SciTech

How Things Work: AR is coming to the latest iPhone and millions of people

Apple, Inc. recently revealed its latest iPhone. The iPhone X comes with AR capabilities, potentially delivering the new technology to millions of people. (credit: Courtesy of  FransiscoFdez, via Pixabay Creative Commons) Apple, Inc. recently revealed its latest iPhone. The iPhone X comes with AR capabilities, potentially delivering the new technology to millions of people. (credit: Courtesy of FransiscoFdez, via Pixabay Creative Commons)

"Yin-Yang", "dorky tech", "futuristic", "impossible", and "amazing potential" are all terms used to describe two major developments in technology — Augmented and Virtual Reality. Augmented Reality (AR) has captured the fascination of many the world over in fields such as medicine, sci-fi, engineering, communication, and entertainment. Virtual Reality (VR), on the other hand, is a somewhat recent invention, brought to the mainstream by Facebook's Oculus Rift. VR has the same potential to affect our lives as AR.

What are AR and VR? AR overlays 3D graphics on real world objects, allowing for an added dimension of interactivity. It literally augments reality. VR is the complete opposite. It immerses a user in an entirely different computer simulated environment, bringing us into a completely new, virtual world.

“Yin-Yang,” “dorky tech,” “futuristic,” “impossible,” and “amazing potential” are all terms used to describe two major developments in technology — Augmented and Virtual Reality. Augmented Reality (AR) has captured the fascination of many the world over in fields such as medicine, sci-fi, engineering, communication, and entertainment. Virtual Reality (VR), on the other hand, is a somewhat recent invention, brought to the mainstream by Facebook’s Oculus Rift. VR has the same potential to affect our lives as AR does.

What are AR and VR? AR overlays 3D graphics on real world objects, allowing for an added dimension of interactivity. It literally augments reality. VR is the complete opposite. It immerses a user in an entirely different computer simulated environment, bringing us into a completely new, virtual world.

It’s no surprise that the next biggest thing in tech is going to be who wins the race to getting AR and VR in the hands of everyday people. Big names such as Facebook, Google, Intel, HTC, Comcast, Samsung, and Disney are all competing for that very prize. At the moment, AR and VR have both raised tens of billions of dollars for R&D, a company focused on cell biology. These technologies have the potential to change how we learn, interact with information, and perceive our world.

Until recently, we couldn’t tell which company would win this tech war. That all changed on Sept. 12, 2017. The most valuable company in the world, Apple, Inc., bolstered its position in the race by throwing its bets on AR. I’m talking about the most revolutionary phone released yet — the iPhone X. Tim Cook previously said, “I think AR is that big, it’s huge. I get excited because of the things that could be done that could improve a lot of lives and be entertaining.”
This is similar to what Apple has done with other products; the tech giant removed the widely used disc drive from their popular MacBook line, discontinued FireWire, manufactured a new generation of Macs with only USB-C ports, and purged the audio jack from the iPhone in preparation for a wireless future.
In most of these aforementioned instances, Apple’s intuition has proved correct; what Apple has done with the iPhone X is revolutionary for two reasons. Firstly, experiencing AR initially required specialized technology such as Snapchat’s Spectacles, an Oculus headset, or a PlayStation headset. The new iPhone allows users to experience AR without the need for extra, expensive hardware.

Secondly, ARKit, Apple’s AR toolkit open to developers, allows for a world of wonders. Previously, a developer would needed significant capital and a large team to make an AR app. Now, a small team can make a new AR application, allowing for more innovation.

The biggest and most wide-spread AR innovations so far have been Snapchat’s face filters and Pokémon Go. One of the most anticipated AR apps coming with iOS is Ikea’s app, which allows users to place virtual furniture in a room. While such an application of AR isn’t as futuristic as we might expect, the ultimate goal of this potentially transformative technology is to make our lives just a little bit easier, at least in the short run.

It’s clear that this technology still has a long way to go. Nonetheless, its ramifications are undeniable and its possibilities endless. AR will be used in medicine, for HUDs in vehicles, for artistic expression, and revolutionary video games that immerse players in an experience.

It should be expected that Apple’s announcement will keep other tech companies on their toes. We can expect to see massive innovation from other giants like Samsung and Google in response to the iPhone X. The spirit of competition will only bring the power of AR and VR to even more people around the world — making it a global technology.

The iPhone X is only a first step. We can expect AR to rapidly improve in advancement. This follows Moore’s Law, a computer science concept.