There’s a lot of excitement these days around a couple of concepts that are different, but similar – virtual reality and augmented reality. The former involves entering a virtual environment and interacting with wholly digital objects. The latter brings digital objects into the real world, such as the popular game .
AR Believers include CEO Tim Cook says the field could be . Satya Nadella, the CEO of , says he in AR. And CEO Sundar Pichai of augmented reality startup . Google is also pushing augmented reality through , which people can try for themselves if they buy a compatible phone, such as the that is .
Though Tim Cook has been playing up its potential for a while, Apple had been pretty silent on what it was actually working on in the field of AR. But all that changed last month at , when the company announced , a tool for developers to for .
Ever since the announcement, interest in AR has skyrocketed – you have dedicated Twitter accounts showcasing the latest and greatest ideas brought to life using ARKit. No one really knows what people will eventually use AR for, and some people think that’s great because we’re going to see an explosion of creativity and new ideas coming forth.
Videos show a seamless digital world superimposed over reality, and leave out the awkwardly held phone whose battery is draining away as you uncomfortably try and contort yourself to see information that could have accessed more quickly and easily if it was displayed as a card on your screen.
For example, Twitter handle has been curating the “coolest” ARKit stuff around, like slow to load restaurant menu that can show only one item at a time, and is in no way better or easier to use than a high quality picture in a menu, next to which you could put text with detailed explanations that would be easy to read.
It’s almost as if there’s been a conscious decision to ignore the fact that there’s a phone mediating the whole experience. When someone makes a game of “augmented” that can be played against any real world surface… you’re still playing on your phones. You could take a high resolution picture of the stars and play in space if that’s what you want.
Some apps, such as the are going to be pretty useful and accurate, though the . Although some might still prefer to use real tools, apps like these are bound to be useful and it means that there’s one less thing to carry as well.
Games like Pokemon Go will , and there are a number of demos around, of which a few are genuinely eye-popping, but only as long as you don’t think that the window to the entire experience is your smartphone’s tiny screen.
Playing in the real world sounds like something you’d do more to share pictures of it on social media than something that actually makes the game better – like those funny Pokemon Go pictures everyone used to share, showing things like a Magikarp in a bowl of soup.
The AR gold rush is not going to be like the early days of the . When the App Store was getting started, it was the Wild West, sure, in that no one really knew what worked, and the rules were being built in front of us. And although there were a lot of people out to make a quick buck even then, it wasn’t the hugely organised and motivated gold rush that exists today. AR is being positioned as the next big thing, and the noise that’s going to follow has a very strong chance of drowning out everything else. If you think that’s pessimistic, take a look at the Apple Watch.
Everyone was sure that it was going to be the next big thing, and . Which meant that at a time when everything was half-baked and still at the stage where early adopters usually help improve a platform through their feedback, a deluge of hype took over instead. You could argue that the issue is that the Watch as a platform isn’t there yet, but with so much sudden competition for our attention (and funding), we’d say that it didn’t really get a chance at all.
Every time someone does make an app that’s actually good and useful, it’ll be drowned in , making it that much harder for the developers to actually make money off their hard work, and making it less likely that good ideas will continue to be developed.
No one really knows how to make full use of technologies such as VR and AR right now, and there’s no question that the technology holds an immense amount of potential. Now that it’s making its way to the mainstream though, we’ve got to hope that the initial gold rush doesn’t kill off all the good ideas as well, destroying the “next big thing” before it gets a chance to really take root.