Children, adolescents, and adults staring at mobile screens while chasing imaginary monsters overran first world countries last year. While Pokimon Go has successfully achieved the largest uptake for augmented reality (AR), the app was not the first to use the technology. Apps such as Yelp’s Monocle and WallaMe have been lurking around the corners of mobile phones for a few years.
However, with the release of the new iOS in Apple’s new flagship mobile phone, AR will cross a new horizon.
Augmented Reality versus Virtual Reality
For the longest time, virtual reality (VR) was the rage as Silicon Valley invested in VR technology, such as Facebook purchasing Oculus. Tech leaders quickly attempted to be the next breakout in blurring the lines between reality and technology.
However due to some weaknesses of VR, such as nausea and an anti-social headset, VR has quickly stalled.
In its place rose AR. AR adds digital information to reality as we see it, so the user does not need to wear a headset or suffer from sickness created from eye tracking lag. In early 2013 Google released Project Glass, or their version of wearable AR technology. Google Glass was to take the next big leap in technology.
However, Google priced the glasses too high and people weren’t quite ready for such a large step into the future. Google discontinued production in 2015.
Yet Silicon Valley’s drive and interest in AR was still high, despite the public not being ready.
Apple changes how the world views mobile phones. With every new phone release, consumers are eager for the biggest and brightest of mobile technology. Recently information regarding the newest phone has been leaked slowly, teasing consumers with what can and cannot be expected from Apple’s flagship device.
While some features are still debated, with estimated release less than a week away, one confirmed item is Apple’s gift of ARKit to their developers.
In simple terms, ARKit is a framework within iOS 11 which allows developers to create augmented reality apps easily. Mobile phone users can easily find and download AR apps, as shown by Pokémon Go's overnight success. Yet third party developers create these games for both Android and iOS.
What Apple is attempting to do is corner the market on readily accessible AR devices. Currently iOS 10, Apple’s most up to date operating system, is in 83% of Apple devices. In comparison, Google’s most up to date operating system Nougat is in only 7% of the Android ecosystem. All Apple phones upgraded to iOS 11 will be AR compatible, making Apple the device manufacturer with the most AR in the market.
But you can bet OLED iPhone, the anniversary edition, will be the biggest and best at AR. One of the more recent leaks stated Apple has been working on a rear-facing laser which will place items in one’s field of vision. The only purpose this serves is to make AR more realistic.
Future of the mobile phone
The real question is what this new horizon means for mobile phones.
A majority of AR apps are game or consumer based currently. In fact, IKEA has designed one of the new apps in order to help consumers envision new furniture before purchase. But this leap in mainstream consumed technology is not about the apps themselves, and what they may or may not offer to businesses. Readily available AR may change the entire scenario regarding mobile phones.
In 2013, when Google was doubling down on glasses, Samsung was making an equal gamble in smart watches. While Google’s gamble has not paid off yet, Samsung’s gamble paid off big. So much so that Apple changed course and started making smart watches after explicitly stating they would not.
Samsung’s S3 Smart Watch has Bluetooth and 4g capabilities, meaning you may no longer need your mobile device to text, receive emails, or even make phone calls. While Apple does not have such a business-friendly smart watch, their watches are water proof, impact proof, and compatible with active lifestyles.
While Google Glass was ahead of the curve in development, it was also ahead of the curve in consumer desire. However, flash forward five years and both Apple and Snap are creating their own glasses. Both Apple and Snap are stalled temporarily, but Google Glass is sitting on a shelf already developed.
With Apple’s push towards AR, mobile devices may be history within the next technology life-cycle. Just as businesses had to decide Blackberry versus Apple, or more recently Android vs Apple, they may have to decide watches or glasses for mobile accessibility.