What do the iPhone 8, the iPhone 10 and the iPhone 20 all have in common? They’re all 95% boring and 5% exciting. Well maybe that’s over-exaggerating (maybe) but there’s no denying that Apple fans are getting the feeling that Apple has settled into (or might even have embraced) a new era of boring.
Keynote after formulaic keynote, event after predictable event and Apple announcement after anticipated Apple announcement tech enthusiasts and Apple fans are left wanting “one more thing” as Steve Jobs used to say — something unexpected and exciting.
Recent feelings of disappointment have already led several people to speculate that Apple is the new Microsoft. But Apple’s actually up to something big — something that has the potential to blow our minds once more: augmented reality.
Augmented reality — AR for short — is the overlaying of digital information on top of the physical world. It’s also almost certainly going to be Apple’s next big thing (and that’s a very good thing). Imagine Apple glasses (or better yet Apple contact lenses) that could display directions or overlay information about objects you are looking at without the need to look at a phone. Imagine an Apple-developed HUD (heads-up display) in your next new car. Imagine an AR makeover of the Apple TV or the Apple Watch. Even better, though, might be the fact that two people can share a common experience thanks to AR. The possibilities surrounding augmented reality and Apple are seriously exciting.
Especially because it’s a matter of when and not if. According to analysts Apple is set to debut AR technology sometime soon (like in the next year or two). And I suspect the event is going to be a very big deal.
Whereas people are used to their iDevices, an augmented reality device will leave the faithful swooning once more (in my humble opinion). My guess is that after Apple’s AR keynote people will forget they ever had any doubts about Apple’s continued ability to innovate.
So if your faith in Apple’s awesomeness is wavering then here are eight reasons to hope that an upcoming Apple event is going to leave us with something truly special and a bit magical. Why eight? Because I think Apple releasing an AR product will be far more exciting than the iPhone 8.
1 – Apple CEO Tim Cook can’t stop talking about AR
Tim Cook has mentioned how excited he is about augmented reality several times recently. Here’s a statement that lets you know how serious he is:
We are high on AR for the long run, we think there’s great things for customers and a great commercial opportunity. So we’re investing.
He’s not just excited about AR — he’s high on the idea. But this next quote is the one that’s got everyone talking:
I do think that a significant portion of the population of developed countries, and eventually all countries, will have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day, it will become that much a part of you, a lot of us live on our smartphones, the iPhone, I hope, is very important for everyone, so AR will become really big.
In other words people eat three meals a day — it’s just what they do. Tim seems convinced that AR will be the same — it’ll just be what we do.
2 – Apple is under all kinds of pressure to succeed
The iPhone has been Apple’s major cash cow for several years now but sales are slowing drastically. Apple can’t be complacent: it needs a big new hit. Otherwise it really will be the new Microsoft (relying on a once-popular product rather than developing new popular products).
Apple thought about getting into cars, but that glorious vision seems to have been stilted. Apple released the Apple Watch but it hasn’t become a major hit (it’s a popular product among certain niches but it’s not yet a mainstream success). And then there are services like Apple Music and iCloud. Clearly Apple has been trying to make something big happen but just hasn’t been able to connect all the right dots.
But augmented reality should be different. It’s a new platform.
So: Apple definitely has something to prove and a reputation to defend (not to mention the legacy of Steve Jobs) and exactly one fairly clear-but way to rise to the occasion: augmented reality.
3 – Apple is late to the AR party (which is good)
Microsoft and Google have both been speeding ahead in the development of augmented reality products. Microsoft’s HoloLens and Google’s Glass projects are old news at this point. Since Apple has no AR product on the market at the moment, is there really any chance they can catch up (or take the lead)? Well, ya. There’s a big chance. Ron Hirson says it best in an article for Forbes:
In comedy and technology, timing is everything. Enter a market too soon and no matter how great your product is, it will flop. Bide your time, refine your product, pick your moment, and even a “me-too” product can have world-altering success.
The beauty of Apple is that it doesn’t just time markets: it creates them in the same fell swoop. When it came to MP3 players, any other company would’ve been considered 5 years late to the party but, when it comes to Apple the party doesn’t start until they get there. It happened with smartphones and smartwatches. It happened with tablets and contactless payments. Sorry Samsung, it even happened to your beloved stylus.
This is probably one of the biggest reasons Apple fans have to get excited about whatever Apple is doing with AR.
4 – The iPhone is already paving the way for Apple’s AR ambitions
We just talked about Apple not having an AR product out in the wild yet. That’s mostly true, but in some way the iPhone 7 Plus counts as a precursor. More specifically, the dual-camera system. Why? Tom Mainelli explains for Recode:
Apple could use the dual cameras to capture information about the objects and space in front of the cameras. Two cameras allow the device to capture and create depth-mapping information.
For AR to take off devices need to understand where they are in space and the dual camera system is a good place to start. So maybe Apple’s AR announcement is closer than anyone actually realizes!
5 – Apple owns some cool AR patents
Apple has several augmented reality patents in it’s holster. There’s one for a next-gen indoor mapping technology based on visual inertial navigation (say what?), another for an iPhone-driven head mounted VR system, one for an adaptive augmented reality projector and many, many more. In fact, Apple’s patens in the virtual and augmented reality space go back more than a decade.
So… yeah. Apple is serious about this stuff (and has had more than enough time to hone their ideas into something really great).
6 – Apple’s has lots of people working on AR
Apple has been busy hiring people with serious AR experience including a guy from Magic Leap (a company who has released some jaw-dropping AR demos) and a person from Oculus (Facebook’s virtual reality effort). In fact the Financial Times stated that hundreds of Apple employees are working on an augmented reality product.
A big part of the reason Apple has so many people working on AR is that they have made several related acquisitions recently.
7 – Apple has a LOT of cash to fuel the push into AR
Speaking of accusations, Apple can make a lot more. In October of 2016 we learned that if Apple’s pile of cash was it’s own company it would be the seventh largest in the world! Apple’s $237+ billion war chest isn’t going to sit idly by while Alphabet, Microsoft and Facebook trudge ahead in the AR space (you can count on it).
8 – Apple doesn’t do “behind the times”
Apple is known for killing off outdated components early — often earlier than most customers would like them to. Apple events sometimes create backlash when the company removes drives and replaces ports. Do you see where I’m headed here? Apple hates outdated tech. Apple wants it’s customers to own the future. And the future is going to be augmented.