Apple Entering the Augmented Reality Domain…?
In March of 2015, Piper Jaffray Companies analyst Gene Munster gave a sign that Apple Inc. might enter the Augmented Reality domain in the near future. Munster revealed that Apple has a team experimenting with technology that could be as revolutionary as smartphones were nearly a decade ago. He also expressed his hope for more user-friendly and consumer-ready Augmented Relaity devices if Apple does decides to step in.
New devices such as Microsoft’s HoloLens and Google Enterprise Edition are anticipated for launch in early 2016. But, according to what we have seen so far it is hard to decipher how the average Joe will adopt and use these devices in their day-to-day activities. If we know anything about Apple it is this – they can make awkward and emerging technology cool, fashionable and easy to use.
Munster suggests that Apple can manufacture wearable Augmented Reality devices which would have attractive looks and performance to hang with the iPhone/iPad line. Style is the key to adoption of Virtual & Augmented Reality devices and Apple’s recent hiring of some big names in the fashion world suggests their wearable device has a design-first focus. Some of these names include Angela Ahrendts (former CEO of Burberry), Paul Deneve (former YSL chief) and Marcela Aguilar (former GAP executive).
Also, Apple has recently hired lead engineer Nick Tompson from Microsoft’s HoloLens team. Munster says, “Based on recent acquisitions of Augmented Reality companies, hiring of a key Microsoft Hololens employee, and conversations with industry contacts within the Virtual and Augmented Reality spaces, we believe Apple has a team exploring the Augmented Reality space”.
According to a CCS Insight report Virtual and Augmented reality devices will have a $4 billion market by 2018. If Apple enters into the field the market share may even rise further. Augmented reality is also starting to gain traction in industrial and enterprise arenas. CCS Insight believes Europe is currently the largest test bed for this technology, with numerous blue-chip companies across all sectors evaluating Augmented Reality capabilities. There are already some fascinating pilots underway that could deliver significant benefits and cost savings, such as those being conducted by DHL to help with warehousing and fulfillment.
Augmented Reality and Apple
Apple has patents that cover a wide range of Augmented Reality functions. These patents include transparent displays, mobile mapping solutions and iPhone-powered virtual displays. One of its patents includes a smartphone that can identify physical objects in real time using computer vision.
Apple also picked up around 171 patents in its acquisition of Metaio this summer and rumors point to the use of Metaio’s technology in the Maps App alongside iOS 9. The feature would allow users to hold up their iPhone in the Maps application, and point their camera toward a particular business or point of interest to get a augmented overlay in the app with related information.
If Apple does announce a stylish Augmented Reality device on September 9th, we can surely expect the adoption, excitement and simple design behind a typical Apple product. Where does this leave developers? Will a revamped Metaio platform be released as an xCode/Swift module? There is a huge hole in the market right now with Metaio going away on December 15th and developers have their fingers crossed that Apple will announce an Augmented Reality authoring tool in conjunction with an Apple-powered Augmented Reality wearable device.
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