How Tim Cook’s Augmented Reality vision paid off for Apple

Apple chose AR to sell next-generation hardware and attract developers to iOS. That’s why Apple’s AR vision has been a unique success, despite opposition, opposition and competing ideas – and why Google and its Android partners have failed.

The unexpected 5 years of VR smartphone failure

As described in the previous segment, the smartphone VR concept – introduced by Google’s Cardboard initiative in 2014 – has already been hailed by the technology media as the “next big thing” in mobile. The box became Android Daydream VR and caused the parallel development of Samsung and Facebook in support of the most advanced Gear VR platform.

But in just five years, Google, Samsung, Facebook and everyone else who boarded VR’s ‘cardboard train’ for smartphones gave up their efforts and support for customers who bought their VR products. for mobile phones. Meanwhile, none of those involved made a significant profit thanks to VR on smartphones.

Several virtual reality efforts have also not led a significant number of buyers to buy hardware for next-generation smartphones. Instead, Google’s VR-y Pixel phones just languished as a failure in the hobby.

Unit sales of next-generation headlights and phablets, compatible with Samsung’s Galaxy VR, have also fallen by the wayside, with the company publicly focusing on promoting the sale of its cheaper, mid-range A phones.

Samsung made a big bet on the VR smartphone and failed

The VR of the phone has become an embarrassing and definitive corporate disaster, worse than 3DTV or 3D phones. With a few exceptions, mid-2010 media editors and technical media analysts were unable to fully predict how much VR would serve the mobile industry and its investors.

The unexpected success of the AR smartphone

While tech media numbers massively applauded VR on the phone until it was abandoned by its top supporters last year, there was noticeably less enthusiasm and control over AR. Apple.

This is noteworthy, as Google, Samsung and Facebook have all failed on many of their mobile initiatives – especially on new hardware – while Apple has a solid track record of delivering material hits, with only a few rare failure errors with small initiatives like iTunes Ping and iAd.

In 2016, Apple CEO Tim Cook regularly took the rather unusual step of confidently commenting on the future of new technologies, often sharing his views on augmented and virtual reality, at least in general terms. In August of this year, Cook, in Washington, said that augmented reality was “extremely interesting and some kind of basic technology”.

In a September interview with ABC News, Cook said: “There is virtual reality and augmented reality – both are incredibly interesting, but my view is that augmented reality is probably the larger of the two.”

In October, Cook once again praised the benefits of augmented reality versus virtual reality, saying, “There is no substitute for human contact, so you want technology to encourage that.”

The following February, Cook republished the two technologies in an interview with The Independent, saying that the VR headset naturally had only a niche appeal as it “turns off” the world in a dissociated experience, citing RA as the promised basic technology . would benefit a much larger audience.

Cook went so far as to say that AR can be as important as the smartphone itself. “I think the AR is so big that it’s huge,” said Cook. “I am excited about what can be done, which can improve many lives and be fun.”

Cook’s unpopular adherence to RA

Cook’s representation of the relative merits of augmented reality and virtual reality as technologies perceived at Apple was, in fact, the opposite of most other companies. Facebook and its content partners saw the development of VR experiences as a great opportunity, with less appreciation for what AR has to offer.

Without its own successful phone operating system, Samsung also relied heavily on virtual reality because it could supply the Galaxy VR’s own hardware. To deliver an AR phone product, Samsung needs to work closely with Google and rely on Android’s leadership as a platform.

This is something that Samsung reinforced after collaborating with the Galaxy Nexus 2011 with Google. Samsung even tried to launch Tizen as its own operating system to replace Android in 2012, and in 2014 used Tizen to power its Galaxy Gear. A year later, he used Tizen, not Android, to power his smart TVs.

He had no intention of increasing his reliance on Google’s Android for future hardware, which diminished interest in AR collaboration.

Nor did Microsoft have a powerful mobile platform to promote AR, like Apple. He launched HoloLens as an independent project to offer different technologies in the field of augmented reality and virtual reality. However, HoloLens remained so isolated from reality and the consumer market that Microsoft did not need to have a coherent strategic position like Cook in AR.

Microsoft could promise everything and deliver very little. He even renamed the world around him, referring to different technologies under the name ‘mixed reality’.

Much of the reason that Apple was the only one to offer AR was that it was the only company capable of delivering it on a large scale in ways that could have a significant business impact. Although some type of VR was possible, even at the simple level of cardboard, providing functional AR would require a much bigger and more advanced technological leap, in addition to a strong integration between the different layers of hardware and software.

Apple indicates that AR requires deep hardware and operating system integration

VR offers the user an immersive experience with computer generated graphics involved in it. AR needs additional technology to convincingly anchor a virtual world above the existing world. Augmented reality is literally an augmented reality with the virtual; therefore, virtual reality is actually a subset of augmented reality technologies.

But it is not the number of people in the technology industry who have seen it. Instead, experts and analysts often speak of VR as a clearly exciting technology that can be easily demonstrated, while AR spoke of a less impressive concept that would be more difficult to sell to consumers as valuable and desirable.

However, Google knew that. In 2014, she started working publicly in both areas: in addition to the Cardboard VR project, originally a side project for employees, the company also launched Project Tango, its independent effort to develop an AR platform. Tango was born in Google’s advanced technology labs as a serious research project, not just as a hobby.

Cardboard / Daydream VR and Tango AR have remained on Google for several years with the participation of several Android partners, but none of them has resulted in much more than small-scale experimental DIY. Google Tango was the first to market many pieces of the AR technology puzzle, but it failed to turn its advantage into a salable product.

Apple reveals AR to the masses

Three years after Google launched Tango, Apple launched the ARKit at WWDC17 and opened its new AR platform to developers with an addressable installed base of hundreds of millions of iOS 11 users. It immediately boasted the launch of the largest AR platform in the world. world. Later that year, he launched the new $ 999 iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus, which include the company’s new portrait lighting effects.

However, for the next three years, experts and analysts hardly understood what was going on. In March, Lucas Matney wrote a confused and gloomy version of Apple’s AR prospects in a TechCrunch entitled “Can Apple keep the AR industry alive?”

Ikea AR
While clickable bait generators were concerned about Apple ‘Retaining Augmented Reality’, developers like IKEA have implemented commercially relevant AR applications

He suggested that the only thing behind AR was Apple’s “enthusiasm”, stating that “the company’s ARKit development platform revealed interesting use cases, but app developers won little. Sounding victories. TechCrunch complained that Apple “was slow to integrate AR functionality into its own inventory apps” and that “consumers just don’t see what they want now”.

It was not an unpopular opinion. Many industry watchers seem to think that Measure is the only AR app launched by Apple so far, the app that uses ARKit’s visual inertial odometry to estimate the dimensions of real objects. And, of course, Apple was criticized for providing ARKit as a platform that largely delegated the development of third-party recovery applications to third parties, but also took the risk of publishing Measure because it violated the potential of third parties to create their own applications. recovery measurement tools for third parties. be sold.

The alternative reality of technological media

However, between 2017 and 2020, Apple sold hundreds of millions of its high-quality iPhones – each year – at an average retail price of nearly $ 800. The most popular iPhone of 2018 was Apple’s new iPhone X , followed by its replacement for the iPhone. iPhone XR next year. and then the iPhone 11 this year. In addition, Apple has also sold millions of ultra premium models for iPhone XS and iPhone 11 Pro, including in volumes that no other Android manufacturer has addressed with its own high-end products. .

Year after year, Apple inhaled almost all of the revenue from next-generation phones, bringing profits to a scale that no other phone company can achieve. Something magically separated iPhones from standard Androids.

In addition to Apple’s brand and reputation, it appeared to be the App Store and iOS, although experts insisted that apps weren’t important either. They explained that Android has a lot of apps and said that in China nobody used apps anymore because of WeChat.

Experts had so few answers as to why Apple was still active that they began to announce that the reality everyone was looking at was simply false. The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and Japanese magazine Nikkei Asian Review regularly report to the public that the iPhone X is a “disappointing”, “very expensive” product with “low” sales and that consumers were certainly not enthusiastic. on.

He continued strangely the following year, when Yoko Kubota and Joanna Stern of The Wall Street Journal described Apple’s hugely popular iPhone XR as “The phone that Apple loses” and “The best iPhone that Apple can’t sell”.

Apple innovation

Exciting “innovation” is not one of the hardware problems that Apple faces

At the same time, Recode’s Kara Swisher appeared on CNBC to promote the idea that Apple had an “innovation problem” and said “Apple’s innovation cycle has slowed. Where your new product is exciting and where are your new entrepreneurs? exciting in that industry? ”

The funny thing is that these journalists were aware of the “exciting” products that Apple presented and the talent that the company recruited. They were invited to Apple events, received criticisms of basic technology and even wrote at the same time about notable signings related to Apple’s AR.

In 2017, Mark Gurman wrote a report for Bloomberg detailing several industrial researchers that Apple recruited to work in AR under the title “Apple’s next big thing: augmented reality”.

All of these journalists should have taken over the power of the AR. After all, they were expanding reality with their own fantastic virtual world that they had created on their computers and designed for the viewers of their audience.

AR Software sells systems

Certainly the preference for Apple iPhones among wealthy buyers, even at a high price, was the result of many factors. But a notable feature that has boosted sales of Apple’s best iPhones over the past three years is exactly what TechCrunch said recently that it was a slow and difficult venture with an uncertain future: augmented reality.

Undoubtedly, computer photography encourages the sale of state-of-the-art smartphones; the ability to take flattering selfies and portraits is extremely popular with buyers. Apple’s most notable camera in 2017 was portrait lighting, as well as the new iPhone X TrueDepth effects that enabled photo-realistic effects in third-party apps like Snapchat.

These two examples are really augmented reality examples developed with Apple’s ARKit development tools.

Apple placed AR Portrait Lighting at the heart of iPhone marketing

So, instead of deploying AR and defeating it for five years without achieving anything, Apple offered attractive functionality with AR, which immediately helped it sell its most expensive iPhone of all time to an enthusiastic audience. around the world – before the public realized they were using AR.

Note that it happened in the same year that Samsung struggled to sell its Galaxy S9 with or without Gear VR, after four generations of Gear VR tried to find a reason for Android buyers to choose Samsung, especially one of the high-tech models .

Cook was right: AR has already had an immediate and significant impact on smartphones in ways that phone VR has not achieved over the years. And while John Carmack, from Facebook’s Oculus group, later explained that the friction of using Gear VR has made smartphone users engage in VR experiences no more than once or twice on average, the simple benefits and attractive features, such as portrait lighting used regularly on iPhones.

AR contributed to Apple’s photography capabilities in a way that mitigated Google’s targeted attack, using its own advanced AI-based camera features on its Pixel phones. This gave Apple the ability to tweak and enhance Google’s own innovative night mode functionality before Google could copy Apple’s AR-based portrait lighting features.

This is even more notable, as Google has been publicly working on its own version of RA for several years, in partnership with the industry, before presenting Apple Portrait Lighting or its ARKit development tools.

And instead of being overlooked by third-party developers, as TechCrunch suggested, Apple’s ARKit has opened up significant new opportunities, ranging from video games to business markets, with particular success in online education and sales. Last year, at WWDC19, Apple’s ARKit 3.0 took Microsoft to the stage to demonstrate Minecraft Earth by playing AR with the new People Oclusion feature.

Microsoft’s Minecraft Earth introduced ARkit

Apple used AR to support sales of high-end iPhones at a time when it was apparently “common sense” that no one would pay $ 999 for a phone, especially when there were cheap Androids. Cook also masterfully positioned AR as his personal vision and achieved a huge home run with RA, although his main rivals have not done much with RA, “Mixed Reality” or VR. Apple’s work has also embarrassed experts and analysts who have tried to advance their careers by describing the company as “almost without innovation”.

But Apple’s long-term investment in AR has also achieved something different, as the next segment will describe.

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