Could AR Be Apple's Next Big Thing?
Oct. 31, 2016
AR and VR will most likely become the next major user interface. But I think a combination of AR and VR, or "mixed reality," may be one of those transformational technologies that actually changes the computing experience altogether.
At the recent Wall Street Journal D conference, Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella said "The ultimate computer is this mixed reality world, where your field of view becomes this infinite display."
The concept of an infinite display is fascinating. We all got a taste of this with Pokemon Go, but imagine it with more extreme visuals. Walking down the street, one can see the outside world with images, content, and data superimposed on these scenes. Or if you need directions as you walk, the map is right in front of you, shows you where to turn, and guides you to your location in a more visual manner.
In listening to Tim Cook talk about AR, I get a sense that he has a similar vision of an infinite display. However, I suspect his way of delivering on this may be a bit different than how Nadella and Microsoft will achieve it. Microsoft has already shown its hand via its AR-focused HoloLens platform, which is delivered via large and pricey goggles. The good news is that the entire computing experience is built into the headset, unlike the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets, which are tethered to a PC.
But rumors suggest Apple will tackle AR/VR on the iPhone, perhaps via a special strip on the bottom of the screen, which could instantly overlay AR-based info.
One of my big concerns about delivering AR through goggles or glasses goes back to my own experience with Google Glass. Besides making me look like a geek and making those around me feel as though I was invading their privacy, they just did not work well; among other things, the small screen was hard to view.
On the other hand, holding my iPhone up to something and having AR-based images and content superimposed on the screen would be more culturally acceptable. For this to work, Apple needs to up the ante with AI and machine-learning software; way beyond what it does with Siri now. Recently, Apple hired top talent in AR, VR, AI, and machine learning, so it's clearly thinking about how to make this happen.
If this effort is indeed iPhone-based, it would not surprise me if Apple is the one who brings AR to the masses.