It’s no secret that big tech has its sights firmly set on AR. In May we wrote about Meta’s announcement to integrate NFTs — including those of the AR variety — into Facebook and Instagram. Mainstream crypto adoption is a major goal of just about every blockchain startup, so hearing there may be billions of potential new users on the way was incredible news.
But Meta isn’t the only name in the AR game, and they certainly weren’t the first. Apple, Google and Microsoft have all made moves in the space, with the latter already known for producing the high-end HoloLens XR headset. This cool piece of futuristic tech allows users to interact with augmented reality displays using nothing but their hands — a concept once relegated to the realm of sci-fi.
And who could forget Google Glass, one of the first attempts to bring us into the future with a sleek, powerful wearable? While Google Glass didn’t take off in the way many had hoped, it left us with a clear understanding of what needed to be done to make AR wearables not just possible, but cool to wear as well.
Today, we’re looking instead at Apple and dissecting their plan for AR’s future.
Apple’s AR vision
On May 29, 2022, tech blogger and AR evangelist Robert Scoble tweeted about Apple’s plans for an increased focus on AR. Apple already supports AR applications on their devices, and their proprietary ARKit makes it easy for budding developers to dive head-first into the world of augmentation. Their hardware also lends itself perfectly to AR, with the high-resolution cameras iPhones are famous for allowing accurate LiDAR calculations for AR apps.
But AR is a much bigger part of Apple’s plans than just support for filters on Snapchat.
As tweeted by Scoble, this year’s Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC22) will feature previews of both AR wearables from Apple, as well as tech demonstrations of their hardware support. If that doesn’t mean much to you, let’s look at why this is actually a massive deal.
People love Apple wearables
It’s uncontroversial to say that Apple’s branding and marketing team is one of the best in the world. The brand is associated with elegance, class and status, and owning an Apple device is undoubtedly a statement.
Tech wearables have always suffered from an image problem — they’re clunky, ugly and kinda uncool. Something like a smartwatch has always been a dream of tech enthusiasts, but until recently was something reserved for only the most tech involved.
Then came the Apple Watch.
In a short period, Apple transformed the smartwatch from a niche market into something everyone could aspire to wear. Other manufacturers, like Samsung and LG, are trying to keep up and certainly have a large part of the market, but without Apple making the smartwatch sexy there’d probably be a lot fewer people wearing them today.
It’s not hard to imagine they could do something for AR wearables as well. As we covered in a previous article, AR wearables exist, but so far suffer from either a lack of utility or, well, being ugly. As awesome as they are, nobody wants to wear a HoloLens in public.
Apple’s move to develop AR wearables (Scoble suggests January 2023 for the product reveal and June 2023 for sales) sends a message to consumers that AR is cool, and that AR wearables can be stylish. While we’ll have to wait and see how stylish they actually are, there’s no doubt that Apple’s award-winning designers are pouring their hearts and souls into making something the public will be lining up around the corner to buy.
Apple’s hardware can push AR forward
Hardware has long been the greatest restriction on AR developers like Hololoot. Devices need compact, efficient, powerful chips to process the enormous amount of special data needed by AR applications. Right now we’re building futuristic software but waiting for the hardware to catch up.
On that front, we’ve got a lot to be excited about at WWDC22.
Apple’s latest generation of chips — the M1 — has some incredible innovations that can push AR into the next generation. For example, the neural capabilities of the chip make it possible for just about any M1 device to process neural radiance fields to generate accurate, high-resolution 3D assets via in-built cameras.
Translation: you can take a bunch of photos of a person or object and have them stitched together to create an incredibly accurate 3D model.
You can see a demonstration of neural radiance fields here.
The Ultra Wideband (UWB) chip in most M1 Macs will also finally get an AR demonstration. These chips are already in modern Macs, but until now we haven’t seen a demonstration of their full power beyond being used to find your lost keys.
These nifty little chips help support ‘meshing’, which is what happens when you scan your room with an AR app. When you scan a surface, information about the texture, lighting and distance feeds into an algorithm to create a 3D map of the surface. Meshing connects this data to give your AR app a full understanding of the space.
Meshing makes it possible for you to place AR objects on surfaces and for them to remain there regardless of how you move in the room. In our app, for example, you can place an AR asset like the CryptoBlades Sword on your wall, and have it still be there if you leave the room. As you walk around, the size of the object scales, but the position stays locked. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work so well when more than one person is interacting with a meshed space.
With Apple’s UWB, we can imagine that it won’t just be possible to mesh with greater accuracy, but for those experiences to be shared. The UWB chip is all about spatial positioning, and when two independent devices interact in AR, accurate positioning is the most important thing.
This is huge news for companies like Hololoot that are looking to build shared metaverse experiences in AR.
One small step
AR technologies have been in and out of the headlines for a decade now, but we’re finally seeing the technology catch on. When we’ll be seeing true mainstream adoption beyond face filters and Pokémon Go is still up for debate, but announcements like Apple’s assure us we’re close.
Hololoot is a pioneer in decentralized AR, and part of our core mission entails bringing AR and NFTs to the widest possible audience by making the technologies fun, accessible and even profitable for users. We’ll be paying close attention to what Apple discusses at WWDC22, and we’re excited to see how we can use these developments to make our products even better.
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