Apple has made its big announcements for the year, and by now tech fanatics are already familiarizing themselves with the most exciting innovation of all – the augmented reality supported on iOS 11. Thanks to the innovative design platform ARKit, developers have already introduced a bundle of fascinating augmented reality experiences that require only a phone screen and camera to operate. There are a few fun games, a few scientific and educational apps, and oddly enough, an IKEA program that seems to be generating more buzz than anything else. Basically, it’s an app that lets you preview furniture before you buy.
In all the excitement surrounding the introduction of iPhone-based AR, however, we seem to have all but forgotten the fact that Apple has long been rumored to be developing augmented reality glasses. This project hasn’t been abandoned just yet. There have been leaks about patent designs (with the glasses said to closely resemble Google Glass), and analysts have been led to expect a 2018 announcement – which would make sense just as a broader consumer base is beginning to get used to ARKit.
But now that we’ve seen what ARKit can do, what exactly would glasses do differently, or better? No one can say for certain, but there are some ideas that make logical sense.
One is that AR experiences will simply be more convenient. ARKit is a great deal of fun, but it doesn’t make for the most user-friendly experiences. You still need to hold up your phone and angle it such that a given program recognizes surfaces and is able to perform. Whether you’re playing games or doing some other activity, you can’t do so as casually as you can use an ordinary app. Sometimes this doesn’t particularly matter, but with certain programs it can be burdensome. For instance, Stack AR is one of the best, simplest, and earliest AR games to be released, and revolves around the concept of stacking blocks to build a tower that looks as if it’s appearing in real, physical space. But even to play this simple game, you need to move your phone around until it will recognize space in which to start the tower. With glasses, this sort of manipulation and setup would presumably be a little bit more intuitive and generally easier.
Another idea is that certain kinds of games that appear to be on the fringe of AR or VR development could thrive with glasses. Casino content comes to mind, given that interactive gaming has moved beyond poker and blackjack tables. Nowadays, this genre represents an ever-changing industry in which slots and jackpots, too, are interactive 3D experiences. Throw in virtual roulette wheels and craps tables, and you can begin to imagine an entire room devoted to virtual casino games. Such a place would be irritating to explore with just a phone and iOS 11. But should glasses come into play, you could begin to imagine seeing the entire room around you morph into a room like the one just described. You’d still need your phone, in all likelihood, to interact with games, but you’d be able to see those games just by turning your head.
These basic ideas may seem somewhat limited in scope, but they also illustrate the full potential of glasses, and how they could unlock ARKit in a way. Simplified use and improved range of sight and motion can make the existing AR apps all the more impressive, and can enable all kinds of wild new experiences.