Most of us are at least vaguely familiar with augmented reality thanks to Pokemon Go sticking Charmanders in our sock drawers and Snapchat letting us spew stars and rainbows from our mouths, but Apple’s iPhone 8 is going to push AR to point of ubiquity. When the iPhone 8 launches, we’ll all be seeing the world differently.
iPhones are everywhere, so AR will be everywhere
The iPhone 8 will bring with it iOS 11, and with iOS 11 will come Apple’s AR. Since the iPhone 8 is all but guaranteed to be a best-seller and earlier iPhones and iPads will be widely updated to iOS 11, Apple will have a massive AR platform. Craig Federighi, Apple's Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, believes it will be “the largest AR platform in the world,” which will lure AR developers en masse.
Apple’s ARKit is already in developers’ hands
At WWDC 2017, Apple announced a developer framework called ARKit for iOS 11. This is the clearest signal that Apple is going all in on AR with the iPhone 8. Since developers have some months still before the expected October or November release of the iPhone, there will undoubtedly be a slew of AR apps ready to go from the first day.
Whether it’s visually stunning space battles taking place on top of a kitchen table, assisted navigation of stores and venues, or the ability to see how Ikea furniture looks in the living room, AR is going to make that possible. And with Apple finally getting into AR, those features and tools will go from being on very few devices to being on millions.
Veteran Apple analyst Gene Munster believes Apple’s AR will enable users to find items in the store simply by looking down an aisle with their phone. Munster also thinks they could find their seats in a stadium in a similar fashion. Today, Apple Pay lets users navigate the purchasing of items, and soon Apple AR may let them navigate the rest of their retail adventures.
Apple AR has huge potential in education
Apple has been positioning itself in the education world for years, with programs like iTunes U and iBook, as well as efforts to get iPads into classrooms. AR already has major prospects in education, with the ability to make Museum exhibits interactive and to put a visually explorable world in front of users.
The academic world is just one more channel for Apple AR to grow inside. As seen above, AR can put the solar system in front of users, and Microsoft has shown off its HoloLens being used to study anatomy. With wider adoption and hoards of developers on board, educational AR applications will be of higher quality and higher popularity. And that’s before we get talking about the hardware.
The iPhone 8 is being built specifically with AR in mind
There’s every indication that the iPhone 8 is being designed with AR at the center. The iPhone 8 is even expected to come with a chip made just for AR, and recent mockups of the iPhone 8 show a vertical dual-camera setup meant to enable AR while the camera is held in landscape.
Other devices have put AR front and center. Asus made the ZenFone AR and Lenovo had the Phab 2 pro, and both put a focus on the AR functionality of the phones. But in the mobile phone space, neither Lenovo nor Asus have anywhere near the clout of Apple. While Lenovo and Asus offered AR to techies who wanted it, Apple’s iPhone 8 will make AR a mainstream feature.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has a firm belief in AR being the way of the future. During the 2016 Utah Tech Tour, he said, "A significant portion of the population of developed countries, and eventually all countries, will have AR experiences every day." Though he said it may be some time before it happens, he added that “it will happen in a big way, and we will wonder when it does, how we ever lived without it. Like we wonder how we lived without our phone today."
The expectation is for the iPhone 8 to make a big leap for Apple’s mobile devices. AR would be just the thing to do that.
When AR is widespread, everything changes
Google Glass tried to make AR happen, but the technology just wasn’t there at the time, and adoption was severely limited. Snapchat and Pokemon Go have made serious inroads for AR in mainstream culture, and it’s likely future apps will receive heavy comparisons to Snapchat filters, and descriptions of AR games will start out “it’s like Pokemon Go” for years to come.
Both Pokemon Go and Snaptchat are limited in their implementation of AR, though. If Apple is truly going for AR, it’s not going to just dip its toes. And once Apple makes AR a key feature for smartphones, it’s going to be everywhere.
AR has the potential to change the way we do everything. AR can be used to explore the world. It can let you fight robots invading your living room. It can show kids how big a mastodon would look standing next to their classmates. If a developer was up to the task, it could even make rainbows stream out of every horn in marching band when they play a note.
Since the iPhone 8 will bring AR to the masses and will bring developers to the platform, we’ll start to see apps that make AR a centerpiece of our daily lives. And that will change everything.