Anticipating Augmented Reality
Apple's upcoming AR/VR headset signals a likely greater embrace of these technologies by the mainstream.
In early June, at WWDC, Apple is expected to announce its foray into the world of augmented and virtual reality with a new operating system and accompanying headset. It is hard to downplay the significance of this event – Apple entering an area of tech is often a sign that the market has matured from a rocky, experimental niche to something ready for primetime.
Virtual reality is not new. But it has remained a hobbyist venture – something nerds like me ogle over while much of the public remains blissfully unaware. That, however, may be able to change. The original iPod took MP3 players from the realm of gadget enthusiasts to ubiquity seemingly overnight, whose embedding in the fabric of our lives was only shaken by Apple’s similar transformation of the smartphone space.
If rumors are to be believed, Apple will enable to switch between “augmented” or “extended” reality (AR/XR) and fully immersive virtual reality (VR), enabling the choice of blending actual reality in with the experience or fully taking yourself to another place. Most VR gaming headsets at this point have focused fully on the virtual reality side – they’re not optimized for wearing while doing normal activities. Microsoft’s Hololens as well as Google’s prior attempts with Glass are sort of the inverse: great at AR/XR but not so great at taking you out of this reality entirely. Whether the Apple headset will offer a compelling balance here is yet to be seen, but the possibility is certainly exciting.
As creators, we are eager to see this technology become commonplace enough to enable people to connect with our characters like never before. The cute characters of smol garden like Dan the Duck, the Wandering Witches, and other ideas we have in the works or have yet to dream can be real on a level like never before if society has the tools to make it happen.
The word “metaverse” may even be slung around with seriousness again after being ruined by Facebook’s rather soulless attempts to create a virtual world centered around its Oculus headsets. Though the final product include more variety in atmospheres and customization, early presentations focused so much on recreating an office park atmosphere, which faced intense public derision. Apple has the power to make the idea of a metaverse exciting again.
Of course, it is impossible to anticipate the true impact such a platform will have, especially with the scant few details we have beyond leaks from reliable sources. It’s also quite likely that a couple of product cycles on both the hard and software side will be necessary to truly capture the magic potential here.
Regardless, any area of technology is never the same once Apple enters, which will certainly make this WWDC one to remember. By convention, all of Apple’s operating systems will have at least moderately major updates announced but is rarer you get to witness the birth of a new one in their AR/VR headset OS. With any luck, we will finally see these exciting technologies explode with the potential energy they long held.
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