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Apple Vision Pro draws investors back to struggling VR/AR market

Apple Vision Pro photographed at Apple Park

Investors dissatisfied with AR firms, or just wary of investing before Apple entered the field, are now beginning to back headset companies following the launch of Apple Vision Pro.

Back in 2021, investors seemed to be jumping into the metaverse future, but interest has cooled since then. Shortly after reporting that Apple's then-forthcoming headset could be a "cash cow" for investors, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said firms were now more interested in AI.

Now according to the Financial Times, it remains true that investors are spending more on firms working in AI, but there are also signs that they're looking at AR and VR once more — because of Apple.

Ori Inbar, founder of Super Ventures — what's called an early-stage augmented reality fund — said that it is specifically Apple Vision Pro that has changed minds. "[The launch] generated tremendous energy," he told the publication. "[It was] the proof the market needed that mixed reality [MR] is not a fad."

"I have been getting a lot more calls from investors seeking opportunities [in the field]," he continued, "and several of my portfolio companies were able to accelerate their fundraising process."

In June 2023, following the launch, US start-up firms working in AR, VR and MR raised $208 million.

Apart from a one-off investment in military technology firm Anduril Industries in December 2022, June's figures are a 12-month high for the sector. June's one-month total also neared equally the joint figure from March, April, and May.

These figures were collated for the Financial Times by PitchBook, and one of its analysts remains cautious. Eric Bellomo says headset investment had been "underwhelming" so far, and that Apple has created "an inflection point," a reason for investors to change their minds.

However, he said that the industry would be wise "not to pin all hope" on Apple.

One of the beneficiaries of the new investment is Massachusetts-based and therapeutic company Luminopia. It raised $16 million in June.

"[Apple Vision Pro served] to validate our broader vision that immersive reality will open the door for an entirely new category of therapeutics," CEO Scott Xiao told the Financial Times.

The publication notes, though, that while investment has gone up sharply in this sector, it remains dwarfed by the money being spent on AI startups. In the first six months of 2023, investment in AI-related firms was $31 billion.

With AR, though, investors do not appear concerned about either the $3,500 price tag of the Vision Pro, nor of its only quite vague release date. The expectation is that this is the start of a new market, and also that headset prices will only get lower over time.