October 2, 2017

Augmented Reality – the next digital marathon

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Wave or bubble? 

Two week ago, the entire (media) world seemed like it had it’s eyes fixed on all but one thing; the press conference of one of the biggest conglomerate in the world. Apple. The multi billion dollar company showcased her latest products, devices and services to fans, journalist, trendwatchers and critics alike. While we could discuss for hours upon hours regarding the predicted line up of a new Watch and iPhone 8, or deviate our focus and attention to the new – and supposedly – the biggest leap since the original iPhone – the iPhone X – we deliberately won’t. Not because there isn’t much to tell. Oh no, others would give you a vastly more accurate and in-depth story or article. No, what really did caught our eye and interest was the augmented reality demo based on Apple’s new development platform: ARKit.

You see, every time Apple takes the stage, something interesting is bound to happen. Whether that would be a partnership with one of the most iconic video game companies in the world, collaboration with the most identified sport brand or even the introduction of a revolutionary new product or service, something will have an impact on the market. In this case augmented reality (AR). AR isn’t something new or groundbreaking – if anything, it’s true potential still hasn’t been tapped. And one could argue that Apple undersold it’s true value. During their press conference, it seemed only like a minor part of the show. Like the appetizer before the main course. The real power and possible impact of their conference might have been hidden in that small demo.

“ARKit uses Visual Inertial Odometry (VIO) to accurately track the world around it. VIO fuses camera sensor data with CoreMotion data. These two inputs allow the device to sense how it moves within a room with a high degree of accuracy, and without any additional calibration.”
(Source: Apple, https://developer.apple.com/arkit/)

The proudly presented technological development was showcased in the form of a tangible game for the iOS devices. Tangible being a must, since the products that were presented need to sell to the consumers who don’t understand the other side of the story.  The consumer saw a great looking game with high end graphics (resp. on mobile devices) mixed or merged with the real world. What tech’s and developers saw was something different: A big game company adopting the technology and spending money on developing a first of it’s kind game for all those consumers buying Apple’s mobile products.

A working technology for millions of devices. A framework , open for anyone to start developing with/for AR today. And big budgets already being spend on actual ‘tangible’ (digital) products. These three conclusions – derived from the Apple keynote – should bring us a new wave of ‘adaptors’ from all kinds of markets. Ready to build, release and sell their products.

Unlike the VR revolution – of which no real estimates can be made about current size (in both money and stakeholder) and vision – the AR wave is far from hitting a cul-de-sac where applicability and solutions are as fixed as they seem to be now. The AR wave also doesn’t seem to be a bubble (no characteristics so far). So where is it going? A dead end with workable niche markets? Or are we on the verge of a new era, where iterations of available technology (both hardware and software) happen on a daily basis, making AR one of the faster growing ‘markets’?

ARKit isn’t exclusively available for the next new iPhone however. All iOS11 capable devices will be able to handle it – to some extend or form. But you don’t want to compromise with your experience. In this day and age where there are many different competitors (Google for one) and countless of choices for alternatives, usually you only get one shot. And it should matter. So the interesting discussion what people should actually be talking about, or maybe focus their attention towards, is more what our landscape will be and how it could be with the help of these new, innovate technologies, rather than just simple the price. Is AR – thanks to the ARKit – the next sleeper hit? Will it completely change markets or set the new standard for many industries? Will it be just another bubble, or is this going to be the big wave?

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