The technology industry giant Apple may be entering the market of augmented reality according to new reports by tech journalist Robert Scoble.
Scoble claims that the company will be working with the German lens and optics manufacturer Carl Zeiss. Rumors are that they will be making their own twist on something similar to Google Glass a couple of years ago, a device in which notifications for text messages or calls could be seen or pictures could be taken through the lens of glasses. Augmented reality (AR), contrary to the fully immersive and altered environment of virtual reality (VR), takes the real world and simply adds virtual elements to it, hence its nickname “mixed reality.” Think Pokémon Go, an extremely popular app that utilizes augmented reality to alter the real world around you. Through your phone’s camera you see your real lawn, but there is a Pikachu sitting on it. This is the core principle of mixed reality.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has shown incredible interest in delving into this market, stating that he believes it is a more relevant market than virtual reality; people will be far more likely to buy it as it is easier to use in everyday life “There’s virtual reality and there’s augmented reality — both of these are incredibly interesting… But my own view is that augmented reality is the larger of the two, probably by far,” he stated. While companies like Samsung, Oculus, and PlayStation are developing VR headsets, Apple is deviating from the future that other tech titans are envisioning.
The company working with Carl Zeiss implies that they will delve into the market of AR glasses rather than handheld devices. The glasses would likely have a projector of some sort on the inside of the temples or bridge of the glasses that displays an image on the lens, resulting in the user seeing the image without having to hold any object. It is an interesting choice from Apple to turn to glasses with this technology, especially considering the failure of the remarkably similar Google Glass a few years ago. I believe that the main reason this market is not appealing to people is that they simply don’t want to wear it. While devices like iPhone or iPad are held in hand, something like these glasses would be worn on the user’s face. That is often not what the consumer wants, since it requires displaying the tech out in public.
Cook’s decision to turn Apple down the road of augmented rather than virtual reality will likely be a controversial one. It’s intriguing to me that he believed more in the mixed reality market. It seems far less futuristic of an idea than virtual reality, but maybe that’s the point. Starting with making augmented reality first is like taking a small step before the leap. It may be easier to introduce something a little more grounded and natural if the company wants to sell the product. Virtual reality has already entered the market, and clearly it is not quite a mainstream product yet. While it is true that Google Glass failed in its launch, the familiar Apple brand could be enough to push the product onto the everyday consumer.
On top of this, augmented reality is a more accessible and user-friendly device. VR has had issues in which users get dizzy, or they aren’t aware of what is happening around them. Augmented reality, on the other hand, preserves the real world that the user is in and therefore eliminates both of these issues.
Overall, Apple delving into this market has the potential to open up the mainstream market to this kind of technology. They have done it before; their release of their Apple Watch in 2015 opened up the average consumer’s eyes to the smartwatch, despite rivaling companies having similar products earlier than Apple. Their brand alone regularly helps attract buyers. So while virtual reality may not be as revolutionary as first expected, the future of augmented reality is as exciting as it’s ever been.