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Apple’s impending Augmented Reality support for the iPhone, promises to be disrupting in a good and positive way. Some pundits are referring to to it as a game changer.
The iPhone 8 heralds the debut of iOS11. And Apple has promised Augmented Reality as part of iOS11. Indeed the new iOS holds out so much promise, that it is almost certain that older hardware in the iOS ecosystem will be upgraded to the new OS when it becomes available.
Apple’s dedicated hard core customer base effectively makes the commercial success of the iPhone 8 a foregone conclusion (barring a Samsung Note 7 style debacle!). That alone, together with the millions of customers who upgrade their old iPhones and old iPads, will give Apple an enormous ready-made audience for compatible AR offerings. This in turn will make the new operating system all the more tempting for third parties to write new software taking advantage of the breakthrough features. And more third party support will create a positive feedback loop that will drive sales even further.
Up until now, Apple has taken a rather standoffish position on both VR and AR. But there have been hints for a long time now, that at least in the realm of Augmented Reality, Apple has spotted some clear commercial prospects. But this combination of a new iOS with AR support and a new iPhone to take advantage of it, has a good chance of putting Apple at the front of the grid for the next lap in the VR/AR race. This means that Apple will not only lead the pack, they will also be in a position to set the terms.
Apple has already given early developers a head-start in creating AR content for iOS 11, at the 2017 WWDC, with the issue of ARKit, a developer framework for the system. In addition to giving the market a heads-up on Apple’s strategy, this also enables developers to have their AR software ready for launch in conjunction with the iPhone’s official debut – slated for November, or possibly a month earlier.
The real promise of AR is spread across practical apps and games in equal measure. AR works by superimposing virtual images on top of real ones. So it is possible to introduce a virtual intruder into your home, for you to fight against, or to visualize that extension to your house that you’ve been thinking about. However, this will only happen, if Apple also comes up with suitable hardware for superimposing the virtual over the real. A phone screen on its own, just won’t cut it.
Not everyone agrees on this hardware prerequisite however. Apple observer Gene Munster thinks that simply holding up one’s phone and letting the software superimpose data over the camera’s image will be enough to change the game. He gives the example of holding up one’s camera in a supermarket to find the goods one is looking for or locating one’s seat in an auditorium. But that alone is hardly an advance. An audio prompt would work just as well and without requiring one to gaze at a computer screen.