For the past five years, the slow rumbling about virtual reality began picking up steam, even though VR was first teased and then promised over twenty years ago. Startup Oculus promised VR to the mainstream, and suitors such as Sony and HTC chomped on the proverbial heels of promise as the Oculus launch approached. Now, a year plus later, that launch has happened, as has Sony’s, and one is a mild success and one is a failure, at least in terms of what the promise was. Meanwhile, augmented reality, always the seeming little brother of VR, has quietly been making moves, and now looks to steal the title of Technology Prom King away from VR. Enter: Apple’s ARKit.
The 2017 World Wide Developer Conference took San Jose by storm on Monday, June 5, and the quiet winner was something that you may have missed, or least didn’t see the impact of at its time of announcement, Apple’s ARKit. This API makes utilizing AR in developer’s apps a breeze, simply plugging in code and having virtual objects appear in the real world on your phone’s display. Augmented reality uses the phone’s camera and 3D rendering to translate and scale depth and reality onto objects that be inserted into frame. Scale and perception are the most difficult parts of AR to accomplish, and Apple’s ARKit makes this a breeze. In the technology demo on stage, Pokémon Go now will look like the Pikachu you are hunting is literally sitting in front of you, without it awkwardly floating in the air or hovering on an object or person it shouldn’t.
VR, on the other hand, has struggled to say the least. The valley has backed off funding most VR projects, and Oculus has barely made a thud in the marketplace. Sony, however, has sold a million units of its PlayStation VR headset, making it at least viable for now. Oculus uses expensive rigs to run its machines, and is not Mac compatible (even though that may now change thanks to external GPU support being offered in the next Mac OS, High Sierra).
Technology used to be decided, at least partially, by the trend set by the adult business. VHS and DVD were basically made because of the success of adult adopting these formats. However, the adult business misfired when the vast majority of studios chose HD-DVD over blu-ray, but then Sony pushed blu-ray over HD-DVD for the PlayStation 3, and then Microsoft chose BD for their XBox One. The adult business lost their proverbial naked asses on HD-DVD. Three years ago, in anticipation of VR and the announcement of Oculus VR and Steam VR, the adult business began shooting VR content by the hundreds of scenes. Just like with blu-ray, now Sony PSVR has taken the market, and doesn’t support the VR scenes shot by adult for Oculus and Steam’s platforms. The adult business now has a virtual warehouse of dusty VR scenes that will not see the light of day.
Strangely, adult has waited for AR to hit, which is smart, since the technology has been extremely limited, and only now will become widespread thanks to Apple’s ARKit. What could be cooler than seeing your favorite adult starlet laying on your actual bed? Nothing. Unfortunately, nothing is the keyword as Apple has a zero adult policy in the App Store, so only WebKit apps with AR in Safari will work, and this is still up in the air as of now. Adult may be left out in the cold when it comes to AR also, but at least they haven’t spent millions on shooting augmented reality scenes like they did for VR.
Augmented reality is the future. Imagine looking out your window of your house and pointing your phone out the window, and seeing a horde of hungry zombies approaching your house on your phone’s display. Eventually we will see sunglass-style AR glasses come to market (many believe Apple is working on a pair now), and this will project the augment reality zombies directly to your eyes and not just on the phone display. Instead of just hunting Pokémon in AR, you will be able to hunt big game in your own backyard, or battle Stormtroopers in your living room while your significant other makes dinner. ARKit allows developers the freedom of focusing on creating killer content, and not having to concentrate on creating proprietary technology to be able to display the killer content.
AR is the future, the near future at least. VR can’t be count out just yet, as lighter headsets and newer technologies that prevent latency and nausea will make VR stronger, and increased resolution to 2160p in each eye (right now VR is maxed at 960P in each eye), will make VR experiences something much more realistic, and good for more than just gimmicks and games.
Apple once again is spearheading our future, and this one only a few prognosticators predicted