5 years ago, the market for AR/VR was quite limited, with little to no content or hardware to support anyone who was interested. Now, in 2019, the market is booming with continued exponential growth and momentum. Some of the biggest names in the tech industry have released their own VR content, software, and hardware. Originally starting on Kickstarter, Oculus has steadily made their name known and establishing themselves among the greats like Samsung, and Microsoft.
However, one of the largest tech giants out there seems to stay relatively silent throughout this collective excitement of AR/VR. What about Apple?
Apple has become one of the most revolutionary tech giants out there, completely altering how we think about computers and hardware. Their products have a loyal international fan base with whatever they touch turning into gold. It seems as when Apple puts their own twist on a type of tech, they enhance it to perfection. They have a reputation for churning out new releases after new releases, and their net worth of $1 trillion reflects their achievements.
That begs the question, why haven’t they entered the VR game?
Behind the Scenes
Let’s start with what we do know about Apple as a company, and then dive into where they may be at with VR.
Along with their reputation of being able to push out new releases efficiently, they also are known to be very secretive with their launches. They stay many steps before their audience, let alone their competitors, which helps build the anticipation for their products. The “wow” factor of Apple is that they develop products that no one has ever seen before, and the element of and desire is one of their most ingenious ways of building a loyal fan base. We’re always kept on our toes about what they are releasing next, and it always seems to be bigger and better than before. However, if they do in fact think a few steps ahead other companies, why haven’t they dabbled with VR yet?
The answer is: they have. In fact, Apple has been researching and prototyping for over 20 years. Their research into Stereoscopic displays dates back to as far as 1996 with Apple featuring a VR prototype at a conference on Stereoscopic Displays and Applications VII. Apple was a part of their highlight reel, showcasing their prototype of a wearable computer system with a Virtual I/O head-mounted display. Fast forward 20 years from that conference, Apple welcomed Doug Bowman onto their research team, become the first of many to join Apple for this secretive project. Bowman was the Director of the Center for Human-Computer Interaction at Virginia Tech, spearheading research for VR. His research was primarily centred around 3D interface design, dipping his toes into VR as well. Prior to his onboarding, in 2015, Apple acquired a series of AR/VR start-up companies -- Metaio, Faceshift, Emotient, and Flyby Media.
Their current trajectory seems like Apple is laying down the foundation, and ramping up for the right time to release their version of AR/VR.
Where They Currently Are
In 2017, Apple announced its new Metal 2 Developer Kit, which opened the opportunity to collaborate and connect with VR. With their partnership with Valve, SteamVR is now supported by Apple, along with Unreal 4 engine, and Unity. Releasing the Metal 2 Developer Kit was the first major step that Apple took to further improve and enhance the ability to maximize the graphics and computing potential of your apps with their software. This was huge in laying down the framework for more AR and VR related technology that is to come and further inspired their newest iOS update.
Apple has released their newest version for iOS, introducing to the public ARKit 2. ARKit 2 first made its debut on June 4, 2018, promising the ability to create the “most innovative AR apps for the world’s largest AR platform. With iOS 11, developers now have greater flexibility creating AR-based apps and games with ease, continuing their commitment to being intuitive and user-friendly.
Apple VR: Coming Soon
The Apple VR/AR headset is said to be unlike anything else we have seen yet. Currently, multiple sources have said that the VR headset will release in 2020, however that date could come a lot sooner than we think. The headset is said to be able to seamlessly switch from AR to VR and will run on a powerful wireless processor. That means that you can use the headset without a PC or a smartphone. This “dedicated box” uses “high-speed short-range wireless technology called 60GHz WiGig”, which is more powerful than anything on the market currently. Additionally, with the introduction to the box, gone are the days of setting up cameras to read and track your movements. It is said that there will be no need to install cameras in your room to detect one's location as all that is needed will be built into the box and their VR headset. To make things even better, the headset is said to have 8k resolution for each eye, allowing you to have an incredibly immersive experience. If the headset is said to be able to run untethered and without an external device, Apple will have succeeded in unlocking the future of AR/VR.
There is some speculation that Apple is also releasing their interpretation of AR glasses. Their version seems to primarily focus around the idea of “smart glasses”, similar to the Google Glass. Currently, Apple’s projected timeline of finishing the product by 2019, and releasing them to the public by 2020, however, the dates are subject to change. Though both the AR and VR headsets are really exciting releases, there is not much clarity what the biggest differences between the hardware besides the augmented/virtual aspect. We are definitely excited to see their special features when the headsets have been released!
Keeping up with Apple’s reputation, we can expect nothing but greatness from their upcoming releases. We at Yulio are really excited an curious to see what the Apple VR end product is like, and how it will shake up the AR/VR industry. It seems after a long time coming, Apple has finally decided to join the AR/VR game.
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