Augmented reality: Tech’s next battleground
“The augmented reality wars have begun,” said Adario Strange in Mashable.com. This month, Google and Apple are both unveiling new tools to make augmented-reality smartphone apps, going head-to-head in a quest to dominate the next-generation te chnology. AR, in which digital objects are superimposed onto the real world, has been around for years, most infamously with the failed Google Glass smart spectacles. But 2016’s Pokémon Go craze, in which tens of millions of people around the globe went chasing after digital monsters seen through their phone screens, demonstrated that AR technology could be wildly popular. And just as importantly, it could be delivered to users via a device they already had.
As a result, “you’re going to see an explosion of new AR apps this fall on your smartphone,” said Steve Kovach in BusinessInsider.com. Next week, Apple will release a new operating system that includes ARKit—new tools that make it easy for iOS developers to integrate AR features into their apps. Overnight, tens of millions of Apple devices—including every iPhone going back to the iPhone 6s, along with most iPads sold since early 2016— will be able to run AR. Google, in an attempt to head off its rival, last week debuted its own AR developer tool for Android called ARCore. That tool kit “will only work with a few Android phones at first,” but by the end of the year, AR should be enabled on about 100 million Android devices worldwide.
The question is “Are consumers ready to give augmented reality a try?” said Anick Jesdanun in the Associated Press. So far, the apps “showing the most promise” are furniture apps, which allow users to scan a room and try out virtual couches or tables in certain spots to see if the items look right. Games and educational apps are also promising avenues. “On Apple devices, a companion to AMC’s The Walking Dead creates zombies alongside real people for you to shoot. On Android, apps being built for classrooms will let students explore the solar system, volcanoes, and more.” But wide adoption still feels some years away. “AR shows more promise than virtual reality, but there has yet to be a ‘killer app’ that everyone must have.”
That’s just a matter of time, said Brian X. Chen in The New York Times. The potential for AR is just too great. Imagine traveling overseas and pointing your phone at a foreign menu and having it “translate items into your native language.” Or taking a tour of a natural history museum and having the fossils come to life when viewed through your phone. “AR is big and profound,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said last month. “This is one of those huge things that we’ll look back at and marvel on the start of it.” ■