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Isolated reality - Digital Threat Digest

PGI’s Digital Investigations Team brings you the Digital Threat Digest, SOCMINT and OSINT insights into disinformation, influence operations, and online harms.


Much as Apple managed to do some serious damage to the phone market post-2007, so the AR/VR/XR wars have begun as of June 2023. Apple’s product launches are always somewhat weird affairs, often taking the tried and tested route of perfume and car advertising in selling the lifestyle rather than the product itself. The Vision Pro launch video is no different, as we watch a man—in a pristine, spacious, Scandinavian inspired interior with a suitably curious dog in the corner—decide that he doesn’t want to live in that reality (why would you?). He blinks slowly, dons the headset, and plugs into the Matrix starts scrolling through photos from a holiday to Turkey.

I found the choice of activities depicted the most interesting, because there’s a huge discord between trying to render this product non-terrifying and its clear terrifying capability. Meta and the Oculus have gone for the social and corporate angles so that legless Miis hover around a table discussing payroll together. Apple’s vision is much more isolationist – the man alone in his living room scrolling photos, the woman alone on her sofa watching a movie, another man standing alone in the middle of an office space checking his calendar. There is no community here. This isn’t a connected or social interaction-focused universe, and it doesn’t fit the characteristics of augmented, virtual, or extended reality. It’s an isolated reality.

The seamless ecosystem is where it starts to get a little dystopian for me. The integration of the phone means no more taking off your Oculus when you get a text. Just keep the Vision on. Keep your eyeballs on the screen. Websites track our mouse movements to see which products we hover over without picking and use those micro movements to tailor adverts back to our profiles. Social apps track our thumb movements to see how quickly we scroll and use that to tailor content to ours feeds. Now we’re in eyeball territory. A mouse is an external device. A thumb an extended device. My eyeballs feel concerningly more personal and internal.

While it’s a good thing that there are multiple serious players in the AR/VR/XR/IR market, as long as they continue to be motivated by the commercialisation of data to drive innovation we’re going to keep falling further into monetisable isolation.

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Our Digital Investigations Analysts combine modern exploitative technology with deep human analytical expertise that covers the social media platforms themselves and the behaviours and the intents of those who use them. Our experienced analyst team have a deep understanding of how various threat groups use social media and follow a three-pronged approach focused on content, behaviour and infrastructure to assess and substantiate threat landscapes.

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