Maybe the most important thing revealed at yesterday's Apple event was not the exciting new iPhones or Apple Watch or even the facial recognition power of the bionic chip. What seems more important is the way that the company is betting on AR and investing in bringing the technology to consumers on a mass scale.
Tech analysts expected the new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus phones to have the calibrated sensors and special cameras suited for augmented reality announced yesterday, and the leaks and rumors about the low-bezel display and the A11 bionic processor to map rooms and faces likewise proved to be true. But the company also announced that it will be bringing AR to "hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads," not just the latest and greatest new devices for sale. As of Sept. 19, any device that is capable of upgrading to the new iOS 11 will have access to the new technology. Of course, the new phones showcased, including iPhone X, are optimized for AR, but if the company wants consumers to embrace the technology, then including it across so many devices will help. The iPhones 5s through X, iPad minis, iPad airs, iPad pros, and even the iPod Touch and sixth generation are all going to be able to download iOS 11. Tim Cook has made no secret about how important he thinks AR tech is to the future:
"The smart phone is becoming even more important to people because it's going across so much of your life... And with things like AR, I think it becomes even more essential than it currently is. I know it's hard to believe, but I think that's the case." — Tim Cook
Apple's embrace of AR was obvious when the company introduced the ARKit developer tools at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June. Essentially, Apple was ensuring that there would be a slew of content ready for when it released the hardware and a wide audience was able to try augmented reality.
That strategy seems to have paid off. The news is constantly announcing the latest game or app created in ARKit, and at the Apple event, the company teased just some of the new content: Pixel Toys’ Warhammer 40K: Freeblade, Major League Baseball’s At Bat, Fifth Star Lab’s Sky Guide, as well as the real-time multiplayer game The Machines, which will only be available on iOS. But we know that thanks to the release of the tools early this summer, there is a host of new apps that will be available.
Apple's pivot toward AR technology also spurred its embrace by other companies, specifically Google. Google had an AR framework for developers called Project Tango since 2014, but it was only available on a few select devices. This month, Google had a "reactionary shift in its strategy" and released a new augmented reality toolkit for developers, ARCore, which is designed to bring AR to Android devices. So whether you are an iOS or Android user, it seems that AR will be the new paradigm.