Apple Is Looking to Augmented Reality to Reinvent the User Experience

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Apple augmented reality watch

“Apple CEO Tim Cook has said on a number of occasions he thinks AR will be bigger than VR,” The Verge notes. “However, if this latest Bloomberg report is anything go by, the first AR features in Apple products will be pretty simple.”

According to insiders, Apple is pursuing augmented reality with not only zeal but a large number of engineers working to integrate AR features into the iPhone.

Bloomberg reports, “One of the features Apple is exploring is the ability to take a picture and then change the depth of the photograph or the depth of specific objects in the picture later; another would isolate an object in the image, such as a person’s head, and allow it to be tilted 180 degrees.”

“A different feature in development would use augmented reality to place virtual effects and objects on a person, much the way Snapchat works,” the report adds.

Apple is reportedly developing AR glasses in partnership with German optics giant Carl Zeiss, and the resulting wearable tech could eventually replace the iPhone.

Bloomberg continues, “The current crop of AR glasses are either under-powered and flimsy or powerful and overwhelmingly large. Apple, the king of thin and light, will have to leapfrog current products by launching something small and powerful.”

Apple’s AR team includes a former Dolby Laboratories executive, engineers who worked on the Oculus and HoloLens VR headsets and a few Hollywood digital-effects wizards.

Cook has compared AR’s potential as a game-changer to that of the smartphone, stating last October that we will “have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day. It will become that much a part of you.”

Apple is making the move at the right time as the global market for AR products will surge 80 percent to $165 billion by 2024, according to research from Global Market Insights.

It’s also a strategically defensive move as AR devices will replace the iPhone and as Loup Ventures analyst Gene Munster told Bloomberg, “It’s something they need to do to continue to grow and defend against the shift in how people use hardware.”

In addition to the team working on AR, Apple has been fleshing out its acquisitions including the 2015 acquisition of Metaio and last year’s purchase of FlyBy Media. The iPhone camera features could run on depth sensing technology and use algorithms created by PrimeSense, an Israeli startup that Apple acquired in 2013.

Given the failure of Google Glass and the still-nascent Apple Watch adoption, Apple is focused on hardware, battery life, a new operating system and perhaps even a new chip, and software that offers enticing content and games.

Munster summed it up thus: “To be successful in AR, there is the hardware piece, but you have to do other stuff too: from maps to social to payments. Apple is one of the only companies that will be able to pull it off.”

[Image at top via Drippler]

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