Apple's smart glasses can change the game in a niche augmented & virtual reality market

in General Discussion edited May 2020
We don't need more technology, we need someone to find a true use for Virtual and Augmented Reality. Apple is just the firm to do it -- since it's done the same thing twice before.

For this discussion, it doesn't matter if you call it Virtual Reality or just Augumented Reality. If either were any good, you'd be using one or the other, daily, now. Instead, we've been promised both for decades, and there is always another company just about to bring out a headset that none of us will ever wear.

After all, there was a VR helmet back in 1968. While it's true that Apple is always late to a market, 51 years is pushing it. After all this time and all the failed attempts to get products to market, you'd be forgiven for hearing the rumor that Apple is working on an AR headset and thinking, sure, good luck to them.

We actually do know that Apple is working on Augumented Reality. Tim Cook speaks about it quite often, always being careful to say AR instead of the more immersive VR, but then also always saying it will be "for everyone."

That's been the goal of every VR firm ever -- and usually what happens is that the companies switch around to aim at business and enterprise users instead. Microsoft's Hololens was aimed at developers making products for consumers but the company's Hololens 2 is much more specifically targeted at business.

Now analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicts that Apple will begin manufacturing a headset toward the end of 2019 for a presumed release to the public in 2020.

If you're a fan of VR or AR then you could and maybe even should be excited at Apple being so determined on this front. Not only is the company talking about it when it rarely discusses anything to do with future projects, but in February 2019 it even hired a head of marketing specifically for Augmented Reality.

Apple thinks its got something good here and hopefully it has. Yet it's six years since Google thought it had something great with Google Glass, the spectacles that offered on-lens digital information. And it's about five years, eleven months and 25 days since what few users bought the hardware were being called Glassholes.

Just as with Microsoft's Hololens, the Google Glass project continues but it's no longer even trying to get traction with consumers. Instead, what Google Glass development there is, is focused on enterprise customers.

This should remind you of something else. We'll come back to that, though.

Google Glass, Enterprise Edition
Google Glass, Enterprise Edition

Even though it was derided, Google Glass arguably remains the most well-known of the attempts to make a VR product. If you're a little more tech-savvy then you have of course heard of Oculus Rift. Yet after years of waiting for that to arrive, though, it's come and made little impact.

You can buy Oculus Rift with its large headset for $350 now. And Google Glass was lightweight, or at least comparatively so. It's easy to say, then, that what we need is for someone to find a way to put that affordability and lightness into a single product.

Oculus Rift
Oculus Rift

It's tempting to think Apple will do this, but really Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality is missing something else. And it's something that Apple might be the right firm to find -- because it has done before.

Use case

There will always be refinements and improvements, but broadly speaking, the technology for VR and AR exists. Apple has been here before, though, and turned other people's technology into its own mass success at least twice.

It did this with idea of touch-based computing. The first computer with touch technology was devised in the 1960s and products came out in the 1970s and 1980s. Just as with VR, there were decades of precedent and technology but then in 2007, Apple brought out the iPhone.

Apple did create the idea of multi-touch but that's an extension and refinement of the already existing technology. What Apple did was find a use for it.

The fact that Apple improved the technology is important. The fact that Apple was able to make and sell it in huge volumes is key too. But what really changed the world is that the company found a use where not only was touch possible, it was better than anything else.

Similarly, the very first speech recognition by computers was done in the early 1950s but it was Siri in 2011 that changed everything.

Siri existed as a separate app before Apple bought it and integrated it into iOS. Even Apple itself had previously had speech recognition with VoiceOver from 2005. That was assistive technology to help OS X users direct their Macs through spoken commands. It was good, it was great that Apple did it, but you'd be excused for not having heard of it.

Whereas, once we had Siri, we had Microsoft's Cortana, Google's various voice apps Microsoft's Cortana"> You can make a strong case for each of them being better than Siri, and Alexa has become the household name. Yet none of them came until after Siri.

Virtual and Augmented Reality needs a Siri-like moment, it needs an iPhone-like moment.

Right now we have the technology and it's being used in business. Plus, there is a growing world of VR in gaming, yet in both cases it's a niche product.

If Apple has figured out a way to make it useful, that's what could make it mainstream at last.

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  • Reply 1 of 34
    The distinct between AR and VR matters. AR augments the experience we have in the real world with real people. That is why Tim Cook only talks about AR.
  • Reply 2 of 34
    irelandireland Posts: 17,799member
    We’ll see. Specialised uses and distracted kids. A legit use for AR might be car dash.
  • Reply 3 of 34
    flydogflydog Posts: 1,132member
    Given the lack of enthusiasm in the developer community to embrace and incorporate Force Touch, AR, Files, multitasking, Apple Watch, etc into their apps, I don't see this gaining much traction. The problem is Apple generally dumps this stuff out there in hopes that developers will find a use case.   
  • Reply 4 of 34
    hentaiboyhentaiboy Posts: 1,252member
    Just a pair of glasses to watch movies on planes would be cool.
  • Reply 5 of 34
    FolioFolio Posts: 698member
    There was a grad student at MIT in 1990s who walked around w head mounted AR all the time. Steve something? Last I heard he went some Canadian university.
  • Reply 6 of 34
    NotsofastNotsofast Posts: 450member
    flydog said:
    Given the lack of enthusiasm in the developer community to embrace and incorporate Force Touch, AR, Files, multitasking, Apple Watch, etc into their apps, I don't see this gaining much traction. The problem is Apple generally dumps this stuff out there in hopes that developers will find a use case.   
    You're talking about features; whereas this would be an entire new device. Two different worlds. If Apple is able to introduce AR headsets in an Apple way, e.g., nice design, great integration, high quality, etc., they will have a massive hit. Just in the gaming arena, the better analogy is the iPhone and gaming. In the iPhone, Apple figure out a way to have a great device for gaming and now the iPhone is the largest gaming device in the world and it brings in billions in revenue from the App store.
  • Reply 7 of 34
    tjwolftjwolf Posts: 424member
    flydog said:
    Given the lack of enthusiasm in the developer community to embrace and incorporate Force Touch, AR, Files, multitasking, Apple Watch, etc into their apps, I don't see this gaining much traction. The problem is Apple generally dumps this stuff out there in hopes that developers will find a use case.   
    Force Touch didn’t require much embracing - it’s just a shortcut for existing functionality.  The reason it didn’t take off is Apple’s uncharacteristically bad/incomplete user interface.  Users simply couldn’t tell what was and wasn’t force-touchable.
    Not sure why you’re bringing up AR as having lack of enthusiasm - it’s way too early to tell!  ARKit was a “seeding” so that when AR glasses come, there will be some apps already. Currently ARKit apps don’t get much use because nobody wants to hold up their phone go prolonged periods of time!
    Files is an Apple app and pretty popular.  Don’t know why you think it needs developer enthusiasm.
    Multitasking?  Should be obvious why it has limited developer interest - it’s of limited use on a smartphone.
    Apple Watch - I assume you mean apps.  I agree somewhat - Apple was probably hoping for a larger app ecosystem on the watch.  But realistically, there are limited use cases for apps on a tiny screen held up by a wrist.  And Apple’s many built-in apps already fulfill many of the ones there are.
  • Reply 8 of 34
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,526member
    flydog said:
    Given the lack of enthusiasm in the developer community to embrace and incorporate Force Touch, AR, Files, multitasking, Apple Watch, etc into their apps, I don't see this gaining much traction. The problem is Apple generally dumps this stuff out there in hopes that developers will find a use case.   
    The difference between AR glasses and all other tech ever is that the view in the glasses will amplify the wiring in the brain used for binocular stereo vision, i.e., depth perception.

    The screens will fill the field of view and hijack the normal tendency to “search” via saccadic eye movements, thus fixing and focusing the gaze on what the two cameras are picking up. This will result in a novel hyperstimulation of the depth perception circuits of the visual system, leading to a kind of ultrastereo, analogous to listening to music through stereo headphones. This will probably prove to be quite compelling, especially to those individuals with divided cerebral faculties, such as those for example who are “too left-brained” in their orientation to the world. Also, with precise eye-tracking, the binocular point of regard in the depth field will allow for precise selecting of any object that might have a data cloud associated with it. Maybe this will be even more compelling.

    Anyway, I predict along with Tim Cook that this will be bigger than the iPhone as a business.
  • Reply 9 of 34
    bluefire1bluefire1 Posts: 1,304member
    While I’m a huge Apple fan, I’m not a fan of wearing glasses other then for vision. Period.
  • Reply 10 of 34
    FolioFolio Posts: 698member
    You might wish to check out Steve Mann, professor, University of Toronto (ex MIT) if you want to embark on a little tour of AR.
  • Reply 11 of 34
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,526member
    bluefire1 said:
    While I’m a huge Apple fan, I’m not a fan of wearing glasses other then for vision. Period.
    “And you won’t catch me holding one of those gol-danged cellular telephones to my ear, ever. Period.”
  • Reply 12 of 34
    cndgoosecndgoose Posts: 19member
    My prediction is law enforcement and medical uses - some governments might restrict uses if it is revolutionary or heavily regulate it like drones
    Sorry for poor formatting in the mid nessafe - I do find it
    ironic that Apple is side does work on my brand new iPhone XS!
  • Reply 13 of 34
    thttht Posts: 5,553member
    If AR glasses are good enough, it will eventually replace anything that has a display (watches, phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, TVs, etc).

    Still skeptical of people wanting to wear glasses though. People spend thousands of dollars in eye surgery to not wear them. Wonder if this reticence can even be overcome. If not, it’s going to be niche.
  • Reply 14 of 34
    ariearie Posts: 27member
     Not sure what to think about it. The success of Apple has been to design products for large (very large) customers base (from young to older people). Not sure that glasses will meet the same success in terms of market depth as it touches something very dear to each one of us (how do you look with glasses, does it make us feel like robots...). I am skeptic about this but who knows...this will probably be great for younger people, not sure. 
  • Reply 15 of 34
    ArtinfernoArtinferno Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    I really really love when news articles compare VR and AR experiences and their
    products like they're in the same ballpark.

    This article cast a negative light on the Oculus Rift, a Generation 1 VR device, to try and compare it to Google glass and Apples' rumored AR glasses, by saying that the headset is huge (even though it's one of the smallest VR headsets by comparison) and the fact that the use cases and experiences available on Rift are far higher quality and more gamer focused than the basic Google Glass. And although I can agree that VR hasn't quite taken off yet, both VR and AR industries have to work together to grow the technology and user base. So down playing one form of mixed reality to try and hype up another won't help either in the end.

    It's happened before, and I'm kind of used to news articles treating VR AR and MR like this at this point, so all I'm saying is that if you're a consumer reading this interested in VR AR or MR (Mixed Reality) then please, don't write VR and the Rift off simply based on this article. Go try them both out, and I'm sure you'll see how different they are, and how each has a place in front of our eyes. 😊
  • Reply 16 of 34
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 6,447member
    AR and VR are not interchangeable.
  • Reply 17 of 34
    mcdavemcdave Posts: 1,927member
    AR and VR are not interchangeable.
    So if my AR Glasses mask & replace the whole scene with generated visuals, that’s not VR?
  • Reply 18 of 34
    LordeHawkLordeHawk Posts: 168member

    Honestly, Apple might be the only company that can currently develop the sophisticated computer on chip needed to make AR mainstream.  The extremely low system latency required is nothing short of a technological miracle.  For anyone interested in a basic breakdown of this complex technology, read below.

    Local on device processing of HD camera feeds by neuron mimicking cores, provides  scene analysis, object detection and metadata tagging.  Separate eye tracking cameras/sensors must image the iris to determine eye focus, analogous to an object has focus in programming (mouse hover).  Additional data is collected from microphones, gyroscopes, accelerometers  and distance range finding, to provide scene context.

    Collected sensor metadata must process onboard, querying iCloud datasets when necessary and assisting the device’s machine learning when presented with unidentifiable data.  As metadata is processed in real-time against a branch  tree of options, the GPUs must render visual overlays matching the wearer’s viewpoint and orientation.  This overlay must be able to change extremely fast as the wearer looks around and changes focus.  Any lag in the system will be noticeable to the viewer and will keep AR from mainstream acceptance.  In case that doesn’t seem like enough, also consider the achilles’ heel, low light.

    Some interesting notes on this technology and future features.  As sensor technology miniaturizes and becomes cheaper, whole new vistas become possible by adding specialized cameras including; night vision, heat (think Predator), microwave, X-ray, etc.  Whether advanced sensors, basic magnification, or visualization of the virtual world, this technology has the potential to affect humanity greater than the internet.

    Facebook didn’t buy Oculus for games, they missed the mobile phone evolution, they don’t intend to miss the AR/VR revolution.  Since they will literally have access to everything you look at, I will place my trust with Apple.

  • Reply 19 of 34
    My only predictions are:

    1. Apple's AR device will not allow image/video capture from outward-facing cameras, and

    2. The outward-facing sensors will designed to be essentially unnoticeable (aka: opposite of Google Glass), so as not to weird out others.
  • Reply 20 of 34
    alandailalandail Posts: 757member
    You way underestimate the current state of VR when you say "If either were any good, you'd be using one or the other, daily." I bought a VR system a year ago and use it daily and in the process have lost about 50 lbs and vastly improved my health. Once it's all set up, it's fantastic. It's nearly completely replaced television for entertainment for me. Everyone I've ever shown the VR game Beat Saber too loves it. Most of them I can't recommend a VR system or because of the two main problems VR has right now. 1 - it's too expensive. It cost about $2k to set up a good VR system. 2 - it's too complicated. I have to be the one to set it up and get it ready for my family to use. And even I get frustrated when I have to take off the headset to use the windows desktop to fix an error. Both of these issues are about to change for the better when Oculus Quest comes out in the spring. Entry price will drop from $2k to $399. And no more dealing with windows. I don't count Oculus Go as lowering the entry point price because it lacks 6 degrees of freedom and doesn't track your hands. It's great for watching a movie on an airplane (get a movie theater sized screen), but not so great for playing games.
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