Image: Apple.com (screenshot)
It was in Edinburgh, just after university, where I had my first internship at a company called SFX. During the lunch break, I was telling everyone about how cool my new iPod Nano is. Being a product person from the heart, I have always admired how Apple products have a sense of ‘knowing you’. At the time, I didn’t even know much about product management or user design, experience, etc. But I was very impressed by the simplicity of use, and its intuitiveness. It got the work done and had a sense of privilege using it. As a student, that was the only Apple product I could afford and I surely was enjoying/bragging about it.
Years down the line, spending time in the hi-tech industry, and more importantly observing society change, I have come to understand many of these innovations have not done justice to the holistic ‘customer journey’. A typical customer journey is, for example, the customer gets to a website or an app, browsing to purchase a product/service, selects one to put in the cart, and then goes through the checkout and purchases it. From a holistic perspective, we should question how the customer was feeling prior to arriving at the app, during the in-app journey, after signing out, and then the implication of that service or product that the customer purchased? Maybe 20 years ago, it didn’t matter so much, but today when these innovations are unintentional enablers, in the guise of convenience, independence, and individuality, in creating physical distance among friends and families, a good product manager will think of it.
Of course, a healthy argument can be made that it is none of my business or that it’s up to the users. Any product company might say that, and this will not be invalid. If someone harms themselves after seeing their team lose a football match on TSN, it is not the fault of TSN. I submit to this argument. But there is something bigger at play here. Since the arrival of various handheld technologies, social media, and the plethora of apps, mental health issues are on the rise at an unprecedented rate. Loneliness is huge in today’s day and age. Some Anecdotes:
- South Korea is offering isolated young people $500 a month to get them to leave their homes and reconnect with society.
- Britain has had a loneliness minister in the Government from pre-pandemic times.
- NYTimes reported at any moment, about one out of every two Americans is experiencing measurable levels of loneliness. This includes introverts and extroverts, rich and poor, and younger and older Americans.
- Eye coordination with hand gestures, topped with Siri integration, will lead to a very smooth user experience. This is one thing that other players in the industry never are able to take advantage of – the ecosystem.
- The see-through headsets, where you can still talk to someone while you have them on.
- Digital Avatars. Yes, it looks very realistic. If you remember Animojis World. Clearly, they were working on this for quite some time.
- A good AR implementation with real-world awareness.
- 4k resolution for each eye. and 3D will look proper 3D with surround sound for your ears. Amazing.
What I don’t know yet.
- How heavy is the headset?
- How much fatigue will it cause? Physical head and neck fatigue and also eye strain. When I used AR Glasses from North, a company purchased by Google later on, had a huge eye fatigue. Similarly, when I used Oculus a few years ago, it was clunky, not comfortable to use, and pixelated.
Look, having said all this, as I said above, Apple is good at product execution. I am sure, purely from the product innovation and implementation, they have done a great job and are leading the way.
But in what direction?
A direction that has caused serious damage to people. Now Apple created a portal (Vision Pro) through which all the apps and services, with functions and features that are well-researched on addiction, gamification, performative magic, social engineering, persuasive design, and behavioral economics will start coming through.
It starts to become dark/questioning when the goal of these features is to keep you in the app for as long as possible. And now, with Vision Pro, the persuasion will be exponentially high because of the Convenience and Pleasure factor.
I see two ways forward. Maybe three, let’s see.
- Apple Leadership starts coming out with products and features that ‘actually’ does something for loneliness.
- All the apps and functionalities that are designed for Vision Pro, pass through some sort of ‘Mindfulness by Design’ framework. So it’s not an afterthought but from the get-go.
- Users themselves get smart and are able to minimize the time and usage of these products. So they are the masters of it and not the other way around. We know this hasn’t worked so far.
I would love to know your thoughts. What do you think will be the impact of a device like this in society? And what can be done to mitigate that?