Apple's latest keynote proves we still don't know what to do with augmented reality

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Apple's latest keynote proves we still don't know what to do with augmented reality
Apple's Craig Federighi during WWDC 2018; a virtual electric guitar sitting on the table next to him.

Apple has been one of the bigger proponents of augmented reality (AR), but the company is still struggling to find a solid reason why the consumer should care about this nascent tech.

As modern virtual reality (VR) started making its baby steps a few years ago, Apple clearly articulated its belief that AR, not VR, will be a staple technology in our future. This vision made perfect sense back then, and it still does. However, I wonder whether Apple isn't at least a little frustrated by the fact that, despite dedicating some serious effort and stage time to it, AR is still struggling to take off.

There hasn't been a single meaningful problem solved by AR so far. The best the technology has had to show thus far are the numerous measuring apps we've seen. At WWDC 2018 earlier this month, Apple software boss, Craig Federighi, again spent part of his presentation to talk about augmented reality and to reveal Apple's latest advances. And again, we saw AR's potential to measure real world objects. That's basically what Apple announced: the application Measure, which is just another AR measurement app, only this time developed by Apple, so it'll probably happen to work a bit better than similar software out there. That's all cool, but we're at least a couple of years into our AR journey so far, and this is what we get: a new measurement app. Not so exciting, eh?

Apple is showing us cool AR tech demos, but we still don't know why we need this stuff

The AR demos at Apple's developer conference also included what may soon become known as "AR shopping". Say you're online-shopping for a new guitar. Let's say you might want to see how said guitar would have looked like in the real environment around you, as if it was already here. Provided the merchant supports the necessary features, you'd be able to visualize the object in the immediate environment, and, at least on your phone's screen, it would appear as if it's right there, in realistic 3D. That indeed sounds like a dandy feature to have, but it's far from essential or must-have. It's hard to get excited about.

The same goes for all the gaming demos Apple's throwing at us. There was a Lego demo where a couple of guys were playing with virtual Lego characters, and also another one that showcased the new "shared AR experiences" feature, where two or three people will be able to see exactly the same AR environment and play in it. Again, all dandy stuff, but in no way better or more convenient that playing the "old-fashioned" way, on your device's screen, without the potential discomfort of moving around nonexistent virtual objects.

Now, there are smarter minds at work at Apple, and when the company sees a big opportunity in something, it probably means opportunity is there. The fact that we're yet to see a compelling AR demo or use case could be a result of the technology not being there yet. What we're seeing with all of these basic AR apps and games, and the development of ARKit, is most probably just Apple laying the groundwork for the future towering business it's going to build with AR. The company has long been rumored to be working on augmented reality glasses – a mythological sci-fi gadget that could eventually redefine how to we interact, consume media, or experience the world around us. Or, it could be met with indifference, just like the HomePod was.

You can watch the AR portion of WWDC 2018 in the video below:



1. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

Agreed. ARKit is absolutely impressive from technical standpoint and there is no denying that Apple currently leads in the AR race, but no one really cares. The only interesting AR product was the HoloLens by Microsoft but it's nowhere to be seen and even if it came out I really doubt people would be interested for more than a month Apple's pushing into AR is nothing more than "We have too much money and we don't want to make any practical stuff for users (like you know, implementing stupid dark mode in iOS or expandable storage) so let's pump money into developing something that only nerds will get excited about" I hope AR and VR will end just like 3D, thrown in the trash. It's a waste of resources and time that could be spent on actually improving user's experience

8. sgodsell

Posts: 7607; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Apple certainly doesn't lead in AR or VR technology. Besides holding onto your iPad in front of you, and the same is true for an iPhone as well. This is not the end game for AR. This is why we see a number of players including Apple working on AR/VR headsets, or mixed reality headsets. Trying to compare a Hololens to someone holding their iPhone in front of their face is too different things. Proves to me that you don't know what you are talking about. Especially when the Hololens supports your hand gestures, and other objects moving in front of the AR headset. Apples ARkit supports none of that. Also VR is here to stay and it's why Apple had to back track and say they are working on an AR headset, and it will also support VR as well. When it comes to games and immersion then VR is the dominant player here. AR is great for letting in the real world, and it certainly has it's place. But likewise for VR as well. To say that you hope AR and VR will end just like 3D is just another thing that once again proves that you never used any AR or VR headsets. Even your Apple love said that in a few years from now, people will be using glasses with similar functionality to Magic Leaps glasses.

2. zunaidahmed

Posts: 1186; Member since: Dec 24, 2011

Totally agree, and bravo to the author of this article, very objective. Tbh, I still can’t see a good reason for both AR and VR at this stage, because I feel that the experience is not immersive enough. Maybe watching Matrix movies and animes like SAO made me want to feel that level of immersion before accepting AR/VR as success but still, the current stage of technology is still far from reality mistakenly immersion.

9. sgodsell

Posts: 7607; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

AR is not immersive enough, and that is definitely true, but VR is based upon immersion.

3. ahmadkun

Posts: 691; Member since: May 02, 2016


4. worldpeace

Posts: 3135; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

It's just Apple that don't know what to do with AR... Hololens and Magic Leap are awesome..

5. theunspoken

Posts: 310; Member since: Jul 06, 2017

AR on small screen isn't impressive

6. NateDiaz

Posts: 1094; Member since: Mar 03, 2018

The reason why Google dumped Project Tango.

7. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

Not sure if you were sarcastic or not, but that was not the reason.

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