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Published on November 23rd, 2020 | by Emergent Enterprise


Apple’s Secret Weapon in AR is Right in Front of Us

Emergent Insight:
The best AR device available right now is probably within your reach: the iPhone or iPad 12 Pro. Scott Stein at CNET has an overview of the Apple AR strategy and how they are relying heavily in the short term for their existing devices to carry the AR load. This makes sense. There are millions of Apple devices in the field and with the advanced capabilities of lidar in the Pro 12 devices developers can continue to deliver unprecedented experiences. All of the knowledge gained with handheld devices will be the gateway to a headset experience that will integrate AR into our everyday lives in a seamless way.

Original Article:
Photo: James Martin/CNET

Sometime in the not-too-distant future, Apple will reportedly unveil an augmented- or mixed-reality headset. Apple hasn’t discussed any headgear yet. But augmented reality is alive and well on the iPhone — and it’s getting better fast.

Apple began its AR journey in 2017, making a splash with virtual Ikea furniture and realistic-looking outdoor Pokemon Go battles. This year, I’ve been standing on street corners scanning fire hydrants with Apple’s new iPhone 12 Pro. I’ve mapped my house’s interior. I’ve navigated lava rivers on my floors.

In many ways, Apple’s depth-sensing lidar sensor on the latest iPhones and iPads, with its advanced 3D-scanning possibilities, feels like the backbone of the Apple headsets of the future.

FacebookMicrosoft and Magic Leap are already exploring goggles and glasses that aim to blend the virtual and real, with more headsets coming in the future using Qualcomm chips. But Apple’s AR mission right now, according to Mike Rockwell, Apple’s head of AR, and Allessandra McGinnis, its senior product manager for AR, is to make everything work better on the device you already have in your pocket. Layering AR with real-world locations and popping up experiences automatically, while making creative tools and developing assistive tech based on AR’s capabilities, could, in the long run, become the biggest killer apps.

“AR has enormous potential to be helpful to folks in their lives across devices that exist today, and devices that may exist tomorrow, but we’ve got to make sure that it is successful,” Rockwell says. “For us, the best way to do that is to enable our device ecosystem, so that it is a healthy and profitable place for people to invest their time and effort.”

Rockwell and McGinnis also talked with me about what’s different now compared to three years ago, and why phones matter so much for what comes next.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Apple’s killer AR app: The phone you already have

Virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Quest 2, while continually improving in quality, are still not used by many people compared to phones. “Nobody is really talking about numbers” of VR headsets sold except Sony, which has sold 5 million PlayStation VR headsets so far, says Senior Consumer Chip Analyst Anshel Sag, of Moor Insights, although “there’s a high probability that [the Quest 2] could hit 5-6 million headsets sold in the first year.” But even then, those VR headsets use apps that usually feel removed from the phones and computers we use everyday. AR headsets still don’t exist in any significant numbers yet, even years after Magic Leap and Microsoft’s HoloLens promised an imminent future of mixed reality.

“It’s been a pretty hard road for developers that are VR-only, or are trying to do AR-only experiences,” Rockwell notes. “There just aren’t that many [devices] out there.” Meanwhile, Apple’s sheer numbers of AR-enabled iPhones and iPads dating back to 2017 number in the hundreds of millions. “Even if you only appeal to a relatively small percentage, that’s still a gigantic number.”

Apple says there are already 10,000 AR-enabled iOS apps from 7,000 developers, with many focused on shopping or home improvement as a way to practically use AR at home. Practicality is exactly what Apple seems most intent on at the moment. “We wanted to provide a platform and ecosystem for developers where they could make a living,” Rockwell says.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down physical businesses and slowed travel for most people, home shopping using AR tools is a major part of Apple’s focus right now. Much in the same way Google and Microsoft are pursuing ways to see things you might want to buy in 3D on your phone at home using phone-based AR tools, Apple’s hook-ins to its Safari browser enabling pop-up AR shopping look to be stand-ins for going to stores.

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The Emergent Enterprise (EE) website brings together current and important news in enterprise mobility and the latest in innovative technologies in the business world. The articles are hand selected by Emergent Enterprise and not the result of automated electronic aggregating. The site is designed to be a one-stop shop for anyone who has an ongoing interest in how technology is changing how the world does business and how it affects the workforce from the shop floor to the top floor. EE encourages visitor contributions and participation through comments, social media activity and ratings.

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