IDTechEx asks why Apple seems bullish on AR - but not the Metaverse

IDTechEx asks why Apple seems bullish on AR – but not the Metaverse

BOSTON, October 7, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — About September 30e 2022, Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke to Dutch media Bright on the future of augmented reality (AR) and the metaverse. On AR, Cook was optimistic, saying “it won’t be that long” until we look at life without AR as we now look back to a life before the internet or the smartphone. Conversely, in the latest in a series of swipes at the perception of the metaverse, Cook said Apple doesn’t use the word because the public doesn’t understand it and virtual reality (VR) doesn’t is not a good way of communication.

As noted in IDTechEx’s recent report, “Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality 2023-2033: Technologies, Players, and Markets”, interest in the metaverse has led to increased investment in AR and VR hardware as these technologies should become the key gateways to this next evolution of the Internet. However, as detailed in the report, it is important to remember that the applications of AR extend beyond to solving tangible, shorter-term problems. Apple has clearly not forgotten this fact.

Finding the right app for consumer AR

There is a growing realization that for consumer AR glasses to be truly successful, they must fulfill several roles that cannot be fulfilled by existing smart devices or VR headsets. An example of this is Google’s ongoing public study with AR glasses that translate and transcribe conversations in real time, among other tasks.

Technically, these glasses bring nothing new. Smartphone software is technically capable of the same task, but AR glasses allow you to have a smooth conversation without staring at a screen. For those who frequently have to communicate in unfamiliar languages ​​or who have hearing difficulties, this type of product could be life changing.

Social acceptability has been a historic stumbling block for consumer AR headsets (the term “glass hole” was coined to describe users of the original Google Glass). If AR headsets prove to have a unique ability to solve high-value problems like this, the size of this barrier could shrink. Google’s latest demo AR glasses appear to use an optical setup similar to the free-space holographic combiners previously used by Canadian company North, which it acquired in 2020. These allow the device to look like a pair of normal goggles and fully visible wearer’s eyes, greatly contributing to social acceptability. The ability of new AR optical designs to enable social acceptability is a key theme of IDTechEx’s report, “Optics for Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality 2022-2032: Technologies, Players and Markets.”

Solving relatively niche problems may contrast with the grand vision of AR headsets revolutionizing the way we communicate, but it offers the best approach to laying the groundwork for these devices to become mass market. To start replacing smartphones or smartwatches, AR headsets must demonstrate that they can offer solutions that these products cannot. Perhaps when this value proposition is established, market targets will shift to a more revolutionary push into the metaverse.

Are the “iGlasses” coming?

Like Google, Apple is probably looking for the most useful ways to transition its AR apps from smartphones to smart glasses. It’s laid a solid foundation here, saying it already owns the biggest AR platform in the world, with patent and acquisition activity indicating it may be planning to launch an AR headset. Notably, alongside numerous AR software patents, several patents filed by Apple since 2021 indicate an interest in eye tracking, which is increasingly common in AR/VR devices as a method to reduce resolution requirements while maintaining the same image quality, while acting as an interface to software – eye-tracking technologies are covered in the IDTechEx report, “Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality 2023-2033: Technologies, Players, and Markets”. The company’s 2018 acquisition of holographic AR optics company Akonia Holographics has also persistently fueled rumors that an Apple AR headset is imminent.

The AR industry is eagerly waiting for Apple to launch an AR headset, and Tim Cook’s last statement will no doubt inspire hope here. An Apple AR headset would act as a vital vote of confidence in technology, and the tech giant clearly sees it as the next big thing in computing. What remains less clear is when the “iGlasses” will arrive and whether Apple has dropped widely speculated plans to release a VR headset alongside them.

Technical and business analysis of emerging technologies for AR/VR, including ten-year forecasts and analysis of technology adoption, can be found in IDTechEx’s recently released reports “Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality 2023-2033: Technologies, Players, and Markets” and “Optics for Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality 2022-2032: Technologies, Players, and Markets”. The reports cover AR/VR applications ranging from industrial use to consumer games.

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