Why Apple is betting on AR and not VR

BMW HUD

The speculation around Apple's VR headset for the iPhone has been circling for some time now. We may even get it not too long from now to compete the Google Daydream. But Apple has it's eye's set on AR, and it's clear. Partly because you don't need a headset, and the technology to perform good quality AR with your phone is here and mature.

The introduction of the dual camera lens on the iPhone X added depth mapping which allows the phone to more accurately place things on a surface in the field of view. Even portrait mode is similar to an AR type of interaction. But AR is nothing new, here's an example you probably didn't realize but has been around for quite some time.

Some examples

Your car's backup camera may have an AR view of the direction your car will move. This has quickly become a standard feature for most cars and is a form of AR.

Car backup camera with guidelines

Image Credit: Lexus of South Atlanta

Another example in cars making it's way slowly into the market is the HUD. A useful feature for drivers to see their dashboard without looking away from the road.

BMW Heads Up Display in newer models

Image Credit: Autoblog

Other examples include snapchat filters which took off a few years ago and Apple is following up in iOS 12 with Animoji in facetime. Which should be a fun addition to video chatting with friends and family.

Apples Animoji in Facetime

Image Credit: iOS Gadget Hacks

Additional thoughts

  1. We have seen little from Google in AR but they were behind Niantic and Pokemon Go
  2. Apple might introduce a VR headset as an additional accessory but requiring a headset for an experience is what they want to avoid since carrying that around is gimmicky
  3. The ruler app they preinstall on the phone is a benchmark for them to get accuracy of translating the real world depth into a 3d map using just two cameras. Quite amazing technology

I think we'll see a lot more exciting developments in the AR space over the next few years. The technology to get VR experiences with high fidelity is at least a few years away. Including pixel densities, small FOV lenses, and other kinds of equipment like omni-directional treadmills to enable full immersion.