day on Facebook.
Lenovo ThinkReality A3
Lenovo has been playing the AR game since 2021, when it announced (August) and then released (December) its first augmented reality glasses. The product took off, so the company continues developing it, adding new capabilities, putting better hardware inside, and extending the list of integrations.
The latest addition to the line is Lenovo ThinkReality A3, positioned as a tool boosting productivity by expanding workspace and layering otherwise invisible objects onto the real world. The reel and copy on the product website suggests floating screens and factory floor overlays, which fully reflect what this US$1,500 set was designed for.
XREAL Air 2 Ultra
XREAL is a dedicated maker of AR headgear, which suggests best value-for-money ratio. Judging by the time of announcement, the latest product by the company, XREAL Air 2 Ultra, seeks to take on Vision Pro. The specs of the glasses, however, are not as impressive as those of the Apple’s take on the subject, but XREAL Air 2 Ultra still looks like a gadget covering all the basic and some advanced AR use case bases.
The most prominent weapon XREAL has in the competitive skirmish is price: US$699. The glasses should hit the market in March 2024, so if you’re looking for an alternative to Vision Pro that’s still top shelf but carries a less restrictive price tag, consider postponing the purchase a bit.