Recent industry reports suggest that Apple is gearing up to launch a wireless mixed reality (MR) heads up display (HUD) unit in 2020. The proposed device would possess both augmented and virtual reality functionality using Apple’s proprietary hardware and software. Following on from the success of the roll-out of Apple’s mobile AR platform ‘ARKit’, the move would further solidify Apple’s position as a champion of both AR and VR technologies and could be the defining factor in positioning both technologies into the consumer mainstream. As Apple ramps up its plans to become a key player within the AR and VR space, it raises questions about the growth potential of the industry and the impact that a dedicated Apple HUD would have in the next five to ten years. The launch of an Apple HUD would be an enormous boost for both AR and VR alike, providing both the hardware and software required to create a robust and usable HUD whilst solving a key issue in terms of consumer accessibility. We recently explored AR and Industry 4.0 and what it means for CTO’s and the explosive rise of AR in the enterprise. Today we’re exploring why the augmented and virtual reality industries need an Apple headset.
Augmented & Virtual Reality Need A Hero Device
In 2017 Apple successfully rolled out its mobile AR SDK: ARKit. Google quickly followed suit with the launch of their own mobile AR SDK: ARCore. Augmented Reality technology, driven by adoption of these new mobile AR SDK’s, is already having a seismic impact across multiple industry sectors from manufacturing, retail and healthcare to financial services and oil and gas.
This solved an enormous problem for augmented reality in that it created a mainstream platform, supporting over one billion existing consumer mobile devices, by which brands and developers could instantly create rich and immersive experiences for devices that already exist in large numbers. It’s estimated that between now and 2020, mobile technology will continue to be the main driver in terms of augmented reality adoption for both consumers and the enterprise. It’s anticipated that eventually, AR and VR technology will shift from what we carry in our hands (mobile devices) to what we wear (HUD’s and wearables). Once that shift has occurred, AR experiences will be delivered by a HUD rather than an ARKit compatible mobile device, at which point Apple will have a fantastic opportunity to assume a dominant market position by launching their own HUD.
One of the most frustrating aspects of new and emerging technologies, particularly VR, is the requirement (in some instances) for a tethered HUD. Most VR headsets need to be tethered to a high powered desktop PC (although this is slowly starting to change) which presents major barriers in terms of widespread consumer and enterprise adoption. If Apple can launch an untethered, wireless HUD, this could be the one innovation that tips AR and VR technology into a mainstream position. One of the key elements here will be Apple’s ability to produce a headset that consumers and workers can wear all the time, as opposed to current headsets which are only really usable in short bursts. This means producing a device with AR/VR capabilities that look more like a set of Rayban sunglasses than some of the VR headsets we see on the market today. When HUD’s become easy to wear over long periods of time, consumers will shift from hardly using them at all, to using them all the time in the same way that mobile devices proliferated our everyday lives over a decade ago. This will enable the mass market to experience AR and VR technology in a way that has to date been preserved for niche applications and a small subset of early adopters. If the biggest challenge for AR and VR is the availability of a mainstream centric HUD to solve the accessibility issues experienced at present, then Apple could be the company to lead the charge.
Apple Are Masters In Driving Mainstream Adoption
If an Apple HUD follows the well trodden path of previous Apple product innovations, it’s launch could be as significant as the release of the original iPhone in 2007. One of the major challenges with new technology is changing the way consumers behave. With mobile AR, consumers and workers are required to hold up the mobile camera in order to overlay digital information and 3D objects on top of the real world. This is not consistent with the way consumers are currently primed to use existing mobile devices in terms of tapping, swiping, pinching and zooming. Mobile AR requires a completely different set of user behaviours as it involves holding up the camera for extended time periods. This is where Apple have an enormous opportunity to change consumer behaviour with AR and VR, in the same way they radically impacted a mainstream shift from desktop devices to mobile.
Contrary to widespread belief, its unusual for Apple to be the first company to launch a product into a new market. Historically, whenever Apple has launched a successful product, its after there have been attempts by competing companies to do something similar. Apple will tend to let their competitors be the first to market with new products so they can learn from their mistakes and launch something that addresses these issues. Apple tend to beat the competition by developing a great product, brought to market at the right time, with killer marketing to generate demand and sales.
If you’re a CTO or Product Development Manager thinking about AR and how it’s liable to impact your software delivery and business operations, there’s never been a better time to get started. Here at Mozenix, we’re working with the UK’s biggest and best clients to deliver high performance mobile AR apps that drive tangible commercial outcomes. With offices in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee we’re ideally situated to facilitate your AR development plans and digital transformation. If you’re considering an AR project but are unsure where to start, it’s worth taking two minutes to complete our AR commercial readiness test to help refine your thinking and plans in relation to AR. If you have a defined set of AR project requirements, feel free to contact us directly to kick-start the conversation today.