Virtual reality has been around for a long time. Haptic gloves, state-of-the-art headsets, three-dimensional programming languages, VR has been there, done that.
2016 is marked as the birth of consumer VR. That’s the year I was introduced to VR via the HTC Vive. I put the headset over my eyes, and a new world opened up in front of me. I am a full-blown believer in VR’s ability to transport, immerse, and blow your mind.
Yet, here we are three years and multiple headsets later. The hype for VR has worn off for me personally.
That does not change the fact that people continue to work on VR hardware, software, and research proving the benefits of the technology. Virtual reality enthusiasts insist that the next wearable devices are right around the corner, and THESE are the ones that will convert the masses.
Ian Nott on Twitter claims that “A wave of new gen XR glasses are 12-24 months out that hit a wearability, price, and usability crossroad point where initial inflection is possible. Apple of course is expected in this timeframe.”
While everyone is focused on AR glasses, Apple has quietly introduced a different type of augmented reality. In Augmented Human, we learned there are many different ways to augment reality. Overlaying visuals onto reality is just one of them.
Augmented reality is about being able to augment all the senses: sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing. Apple, according to Cult of Mac writer, Charlie Sorrel, argues that AR is here and Mac users are already using it. After reading his article, I have to agree.
In Augmented Human, we learned about the concept of “breaking the glass.” The glass being our iPads and touch screens since they “sacrifice all the tactile richness of working with our hands” (Papagiannis 25).
Apple AR is already here
Apple AR is already here in the form of PAN (Personal Area Network). Apple may be working on AR glasses, but they’ve already delivered augmented reality to us by breaking through the glass, augmenting our sense of touch and hearing.
I love the story Sorrel tells to explain Apple’s augmented reality.
“Ever since I got my Apple Watch, my phone stays in my pocket most of the time. If I’m on my bike, I can get spoken directions through one AirPod (wearing two while riding seems too dangerous to me). In i0S 13, Siri can read out incoming messages automatically. When following map directions, our watches use coded haptic taps to tell us whether to turn left or right. At any time, you can glance at your wrist to see instantly relevant data. If you’re still confused by, say, the map directions, you just pull out your iPhone and use that.”Charlie Sorrel
Sorrel says that by “making our devices ultra-portable — and connecting them so deeply that they act more like one device with multiple parts than multiple devices networked together — Apple stealthily encompassed us in wearable, full-body computers.”
Remember that augmented reality is much bigger than visuals. Augmented reality “happens in the background, and it appears when you need it” (Papagiannis 107). AR glasses would be a cool gadget, but “if it’s just a pair of gimmicky AR glasses that show Pokémon scampering about city streets, I’m not buying it.”
Sorrel and I are in agreement here. When it comes to Apple glasses, he asks, “But why? It looks good, for sure, but so far, we’ve seen no killer use for it. Maybe Apple will make glasses. But who would wear them? A watch is one thing, but Apple Glasses? And for AR, those glasses need cameras. That’s going to be a hard sell, privacy-wise.”
Augmented reality has the potential to be a better technology if we can make it to sit in the background. To help and assist us instead of overlaying ads and watching our every move through camera-enabled glasses. Audio devices are still risky, but personalizing them creates the chance to augment our lives for the better instead of humans as products to market.
P.S. Happy iPod Day Apple
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