With AR and especially with what Apple refers to as Mixed Reality (MR), it’s great to be able to see an iPad Pro in front of you, but you need to be able to use it. You have to be able to pick up a virtual object and use it, or otherwise AR is no better than a 3D movie.
Apple’s proposed solution is described in “Manipulation of Virtual Objects using a Tracked Physical Object,” a patent application filed in January 2020 but only revealed this week. It suggests that truly mixing realities, in that the virtual object could be mapped onto an actual object in the real world.
Earlier this week, Apple ($NASDAQ:AAPL) acquired augmented reality (AR) lens and glasses company Akonia Holographics ($AKONIAHOLOGRAPHICS), which spawned plenty of speculation on Apple getting serious about AR.
Augmented reality overlays digital information over the real world and differs from virtual reality (VR), where the whole environment is simulated. Akonia describes its AR product as “thin, transparent smart glass lenses that display vibrant, full-color, wide field-of-view images.”
“Digital maps have become essential tools of our everyday lives, yet despite their ubiquity, they are still in their infancy. From urban mobility to indoor positioning, from LIDAR to Augmented Reality, advances in technology and new kinds of data are powering innovations in all areas of digital mapping. If you love maps and are passionate about what is possible, you will be in great company.”
In 2013, Apple bought PrimeSense, which developed motion-sensing technology in Microsoft Corp.’s Kinect gaming system. Purchases of software startups in the field, Metaio Inc. and Flyby Media Inc., followed in 2015 and 2016.
“AR can be really great, and we have been and continue to invest a lot in this,” Cook said in a July 26 conference call with analysts. “We are high on AR for the long run. We think there are great things for customers and a great commercial opportunity.”
Given that Apple is reportedly launching its own AR headset in 2022 and Apple AR glasses in 2023, Magic Leap will have to make serious improvements to its platform in order to stay in a game that will soon become a lot more competitive.
We’re now seeing a move toward mid-range, standalone VR headsets with everything built into the device. Some include their own processors, while others, like the forthcoming Microsoft headset, will work with current desktops. Microsoft’s device claims to do both VR and a modified version of mixed reality
The low end of the VR spectrum has been dominated by Google Cardboard, with over 10 million distributed
AR burst into the public’s consciousness with the Pokemon Go craze in 2016. And Snap (formerly Snapchat) expanded the range of their social media platform with the release of Spectacles, their wearable glasses and World Lens filters that add digital objects to your environment. A second version of Spectacles may include far more extensive AR capabilities.
At Facebook’s spring F8 conference, Mark Zuckerberg made the case that our mobile cameras will be the first popular AR platform. Apple just announced ARKit for iOS at their June WWDC developers conference.
Meta Glasses has been developing its own mixed reality unit that offers a wider field of view than the 40° of HoloLens. And Intel’s Project Alloy promises a “Merged Reality” headset prototype combining both VR and AR by the end of this year.
Aryzon which is creating a Google Cardboard-like device for simple AR experiences. Another is the NOLO Project, which offers an HTC Vive-like experience with full freedom of movement using only a plastic headset and your phone.