Augmenting reality or Apple has plans to do it again
Of course. It’s Apple, after all. We should have learned by now that they are bound to do anything differently. So, if everyone else in the field is doing virtual reality, they were just destined to carve their own path in this neck of woods and go for augmented reality. Which turned out, actually, quite timely, for our current real reality sure could do with some augmenting… And no, we don’t mean that this devious company set up today’s current madness deliberately, just to create a higher demand for its upcoming line of products. After all, this story had started as early as in 2017 when the company first decided to move in this direction and this particular virus wasn’t even a blink in anybody’s eye…
Seriously though, it seems to be a really promising direction, pandemic or not. If only because the idea behind it (among other things) is to make enjoying virtual reality – and also working in it, by the way – substantially easier and more available than many, if not all, existing solutions by other firms, from Oculus to HTC, allow for. That alone may change the game considerably, taking into account how, shall we say, separated from the regular gadget use said solutions are. So much so, in fact, that serious app market players, such as Adobe, still don’t consider large-scale catering to these devices sector viable: their AR head Stefano Corrazza cited the lack of needed “critical mass” of AR glasses for Adobe to expand their developments in this direction. In other words, not a single VR / AR producer makes enough of them for the big guns to bother. Which, in turn, means that the producers failed to attract enough customers because their headsets are not sufficiently convenient to use with other devices.
And if Apple succeeds in blending the AR experience seamlessly into our daily gadget use, the joke will be on their rivals who never missed a chance to mock them for their devices” supposedly inherent incompatibility”. There will be much less bite to those accusations, should the paragon of “proprietary connectivity” offer an AR headset model (or two) twice as easy to use with phones, tables and the like as the best products of the jeerers. And it very well might, considering that the company has already partly laid the technological foundations for this line of devices. Their deep lidar sensors, now successfully implemented in the latest, 12th, iPhone models (the Pro version, to be precise), are capable of scanning 3D objects on a high level, and that, basically, lies at the heart of how AR and VR work to begin with. And , surprise, it is already incorporated in one of our most everyday types of gadgets.
Moreover, Apple is already using this headstart over its competitors to build a bridge to the times when AR / VR devices will become as common as phones, tablets and notebooks are these days. And they will be. That elusive critical mass level of such headsets Adobe’s Coranza refers to will inevitably be reached one day, for, let’s face it, they hold an enormous potential. Actually, we are talking the “we really need it, we just haven’t quite realized it yet” kind of potential here.
Because they can offer a lot more than “just” entertainment (let’s not go into the whole topic of how much good entertainment truly means in our life for now) or even comfort / diversion for these COVID-19-dominated times when we all need some sort of substitute for a real life (real travel, real face-to-face communication, etc). The pandemic will pass sooner or later (who said “don’t jinx it”?) and we no longer will have to resort to buying stuff purely online. And every single firm selling their goods only that way will be happy to see their clientele, well, augmented by those who normally prefer “live” buying but may be persuaded to stay if they’ll be able to browse the full simulations of the products instead of just 2D pictures. In fact, there is even statistical proof of the efficiency of such “virtual choice”: according to Home Depot, potential buyers become twice-to-thrice as likely to go for a purchase upon being shown an AR image of an item. Then there are some whole not-quite-charted territories in the field of photography, artistic and industrial alike, to be explored. And that’s not mentioning the medical and crime-fighting prospects of 3D image-taking. The vision and hearing improvement via AR are worked on by companies such as Mojo Lens as we write this, and Apple itself has put their AirPods to use for those hard on hearing. And who knows, perhaps, one day we’ll see some of this magic performed by detectives of the future in various movies and TV series in our non-virtual reality.
All of which, of course, hasn’t gone unnoticed by all the aforementioned rivals of Apple: Oculus, Spatial, HP, HTC, etc. are working hard to overcome the current hurdles on the way to make their “mixed reality” glasses more comfortable and accessible to use. And they will inevitably crack that task, so it’s not like Apple, even with the current advantage, will ever have this corner of the market only to themselves (Google, for example, had also tried their hand at deep sensors with the Tango line and may well return to it). But it’s Apple, rather than the rest of the field, who give their customers the possibility to utilize AR without reaching for separate devices, just while using a phone or tablet, thanks to above-mentioned lidars and apps that support them (even if those apps are not yet as hassle-free as we’d like them to be). It is Apple who are already planning a change to the whole app concept in order to equip their AR products with instant-response capabilities: their self-downloadable, code-triggered App Clips are meant exactly for that purpose. It’s Apple who are pioneering the literal mixing of realities with Location Anchors, allowing users to put a virtual object into a physical location for all to see.
So, while others are still gearing up, preparing and perfecting their tools, Apple is slowly but surely habituating us to their particular means of using the amazing potential of virtual and augmented reality. And with the ground gained by now, it may well turn out that one company which will catalyze the demand and bring the amount of AR products to the aforesaid critical level. Which will make it (once again) the standard-setter and force the others play catch-up. And good luck to the latter drawing level.
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Playing with Apple’s new augmented reality platform [Video]
Video uploaded by CNN on August 29, 2017