It has only been a mere six months since Apple’s Craig Federighi came out onto the stage at The Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2017 and show cased Apple’s ARKit, it’s surprise announcement of an augmented reality (AR) development platform. It had announcements relating to virtual reality (VR) yes. Such as Steam VR for Mac, that Metal would be supporting VR in High Sierra and that Unity and Unreal Engine support would be joining it. Whilst a VR demonstration featuring Star Wars wowed those in attendance.
At the time many understood that it was a game changer for AR, Apple had beaten Google, who had been very publicly working on Project Tango, to the punch and AR was now going to be a part of the millions of iOS powered tablets and phones that make up the Apple’s ecosystem. Even so, it is doubtful many would’ve seen what happened next, for all parts of the developer spectrum – from fully fledged studios to bedroom coders videogames, apps, experiences and experiments began appearing. Each capturing the imagination of what AR could do to some sort of degree. By the end of the month Apple themselves described developer support as ‘unbelievable’, and soon it seemed like every day there was a new exciting way ARKit was being implemented that the immersive tech community was raving about. From technical applications to bringing old pop music videos to life.
Google, of course, did not stand idly by and entered the mobile AR arena at the end of August with ARCore and bringing with it support from Unreal Engine and Unity. And between the pair fully formed apps have continued to appear. A number that was directly addressed by Apple’s Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook as part of the company’s Q4 earning call.
“There are 1,000-plus AR apps in the App Store already,” Cook revealed. “I think it’s very similar to when we fired the gun on the App Store overall in 2008.”
That’s certainly indicating some very promising levels of growth, and if it continues to match support from the store’s debut almost a decade ago that would, according to Forbes, see the store be housing 35,000 by the time of its first anniversary. This equated to a 4275% increase for apps on the App Store at the time.
Cook was also positive about AR’s role in general. In what could also be possibly seen as a slight dig at VR. “In my view AR amplifies human performance, instead of isolating us,” He said, adding that “It should be a help for humanity, not an isolation kind of thing for humanity.”
This harks back to comments Cook made in 2016 where he was notably more positive about AR over VR: “This gives the capability for both of us to sit and be very present, talking to each other, but also have other things — visually — for both of us to see. Maybe it’s something we’re talking about, maybe it’s someone else here who’s not here present but who can be made to appear to be present. And so, there’s a lot of really cool things there.”
It’s a stance often repeated in subsequent interviews, which some have taken to be perhaps more due to Apple’s immediate future focusing on AR over VR, even though they have been investigating and investing throughout the last three years. It’s a two-pronged journey that continues for Apple, with VR on the slower path but VRFocus will be bringing you news throughout the months to come on how each continues to develop.