AR technology

As we are entering another decade, AI, VR and AR technology will be more pervasive in our daily lives. Facebook is taking a lead with its AR ecosystem and Apple will have an involvement in this sector. The iPhone 12 Pro is the precursor and the opening stage for Apple in AR implementation.

Apple has been experimenting with AR for years and the LIDAR feature of iPhone 12 Pro makes AR a proper possibility in the company’s enclosed ecosystem. Early mobile implementations use only rear-facing camera to approximate the shape of surfaces. But with LIDAR, the iPhone 12 Pro can get an accurate 3D model of the environment.

Implementations

Pokemon Go and Snapchat face filters are the most popular implementations of consumer-level AR. However, AR is more than just for entertainment purposes. AR may help businesses to provide accurate virtual model, so shoppers will have a better idea about a product that they would buy. In manufacturing sector, a combination of accurate laser measurement and AR can quickly simulate details of mechanical parts. LIDAR could also be useful for architects, civil engineers and interior designers. What’s missing right now, AR isn’t accurate enough for professional tasks, but iPhone 12 Pro and LIDAR can make a significant difference.

If you are using regular smartphones, AR-based apps have problem in accurately anchoring virtual AR objects with real-life surfaces. Once AR software engineers make full use of LIDAR, the accuracy will improve dramatically. The iPhone 12 Pro is the first mainstream device with LIDAR technology. If Apple can encourage developers to fully unlock the potential of laser-assisted AR, this could encourage manufacturers of Android devices to include LIDAR as well.

Devices

Apple Glass

AR technology

Jon Prosser, a well-known tipster in the industry, reported that Apple is developing AR glasses for commercial uses. Known as Apple Glass, it could be Cupertino’s rendition of the previous Google Glass. Apple Glass will look just normal glasses, but with embedded displays on both lenses. Apple Glass without prescription lenses may start from $499, but it will be more expensive if you need prescription lenses. This AR device will use OLED micro-displays from Sony low reflectance, high luminance, wide colour gamut, ultra-high contrast and ultra-fast response rate. Each lens has 1280 x 960 resolution, which is adequate for close-up use. Ming-Chi Kuo hinted that the Apple Glass will be an iPhone accessory, which requires pairing when used. Possible input methods may include head gestures, voice activation and limited touch activation. DigiTimes suggested that Apple will launch its smart glass in 2021, while Ming-Chi Kuo said it will be 2022.

AR Headset

An internal Apple meeting highlighted features of advanced human detection and 3D scanning. They are essential to develop practical AR headset technology. Apple’s AR Headset could have similarities with Facebook Oculus Quest VR headset. However, Apple’s headset will have lightweight materials and fabrics to ensure comfort. The embedded high-resolution display should allow users to read small text. The headset will have better accuracy to map room dimensions, edges and surfaces. This device should be useful for video conferencing, video content streaming and gaming. Integration with Siri will further improve the functionality of Apple AR Headset.  

Development

First reports about Apple’s VR and AR project started in March 2015, when the company hired a development team for this technology. Today, Apple is employing hundreds of AI engineers in various office parks, including Sunnyvale and Cupertino. They previously worked for Microsoft, Lucasfilm, Oculus, Amazon’s VR team, Lytro, HoloLens and Weta Digital. Former employees of Microsoft and Lytro specialize on VR and AR products. Those who came from Lytro work on blending computer graphics and live action using special camera. The former HoloLens team contributes in the development of next-gen AR headset. The iOS 14 includes codes that provide support for VR or AR headset. With an app called Gobi, Apple tested AR devices, QR codes and iOS 14 for improved AR experiences. In recent years, Apple has acquired multiple start-ups and companies that specialize on AR and VR technologies. Apple bought Akonia Holographics in 2018 to acquire lenses technology for AR glasses. Vrnava came into Apple’s fold for its mixed reality headset technology. The Israeli-based PrimeSense joined Apple in 2013 for its motion-based technology that works on TV. Metaio is another start-up that merged with Apple in 2013 for its special software that can very quickly create AR scenarios. Faceshift offers the ability to use 3D sensors for capturing facial expressions accurately. When Apple acquired Emotient in 2016, it gained AI implementations for reading human emotions.

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