Apple Shakes Up the AR Scene - Is This The Death Of VR?
Before Pokemon Go, Augmented Reality technology was mostly confined to underwhelming iPad apps and unwanted add-ons to camera software on smartphones. AR has been floating around the edges of the public consciousness for years now, but it didn’t have that ‘killer app’ to really push it over the edge into the mainstream. Pokemon Go changed that. Even after a year, there are still an estimated 5 million active daily users of the Pokemon Go app. It has helped people begin to realise the power of the technology they carry in their pockets.
Last night Apple took AR to the next level.
The VR and AR industries have been waiting for an offering from Apple for some time now, especially after news broke of all the patents and hiring that was going on behind the scenes. At WWDC earlier this year, Apple signalled its intent to try and crack the AR market with the announcement of ARKit coming to iOS 11 later this month.
ARKit has opened up the world of augmented reality development. Projects that once took boutique companies months and thousands of dollars can now be done by someone working out of their bedroom within a matter of days, if not hours. In fact, some people have predicted that this could end up killing off a whole generation of AR studios. There have already been some great examples of people using the technology, and happily, these projects cover a lot of different industries; everything from gaming to architectural visualisation, art, world-building and entertainment.
Last night Apple revealed the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X. All three new phones will have specially designed cameras optimised for AR. The special cameras are expected to sense depth and understand 3D space, which will make augmented reality far more effective. Fast and stable motion tracking will make objects appear like they are actually being placed in a real space.
Apple also showcased an augmented reality feature that MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) is working on for iPhone 8. This would allow baseball fans to point their camera at the field and see a digital overlay of stats and player information. But the applications run far beyond sport; Disney recently purchased a 33 percent stake in MLBAM for a reported $1 billion. Watch this space.
The starting point for full AR adoption?
Members of the public who may not have a great deal of experience with higher-end technology are able to get their hands on augmented reality demos with minimum effort and understanding. They literally just have to reach into their pocket. In contrast, Virtual Reality can be much harder to access. The high-end fully immersive experiences usually require a high powered PC, with a complicated set-up and a large financial investment. And for some, just putting a headset on is a step too far. VR is still considered to be a technology that’s out of reach to everyday consumers.
Ease of use is often important for adoption of new technology, and this is an undeniable advantage that AR offers over VR. Augmented reality is also able to incorporate social elements with ease - just look at how Snapchat has turned it into a fully shareable experience - whilst VR has been criticised for being isolating. Also, by losing your eyes and ears you become confined to a limited space, and while that does mean you can be fully transported to any environment, it also removes the ability to access this sort of experience on the move.
Will augmented reality kill off virtual reality?
Well, no. AR and VR are two separate mediums, and conflating the two does both a disservice. Both have their own distinct advantages, disadvantages, and will possibly end up with their own distinct user bases. VR is unparalleled for transporting users to other words, and delivering experiences that you simply wouldn’t be able to access without the technology. AR is much more user-friendly, easily accessible, and available to use anywhere and everywhere. They’re not the same thing, and that’s OK: they don’t have to be. What really matters is knowing when to use each one, and how.
AR and brands
AR offers the latest way of engaging with consumers; the potentials are endless. From purely bringing some light and laughter into our world to adding value through visualisation, and enhancing events with informational overlays. The beauty of the medium is its accessibility and simplicity, and now Apple has opened it up to the mass market.
Sol Rogers is CEO & Founder of Rewind
Genre: Apps , Creative technology , Digital , VR