Why Apple favouring AR shouldn’t really come as a surprise

The benefits of augmented reality are as diverse as the possible applications.

The news that Apple’s CEO Tim Cook favours AR over VR, due to the lack of human contact involved in the latter, should come as no surprise given the company’s recent acquisitions, such as Metaio and Faceshift whilst working towards adding AR elements on products, such as the recent launch of iPhone 7 Plus.

Augmented reality should in fact be a positive enhancement of people’s worldview, integrating data and imagery that complements what they’d ordinarily see. In other words, augmented reality should allow people to view projected images with their surroundings, the key difference between it and virtual reality; it’s great that Apple is endorsing the technology as a core focus for them, and acknowledges the uniqueness and potential different applications for both.

While AR and its applications are beginning to be appreciated by a wider audience, especially following the Pokemon Go phenomenon, it’s worth keeping in mind that AR used on mobile phones will never be fully immersive. Wearables are the main AR ally towards achieving a ‘proper’ immersive experience, as they can offer any information or data overlaid on any given environment. It is only when Augmented Reality becomes truly wearable that our lives will be revolutionised, for businesses for example AR can offer benefits in terms of efficiencies, safety, education, staff productivity and skill sharing amongst other things.

Yet, before the full potential for AR is even fully realised, there are a number of challenges which need to be solved in order for the technology to become a wearable and therefore totally immersive experience, ready for a variety of use cases.

This is what we call ‘the new reality’ at Waveoptics, a seamless and immersive experience that enhances the physical world around us. In order for this ‘new reality’ to manifest itself, via successful widespread adoption of wearable AR, the three cardinals that need to be solved are performance, wearability and scalability. Essentially AR needs to provide a large field of view with a high quality, persistent, stable image in full colour. Furthermore, the technology needs to be wearable with the form factor adapted to the needs of the user, and the technology must be scalable so that it can be manufactured at mass-scale, using well-known and readily available tools, materials and processes.

To date, solutions which have reached the market place have failed to successfully combine these three elements, thus adoption has so far been limited.

AR is evolving at such a speed that it is almost impossible to imagine how integrated it will be in our workplaces in potentially a very short period of time, offering endless applications across both enterprise and consumer businesses. Successful adoption of AR could quickly justify ROI in terms of, amongst other things, increased staff productivity, improved customer service and experience, a greater adherence to health and safety protocols, greater efficiencies, a decreased training requirement as staff can be trained as they work, skill sharing, greater support for remote workers, improved record of repair for defective machinery.

The benefits are as diverse as the possible applications, meaning that AR may also bring unexpected benefits such as improved staff retention and customer loyalty. Much like Apple’s predictions around AR, the ingenious ways in which the technology will soon be used, have yet to be fully imagined and will take some time to get it right.

One thing is for sure; all of this will only become possible when a truly immersive AR experience is available, using wearable and scalable technology.

Sumanta Talukdar, CEO of WaveOptics

Image source: Shutterstock/Ahmet Misirligul