Apple is known for revolutionizing the world of consumer technology, seemingly on a bi-annual basis. From the industry-changing iPod to the society-changing iPhone to the seemingly impossible Apple Watch to the incredible new iPhone 8 and iPhone X, we have come to expect groundbreaking innovations from them with increasing frequency. And Apple continues to meet our expectations by consistently developing meaningful new technologies like an early 20th century Ford factory pumping out cars with industrial efficiency.
As if the immensely powerful and impressive new phones were not enough, Apple may have included something even more impactful in their latest offerings of innovations. Along with many other improvements and introductions, the latest operating system, iOS 11, has put an emphasis on augmented reality technology that could very well change the way humans interact with their environments the way the first iPhone changed the way we interact with each other.
For those who are unfamiliar with the latest groundbreaking technology, augmented reality, or AR for short, involves the integration of digital elements into a physical environment. Although recent and upcoming innovations promise to include more varied and potentially meaningful uses for the technology, AR is most commonly associated with gaming. The most well-known example of AR technology is the wildly successful (and infinitely frustrating) Pokemon Go which had users running around, chasing imaginary creatures through real environments.
Already, AR technology is providing the gaming revolution that VR promised (and has still yet to deliver) several years ago. Although VR is not yet dead in the water, AR is seemingly more practical, inclusive and accessible to the casual gamer. If the advances shown by Apple are any indication, it could quickly become a preferable gaming format for more serious gamers as well.
In its initial introduction to the masses, Apple introduced the capabilities of its new AR platform, ARKit, with the public showing of its gaming potential. The game was The Machines, from gaming developer Directive Games and it was put on display by the company’s CEO and co-founder Atli Mar Sveinsson. The game wowed the audience, with Applites and gamers drooling as a digital world of machines and competitors was displayed on the phone’s screen over a real-life table.
Although the initial showing and many of the first AR apps displayed potential and promise for the future, the vast majority of the early offerings have been relatively impractical and novel. Apps that display a virtual caterpillar crawling around your living room or a digital shark at your office may seem cool at first, but they get old quickly. Additionally, anyone playing one of several engaging and interesting AR games for any period of time will quickly discover their battery drained– especially on any iPhone earlier than the 8 or X.
The Future of AR
While many of the current AR apps available to Apple users may not be as involved or advanced as console games, they are improving quickly. Especially considering the fact that the iPhone X is as powerful as a Macbook, it is easy to imagine more in-depth games being developed as we speak and being released in the near future.
Additionally, Apple is already working on the next advancement in its lineup of AR technology, a headset which could change the game altogether. Although it is not expected to be available to the public for at least another two to three years, this headset would be a standalone device, not dependent on the use of a smartphone for usage. Like the Apple Watch, it would have its own operating system and advanced chip to allow it to display and run games on its own.
Perhaps an even more important aspect in their AR development, many creators at Apple and developers working with them have set their eyes on more practical uses, in addition to gaming. Users can already use the technology to see player stats and information while at a sporting event, and future functions may allow constellations to be seen by pointing at the sky or help an auto mechanic identify issues and make repairs by hovering over an engine.