A look into the future // Augmented Reality

The following was part of Issue 1 of The Innovators Newsletter. To get the latest issue delivered to your inbox, twice a month, sign up for the newsletter here or at the bottom of the post.

If you had asked me three months ago what technology I thought would be changing our lives in the most significant way by 2020 — I would likely have said, AI+Automation or possibly biotech, thanks to impressive developments with CRISPR. But my answer after June 5th is, without a doubt, AR aka Augmented Reality. I’ve always backed AR over VR [Virtual Reality] as a broad consumer technology — VR is too niche and removes you from the world while AR merges a digital world with our own in a really simple way — your camera, or soon enough glasses > contact lenses > implants. AR essentially becomes a third eye, enabling us to see the world in a completely new way.

// So what is Augmented Reality and ARKit? AR is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or motion data. While ARKit is a framework released by Apple for developers on iOS, which enables, “world tracking,” which works through a technique called visual-inertial odometry. Using the iPhone or iPad’s camera and motion sensors, ARKit finds a bunch of points in the environment, then tracks them as you move the phone. It doesn’t create a 3D model of a space, but it can “pin” objects to one point, realistically changing the scale and perspective. Read more //

It was no secret that Apple planned to dive into AR, Tim Cook has never hidden his admiration for the technology, but most pundits were backing the big push in tandem with the upcoming iPhone 8 hardware update. Yet Apple surprised many with the early announcement of ARKit, a framework that essentially lets any developer build sophisticated AR integrations for iOS. Best of all is that ARKit only requires users have a recent iOS device, instantly making ARKit “the largest AR platform in the world,” as noted by Craig Federighi at WWDC.

ARKit in iOS 11 is already showing signs that suggest that Apple will help bring AR into the mainstream faster than anyone else. Apple’s AR will immediately reach millions of people who already have the requisite hardware. And it’s this broader audience that makes it far more enticing for serious developers to invest their time and money.

A quick look at what individual developers have been building in such a short amount of time reveals just how exciting this space will become:

With roughly three months still to go before the release of the next iPhone and the accompanying finalization of iOS 11, we can only imagine what big-budget developers, startups, and teams have up their sleeves. It appears to be a safe bet that Apple is going to be the company to take AR technology into the mainstream, and we should all be extremely excited to see what the future holds.