Silicon Valley Should Focus On AR, Not Voice

Silicon Valley Should Focus On AR, Not Voice
May 17, 2017

As I've discussed before, augmented reality has the potential to become the Next Big Thing. Voice-activated systems like Alexa are nice, but they have their limits. We've seen AR take off in apps like Snapchat and Pokemon Go, but what if a major tech company like Apple puts its billions behind a robust AR solution?


I'd expect Apple to dip its toe in AR with the next-gen iPhone; maybe a 360-degree camera feature, new types of proximity sensors, the option to toggle between virtual and real worlds with a tap, or immersive audio that makes a virtual scene come alive.


But Apple also needs a dedicated AR software layer that sits on top of iOS to serves as an extended platform tied specifically to any new hardware-related features. That would be followed by a special SDK for developers, who could create new and innovative apps for AR on a new iPhone.


If Apple does add AR to the iPhone, I suspect that a few favored developers will get their hands on the SDK this summer so they can create AR apps Apple will show off at its fall iPhone event. Given Apple's penchant for secrecy, I doubt we'll hear anything about AR at Apple's Worldwide Developers conference (WWDC) next month.


But what is most important about this is that Apple could provide a powerful new AR platform for developers, who will bring the technology to the mainstream. This would be major challenge to Google, Samsung, Microsoft, and Amazon to create their own AR platforms, perhaps driving the next major platform gold rush.


The other company that could quickly bring AR to the masses is Facebook. At its f8 developer conference last month, Facebook showed off new camera filters, which will allow developers to design frames that can be added to a user's profile picture or photos and videos taken with the Facebook camera. An "AR studio" will also let developers create masks and scripted effects that react to movement in Live Videos.


Although voice-activated platforms like Alexa will continue to grow and be important, it is my sense that AR is really the platform to watch.

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