At the annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2017, Apple launched new products, evolutions on existing platforms, and announced a push into one of the hottest emerging technologies, Augmented Reality (AR). They join other goliaths in the technology sector including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Snap with this announcement, further shifting the dynamics of a market that previously had been populated by smaller players and startups. All of which leads to the question of what these massive fish will do to the pond. Will these now grow, crowding out smaller fish in a diverse and varied (and growing!) ecosystem?
Apple presaged their entrance when they acquired Metaio in 2015, an AR firm that had been in the marketplace since 2003. In fact, most of the larger firms had begun a buildup of talent and technologies prior their big announcements. But understanding the new AR world means understanding what these firms are actually doing.
AR at present is centered on a few SDKs that allow for specific implementations. These allow various functionalities, with various limitations and costs. These include Wikitude, Vuforia and Kudan, as well as a host of others that vary between open and closed source options. This is where a number of the solutions like Tango and ARKit will slot in. All of these platforms allow developers the ability to build apps that can more completely and meaningfully merge digital objects and content into the physical world.
In the near term, how readily these platforms will interact is a huge unknown. Each solution has its own strengths (most of which are unknown at present), and their own design decisions that lend themselves to being best fits for specific cases. Some existing solutions will be relegated to a niche answer, while others will fall by the wayside. From a development standpoint, it will be critical to understand the variance, and apply the best solution to fit the customer need.
In short, Apple’s entrance (or Google, or Microsoft, or whomever else) does not spell doom for the existing players. It will help to drive the AR industry for the next few years, hopefully rapidly moving to place where each platform release will move closer to seamless integration
Written by : Geo George