Apple Now Has the World’s Largest Augmented Reality Platform
Andrew Wheeler posted on June 07, 2017 |

It’s official for Apple: they are tossing in a play for augmented reality industry dominance against Google, Facebook and Microsoft. Not to say that they won’t co-exist, but when the dominant operating system software company, the most popular social media platform advertising business, and the most powerful search engine advertising business cross paths in something as extravagant as artificial intelligence or augmented reality, nothing less than the future reality of our digital and physical lives is at stake, or so it would seem to consumers and technology enthusiasts.

Tim Cook mentioned the company’s interest (signaling investment and teasing future news) in augmented reality technology before this event back in February of this year, during a CBS television broadcast interview.

On Monday at WWDC 2017, Apple’s annual developer conference, executive Craig Federighi announced the availability of the new ARKit for their developer audience and then gave some demos that provided a first glimpse of Apple’s augmented reality.

But most media aren’t reporting that Apple had quietly released ARKit on May 27th­—but augmented reality company ViewAR caught on to it, and tested it out (video below).

The first thing was a coffee cup being overlaid onto a table onstage. Another demo looked like an alien sci-fi movie with some extraterrestrial characters. It wasn’t the most thrilling visual debut, but it is easy to read the audience’s hunger for a new opportunity to create profitable hit software for Apple.

The demo, written on ARKit, showed just some very basic moves, like overlaying digital objects onto an iPhone’s screen and showing off how the light and shadows react to the computing device’s movement in Federighi’s hands. (Image courtesy of Apple.)
The demo, written on ARKit, showed just some very basic moves, like overlaying digital objects onto an iPhone’s screen and showing off how the light and shadows react to the computing device’s movement in Federighi’s hands. (Image courtesy of Apple.)

Besides its software, Apple controls a large part of the consumer electronics market through hypnotizing ad campaigns as well as through devout customer spending on the company’s plethora of products, including iPads, iTunes, iPhones, iMacs and the Apple Watch. The company sends their hardware designs to be manufactured at Foxconn in China, before shipping them to retail stores around the world.

Google’s indoor spatial-mapping project Tango is on Lenovo’s Phab 2 Pro and the Asus ZenFone AR. The differences between ARKit are mainly the replacement of sensor data with a built-in estimation of space, scale, lighting and shadows. The beta version of ARKit will only detect horizontal planes but has some new image-matching and recognition features that utilize a machine learning API called Core ML. Core ML is the secret sauce that will allow developers to recognize different objects.

The main reason people are interested in Apple presenting an augmented reality format to their legions of customers is that Apple products are highly regarded among consumers, who believe that what they wanted was what they needed, which is a basic function of marketing.

Apple is one of the largest companies in the world. Therefore, they are perpetually in both direct and indirect competition with Facebook, Google, Amazon and Microsoft, among many others. This means that these monopoly businesses are competing in several areas and augmented reality is a tech frontier to be explored at great expense. It could lead nowhere or be the next widely adopted technology.

In a way, Apple is vouching for augmented reality, and giving a new audience a chance to understand the technology through Apple’s crisp media filters—spurring conversation about what Apple’s designers and engineers have in mind as perfect augmented reality for the masses.

Though the release of ARKit means that Apple now has the largest augmented reality platform because of their huge user base, the call to 17 million iOS developers basically amounts to them saying, “Hey, could you make some content for this?”

Because there is no content right now, the absence of content will be a big bottleneck for Apple—there certainly will be entertainment—but, as for engineering apps, it doesn’t look good for anything metrological being that it is less accurate than sensor-based AR in terms of accurately capturing the dimensions of a room’s physical data.

Compared to Microsoft HoloLens, the promise of similar mixed reality consumer electronics based on Microsoft’s Mixed Reality OS from Acer, ASUS, Dell and HP is helping lower the USD $3,000 price tag for a HoloLens-like device, and Google Tango has to be ported on to every different type of hardware maker’s designs and adapted to its components. Apple has the advantage over Google here because of their infamous closed system philosophy. They control the means of software and hardware to create an environment of total capsulation, which is great for developing augmented reality apps, which rely heavily on graphics.

Overall, I think the first augmented reality device from Apple will be embedded in the iPhone 8, and it will be a smartphone AR competitor for Google Daydream. Apple has an enormous opportunity with their tremendous electronics engineering resources and surplus capital.

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