The time has come for Augmented Reality

by Volker Weber

We have talked about Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality for years. Microsoft calls it Mixed Reality to encapsulate both VR and AR. VR means a computer generated environment, AR means the computer overlays your view of the real environment. A simple example for AR is a head-up display that projects your speed or navigation instructions into your field of view so that they appear to be in the distance saving you from re-focussing.

Some people expect you to wear AR or VR googles to experience mixed reality. They can be tethered like this DELL VR headset, or independent like the Microsoft AR Hololens, but I am pretty sure that is not what is going to make AR fly. There is just too much hardware you need to sell first.

I believe AR is going to make a very big play starting next month, when iOS 11 comes out with ARKit. There will be hundreds of millions if iPhones capable of running AR applications. All you need is an A9 SoC or better. The iPhone SE and the 6S introduced this chip, the A9X is in the first generation iPad Pros. The iPhone 7 and the second generation iPad Pros are already on the A10 and A10X. Apple sells more than 200 million iPhones a year. For the 6S, SE and 7, that would make at least 400 million capable devices. Add to that what they are about to sell of the three new phones announced in two weeks.

This will once again propell Apple into the future with no real competition. Google has the Tango platform, but there are very few devices out there and they are lacking in performance. There is Microsoft with their Windows 10 Mixed Reality platform but not a lot of hardware out there.

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Comments

"...not a lot of hardware out there" ?

What is special about iPad or iPhone hardware that a Windows tablet doesn't have? I could have understood it, if you'd said that there aren't many Windows Mixed Reality apps at the moment...

John Keys, 2017-08-30 12:21

Microsoft is pushing VR headsets, but their AR solution is not available yet. And as we know, Microsoft does not have a significant number of handsets out there. Even if they had, they would not be powerful enough.

Apple otoh has been pushing the performance of their iThings to incredible levels. Now we know why.

Volker Weber, 2017-08-30 12:54

Nobody ever got fired for saying Apple's going in the right direction.

Craig Wiseman, 2017-08-30 16:57

You missed the release or ARCore for capable Android phones where the AR apps created can target OS as far back as KitKat which means a potential market of 80% of 2 billion devices. Assuming only 30 are high end, you're still looking at ~350 million Android phones.

On the Apple side, there are 1 billion today devices sold as is recently and ARKit is limited to 6S+ (brilliant move as it will force people to upgrade or if cycle if ARKit is successful) devices only.

Ananya Gupta, 2017-08-30 18:32

Ananya, please educate me. Can you point me to any apps?

Volker Weber, 2017-08-30 18:46

ARCore works with the Pixel Phones and the S8.
It especially works in a browser (experimental for now), and that makes a huge difference.
https://github.com/google-ar/WebARonARCore

Additionally, it works with A-Frame (c't 16/2017 https://www.heise.de/ct/ausgabe/2017-16-Virtual-Reality-Web-Apps-mit-A-Frame-programmieren-3773421.html ) and this is awesome.

Dirk Krause, 2017-08-30 19:35

Thank you. And where are the apps that run on 350+ million Android phones? Pixel phones are niche, the S8 is not. But these don't make up 350 million.

Volker Weber, 2017-08-30 19:41

Look here: https://developers.google.com/ar/discover/
Just during the preview time only Pixel and S8 are supported, later more phones running at least Android N.
And Microsoft calls true VR headsets as presented at IFA now "Mixed Reality"?

Stefan Hempel, 2017-08-31 01:30

The preview phase for ARCore will last until end of 2017. Until then apps will only be able to run on S8/+ and Pixel phones running Android Nougat+ and any other phones that Google includes (I'd imagine, all current Daydream compatible phones at the very least?).

Apps you build with ARCore can be targeted towards phones running KitKat+ that's when the user base will skyrocket from a 30 million (expected quantity of S8s sold alone) to 350+ million.

FYI ARCore was launched yesterday.

Ananya Gupta, 2017-08-31 05:35

Well that was 60 minutes of life wasted.

Tip : If you do Google ARKit v ARCore..... don't read the comments.

Sure the demos and (especially) the Zombie game looks fun. Definitely Pokemon Go proved that AR gaming works and is fun.

All they need to do is find a way that I can play an AR Zombie killer game - while on the train.

Ian Bradbury, 2017-08-31 08:23

Ananya, I did some research and Google isn't talking about 350+ million. They seem to happy if they can make a hundred. ARCore is a reaction to ARKit. They had much higher hopes with Tango (AR) and Daydream (VR) but neither of them had any success. Their biggest OEM is trying a different platform (Gear) which isn't working either.

Volker Weber, 2017-08-31 09:10

Na, das wird spannend:

https://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Windows-VR-Brillen-angetestet-Viel-besser-als-erwartet-3817930.html

Heiko Voigt, 2017-08-31 10:52

Das ist VR und nicht AR. Dafür gibt es viel weniger Anwendungen. Hat nur den Vorteil, dass die "Gamer" komplett ausgeknipst sind.

Volker Weber, 2017-08-31 10:59

Schon klar - ich hoffe immer noch, dass mit Mixed Reality irgendwann auch Hololens Technik in ähnliche Brillen kommt für die stationäre Anwendung.

Heiko Voigt, 2017-08-31 12:03

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