What it is: Augmented reality combines the real world with something artificial at the same time.
Expect Apple to announce augmented reality products next year. At the latest Utah Tech Tour, Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, once again mentioned augmented reality but said it won’t happen for a while because of technological challenges. Because Tim Cook keeps mentioning augmented reality and because apple has acquired several augmented reality companies in the past few years, it’s a safe bet that Apple is working on augmented reality and it’s also a safe bet that it will be coming soon if Tim Cook keeps talking about it.
Tim Cook also mentioned that virtual reality will be far less influential due to its form factor, which means buying a dedicated virtual reality headset so you can strap it to your face when you need it, and then lug it around all the time when you don’t need it. That essentially means virtual reality will be confined to limited uses by the need to use a dedicated device alone.
On the other hand, augmented reality can use an iPhone or iPad, which are devices that people already use and carry around on a daily basis. Asking people to use an iPhone or iPad to use augmented reality is simply asking them to download and install an augmented reality app. When they’re done using augmented reality, they can tuck it out of sight without carrying anything extra or even buying anything extra.
While everyone else busily pursues virtual reality or dedicated headsets like Microsoft’s HoloLens, Apple is quietly pursuing augmented reality. The goal isn’t to introduce the flashiest technology but to introduce the most useful technology that the average person will likely want to use regularly.
That means virtual reality will remain a niche product but augmented reality will likely become far more mainstream. As soon as Apple introduces augmented reality, you can be sure all those companies currently pursuing virtual reality will recognize the problems with a dedicated virtual reality headset and shift into augmented reality in a hurry.
Of course, if they simply studied the convenience of augmented reality vs. virtual reality, they would recognize this vast difference right away rather than getting engrossed in the technology of virtual reality without taking one second to look at the more practical aspects of forcing people to buy a dedicated headset and carry it around all day long when they’re not using it. Even if they do want to use it, how many people want to strap a virtual reality headset across their face in public?
Augmented reality is the future. Virtual reality is nice but far less likely to become a mainstream product that everyone will use. The fact that Tim Cook keeps mentioning augmented reality means he’s laying the groundwork for a major release soon, and that major release could come as soon as next year.