Apple’s Augmented Reality is Getting Better
February 19, 2021
Augmented reality is a type of technology that allows users to superimpose digital elements onto their real world environment. Essentially, it gives users the power to combine the digital world with the real world.
Many people assume that they need a headset, pair of goggles, or some other type of special equipment in order to experience augmented reality technology. But fortunately, that’s not the case. The only tool you need is your iPhone, and the augmented reality technology on these devices has become increasingly advanced over the years.
A Brief History of Augmented Reality Technology On the iPhone
The iPhone 8, which was released in 2017, marked Apple’s first steps into the world of augmented reality technology. This smartphone featured built-in cameras, motion sensors, and gyros that were designed to roughly map out spaces by identifying floors, walls, and ceilings within a close range.
Apple also introduced ARKit, a new augmented reality platform, in 2017. ARKit allowed developers to build unique augmented reality apps for iPhone and iPad users. Since its introduction, ARKit has been used to create thousands of augmented reality apps that are compatible with most iPhones.
Apple recently took another step further into the world of augmented reality by incorporating lidar technology into its iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. Lidar, which is light detection and ranging technology, has been around for quite some time, but this marked the first time it was ever built into an Apple product.
If you look at the back of either one of these phones, you will see the lidar sensor, which is a small black dot located near the camera lenses. This black dot emits infrared lasers that are invisible to the naked eye. The sensor is designed to measure how long it takes these lasers to bounce off of objects and return to the phone.
Lidar technology then uses these measurements to map out the space surrounding the phone. It is capable of mapping out the size of objects in the room and where each of these objects is located at a range of up to five meters.
For example, say you are standing in front of a chair in an otherwise empty room. By measuring how long it takes the infrared lasers to bounce around the room and return to the phone, lidar technology would be able to determine the exact size and positioning of the chair.
This technology is used to improve the quality of night portrait mode photos on the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. But more importantly, lidar technology is used to enhance the augmented reality experience for iPhone users.
Lidar technology can be used as part of the augmented reality experience to superimpose digital objects in complicated real world settings. It also makes it possible to hide digital objects behind objects in the real world, which is called occlusion.
Including this technology on the latest iPhone models drastically improves the augmented reality experience for iPhone users. It has also established Apple as a major player in the augmented reality industry.
How to Experience Augmented Reality With An iPhone
There are countless augmented reality apps currently available for download in the App Store. These apps offer thousands of different ways to experience augmented reality technology. If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are some popular augmented reality apps to get you started:
- Complete Anatomy: This augmented reality app gives you an opportunity to learn more about the human body. It is often used by teachers in a classroom setting and by healthcare providers hoping to educate their patients.
- Snapchat: Perhaps one of the most popular augmented reality apps is Snapchat, which is a photo messaging app. You can use augmented reality technology to apply various digital elements to your photos before sharing them with friends.
- iScape: Use this augmented reality app to see how different landscaping designs would look in your yard. The app superimposes digital landscaping designs onto your real world so you can see exactly how it would all come together in your outdoor living space.
- Warby Parker: See how hundreds of different eyeglasses and sunglasses would look on your face using the Warby Parker app. This app uses augmented reality to superimpose digital eyeglass and sunglass designs on your face so you can shop with confidence.
- Hot Lava: Turn your living room into an obstacle course surrounded by hot lava using this entertaining app. You will have to carefully navigate around physical and digital objects to successfully complete the course without falling into the digital hot lava.
- IKEA Place: This app, which is similar to the Warby Parker app, allows you to try IKEA products before you buy them online. It uses augmented reality to superimpose digital furniture items from IKEA into your real world environment so you can see what each piece would look like in your home.
- JigSpace: Deepen your understanding of space, historical events, science, and other topics using this app. The app uses augmented reality to help you explore these topics in a completely new way.
These are some of the many augmented reality apps that are currently available in the Apple App Store.
Will Apple Make Augmented Reality Accessories?
For years, it has been rumored that Apple was on the verge of releasing an augmented reality or mixed-reality headset. It was reported that the headset would cost nearly $3,000 and feature 8K displays, eye tracking technology, and cameras to enhance the augmented reality/virtual reality experience. However, the company has never publicly commented on these rumors, so there’s no way of knowing the truth.
A number of other companies, including Sony and Facebook, have already released mixed reality headsets. But sales of these headsets have been sluggish, which is why some experts believe that Apple won’t enter the accessories sector of the augmented reality market.
But the fact that Apple has not released accessories yet does not mean that the company isn’t serious about augmented reality technology. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Apple has been quietly building more advanced augmented reality tools for its iPhones and iPads, which indicates that the company plans on focusing heavily on this technology in the future.
Apple consumers can experience augmented reality using only their iPhones or iPads, which means it’s not necessary for the company to also create augmented reality accessories. However, experts still believe that Apple’s next step will most likely be releasing phone-powered augmented reality/virtual reality headsets or glasses.
Because all of the computation would occur within the phone, the headset or glasses would only need small cameras and sensors to function properly. As a result, the Apple device could be far lighter than other models available on the market today. This would attract many consumers who are turned off by the bulkiness and weight of the current selection of mixed reality accessories.
But this is all just speculation for now since the company is remaining tight-lipped regarding its future plans to release augmented reality accessories.
The Future of Augmented Reality Technology On the iPhone
There are many predictions as to what Apple will do next with augmented reality on iPhones. Some of the most popular predictions include:
- Sharing 3D scans: Some industry experts believe that in the future, augmented reality will allow users to scan and share 3D objects with others using their iPhones. Think of it as scanning and sending a 3D object instead of a PDF file or image.
- Taking higher quality photos: It’s also predicted that augmented reality technology will be used to help users take better photos using the camera on their smartphone. For instance, this technology could help users choose the best angle to take photos from.
- Vision assistance: The technology could be used to scan the user’s surroundings and measure the distance between the user and objects or people in their immediate surroundings. Using augmented reality technology in this manner could turn the iPhone into a helpful tool for the vision impaired.
- Plant digital objects in real world locations: Apple’s Location Anchors technology could allow users to use their iPhone to leave digital objects in real world locations for others to see. For instance, someone could leave a digital version of the Mona Lisa painting hanging in front of the Eiffel Tower for other iPhone users to see.
There’s no telling what Apple will do next. But one thing is for certain: augmented reality technology will play a major role in the company’s future.
What Challenges Will Apple Face With Augmented Reality?
Even though augmented reality has been around for years, a lot of people still aren’t sure what it is or how it is used. Many people are even completely unaware that they’ve used augmented reality apps before.
For example, hundreds of millions of people around the world downloaded and used the Pokemon Go app at the height of its popularity. But it’s safe to say that many of these active users were not aware that they were using an app powered by augmented reality technology.
This lack of awareness could make it more difficult for developers to get users to download their augmented reality apps. If users aren’t aware of the exciting possibilities presented by this technology, they may not be motivated to search the App Store for the latest augmented reality apps. Both Apple and app developers must focus on educating users about augmented reality in order to get them excited about this technology. There’s no question that Apple’s effort to take augmented reality mainstream is still a work in progress. But Apple is a resourceful and innovative company that will undoubtedly overcome these challenges and successfully introduce augmented reality technology to the mass market.