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AR is going through a weird phase

If the previous few years of these innovative “reality” technologies have communicated anything, it’s that tech enterprises will not have the convenience of jumping past AR’s weird phase, they’re just going to need to power through it and this is going to take a very long time. 

The obvious reality is that in the year 2021, daily users don’t appear to be quite as fascinated with AR as they are with its bigger brother, VR. However, the next generation of platform owners are poised to gain from an enormous transition.  

There’s some degree of running to where the ball is going among the prophets who hold the belief that AR is the ultimate platform heir, etc. but the war to redefine mobile is at its foundation, a war to eradicate the smartphone long before it’s time for it to go. 

A battle to redefine mobile in the winner’s visage 

It’s apt the main backers of this AR-driven future are Facebook and Apple, organizations driven by ambition and innovation that are intuitively tuned into the opportunities they could have taken advantage of if they could do it all over one more time. 

Apple and Facebook both have staff in the thousands silently working discretely in the background developing their AR tech moats, we’ve observed and heard a lot more on Facebook’s attempts. The organization has at present provided various iterations of their VR hardware through its successful line of Oculus headsets and has talked in the public forum for years regarding how they believe that VR and AR hardware will eventually combine. 

Facebook’s experimentation has gained some amount of visibility, and it isn’t like they are making any efforts to hide it. This is a benefit conferred upon an organization that wasn’t in the hardware game prior to their Oculus line of VR headsets. On the other hand, Apple has served up a dev platform and some well-timed keynote slots for devs leveraging their utilities and toolkits, but the most aspirational first-party AR project they’ve initiated on a public basis has been, rather underwhelmingly, a measuring tape app. All else has taken place in hushed tones. 

This reluctance to share information make any reports on Apple’s intentions especially juicy. Recently, a story from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman pinpoints a few of Apple’s next steps towards a long-speculated AR glasses offering, the report stating that Apple intends to put out a higher-end niche VR gadget with some AR functionalities as early as 2022. It’s not very shocking but illustrates how eager present day’s mobile leaders to ease the introduction of a technology that holds the promise to convert present tech stacks and the wider web, upside down on their heads. 

However, Apple and Facebook are facing a bevy of issues putting their AR products out in the wild, and they’re not really low-profile issues. 

  • Hardware isn’t up to speed. 
  • Platforms have not been prepped and aren’t ready. 
  • Devs are not ready. 
  • Users don’t really have any requirement for it yet. 

These are some great obstacles, but it isn’t atypical amongst hardware giants. Facebook has already wriggled its path through this cycle once before with their virtual reality product which has undergone several generational iterations. However, there were some critical differences in that scenario, and few analysts in the know would peg VR as a mainstream technology. It’s still nascent in the grand scheme of things. 

Nonetheless, there’s a unique benefit to handling VR prior to AR both for Apple and Facebook, they can make investments in hardware that’s in close proximity to the technologies their AR products will be needed to take advantage of, they can attract developers to develop for a platform that’s more alike to what’s in store and they can establish base line expectations for clients for a platform with increased immersion. At least this would be the scenario for Apple with a mass produced VR gadget that’s somewhat akin to Facebook’s $300 Quest 2, but an expensive niche gadget as Gurman’s journalism details doesn’t appear to fit the purpose so neatly. 

The AR/VR content issue 

The situation we’d think both Apple and Facebook are stressing out over is that they put out serviceable AR gear into a world where they are completely accountable for coming up with all the main use cases. 

The AR/VR domain at the present moment, has a monumental backlog of burnt developers who might be bullish on the technology over the longer-term but are also fed up of getting tossed around by organizations that appear to perceive the production of content ecosystems merely as a means to put out their next device.  

If Apple is really looking forward to the sales figures on this device that Bloomberg indicates – comparable to Valve’s preliminary ‘Index’ headset sales figures, then it is open to question if there will be a lot of developer involvement in producing for a stopgap gadget. What we should really be looking forward to is ports of Quest 2 content and a few shining innovations from Apple-funded partnerships. 

True AR hardware is probably going to have differing standards of inputs, different standards with regards to interactivity and a very unique strategy to use cases contrasted with a device developed for residences or smartphones. Apple has already availed every single opportunity to attract mobile developers to take up phone-based AR on iPhones through ARKit, something they were pushing hard earlier on, but appear to have toned down on at recent developer-centred events. It can be stated that in the grand scheme of things, what’s been put out in this space so far has been underwhelming to say the least.  

This is not really ideal for the tech giants and indicates that both of these organizations are bound to have to guide end-users and devs through use cases they come up with themselves. There’s an interesting argument that nascent AR glasses apps will feature 1st party dominance with regards to tech and might avoid full 3rd party native applications, favouring tightly managed data integrations more akin to how Apple has handled developer integrations within Siri. 

However, providing developers a platform developed with Facebook’s or Apple’s own well-being in mind is going to be difficult to sell, highlighting the fact that mobile and mobile AR are bound to be platforms that will have to exist with the other for quite a while. There will be abundant avenues for developers to produce experiences that play with space and 3D, but there are also several reasons to expect they’ll be more hesitant to move off a mutually enriching mobile platform into one where Apple or Facebook will have the forerunner’s pick of platform benefits.  

Mobile’s OS-level champions captured a ton of value from top-of-funnel applications markets, however, the downstream avenues discovered mobile’s real prize, a greatly widened market for cyber ads. With the prospect of a mobile makeover, we can expect to discover forerunning tech giants putting forth proprietary digital advert infrastructure for their gadgets. Adverts will probably be AR’s biggest avenue enabling the digital ads market to develop a limitless international canvas for geo-targeted personalized advert content. A not so thrilling future, however, a predictable future. 

As long as Facebook is concerned, the existence of a platform owner in this decade implies having to establish their own restrictions with regards to use cases, not being limited by App store rules and developing hardware with social integration in closer proximity to the silicon. On the other hand, Apple redefining the mobile OS in this decade in all likelihood, implies an avenue to exercise their dominion over the mobile advertising world in a more relevant way.  

It’s a makeover that could mean billions in prospective revenues. 

The future 

The AR/VR field has been held up in a loop of looking for the help of saviours. Facebook has been the best friend to proponents after successive startups have fallen short of finding a quick victory. Apple’s long-expected AR glasses are likely where most loyal fans are putting their faith. 

There’s a reason that Facebook and Apple have more personnel assigned to these projects than any other future-facing project. AR will likely be huge and alter the internet in a basic way, a paradigm shift to Internet 3.0 that’s the biggest evolution of the internet to this day. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean that this transition will be easy. 

These preliminary devices will hit the market later than we are expecting, be capable of less than what our expectations are, and that stuff will be more or less different from the smartphone’s age’s mobile paradigms in a fashion we are not anticipating. What’s certain is that this is bound to be difficult for these organizations to strong-arm themselves into a more streamlined transition. This is going to be really messy for technological platforms and is evolution that will not occur in a day.    

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