Apple’s reality distortion field -- coming to an iPhone near you

AR will change your reality

Apple, AR, VR, Tim Cook, iPhone, iOS, Google Maps, Pokemon
Chris Helgren/Reuters

Reality isn’t enough. Apple plans to distort it with new wave Augmented Reality (AR) solutions the company has been making major international investments in developing – as CEO, Tim Cook, frequently suggests.

Kool-Aid, optional

You won’t need to drink the Kool-Aid to explore Apple’s new realities. Bloomberg claims you’ll be able to taste these solutions with your iPhone and (at some indeterminate point) get more deeply involved in Apple AR using a pair of Apple glasses.

There’s not so much new in the report, which mostly confirms existing market speculation while serving up a partial roll call of “hundreds” of new Apple hires in the VR space.

The report claims the team is led by a former Dolby Laboratories executive and includes engineers from across Apple’s existing teams, supplemented by others from Oculus, HoloLens, Hollywood special effects teams, and numerous experts recruited through a series of related small company purchases.

How will Apple deploy AR?

We have scant detail on how Apple will bring AR solutions to market. We have speculation we may see Apple Glasses, and expectation these experiences will be delivered through an iPhone, but that doesn’t really tell us anything new.

We do know that future ARM reference designs are graphics powerhouses, and that the 64-bit processors already inside most iPhones may be powerful enough for first generation AR deployments, but this tells us nothing about what these might be.

We know these experiences won’t be aimed at games in the sense of VR titles – Pokemon is not the focus here.

I’d argue that to get a sense of how Apple will bring these solutions to market we should look at what is already around.

The potential of AR

These interesting AR solutions may help illustrate the potential of AR to improve your life, while suggesting how Apple can deploy them in your phone, without requiring a stupid, ugly, headset.

Suggestic

Suggestic is an interesting example of an AR experience designed to help people deal with the very real challenge of sticking to a diet. The company is developing a solution that lets you photograph a restaurant menu and then uses AI to help you choose the most appropriate dishes to eat. If you ever tried to figure out how many calories each opti0n on a restaurant menu contains, you’ll know how useful that tool might be. Apps that provide real time translation of street sign, or even the Vivino wine lover’s app all supplement existing reality with additional information.

Zappar

Remember when QR codes unlocked additional content? Zappar is the AR version of this. Download the app on your iPhone and visit this website on a computer. Point your camera at the Zapp-enabled image to see what happens. This kind of AR can be affordably deployed in advertising, education, heritage, public information and more.

Video conferencing

Smartphones are for communication. What is the most widely deployed mobile-driven initiative across the enterprise? The answer is remote collaboration tools, specifically, video conferencing – as VR/AR technologies advance, we’ll be seeing solutions become more interactive, think A Hologram for a King. Similar implementations may include virtual showrooms, or solutions similar to educational AR app, Virtuali-tee.

A little speculation

Bloomberg claims Apple’s VR team includes people from Google Earth, 3D animation, camera, and optical lens experts. Apple purchased FlyBy Media last year. 

Google Street View is a prime example of an AR app. Imagine it within Apple Maps, combined with the existing geolocation features of Apple’s Photos or iMovie. Once you do it is so easy to speculate at the potential to embed your own content to share with others within a global mapping tool (think Google Earth).

We know Apple is investing huge amounts of money in Maps and photography. Claims it plans a StreetView competitor have circulated for years. Add indoor maps (and iBeacons) to this equation and you have a platform with implications across a broad range of industries, including the retail, heritage, education, and hospitality industries.

Apple has already digitally transformed reality with the iPhone. Now it wants to distort it with AR.

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