back to article Augmented reality: Like it or not, only Apple's ready for the data-vomit gush

This month's release by Apple of the iPhone X with FaceID begins the first wave of consumer products designed from the ground up for continuous awareness of space, place and face - crowning a half a century of research in augmented reality destined to fuse our rising sea of data onto the real world. Over the last few years, …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Presumably at the moment, Apple augmented reality only works in warm climates.

    1. Thomas Wolf

      That put-down would have been funny were ARKit only to work on the X.

  2. djstardust Silver badge

    Whatever ....

    Can we just get a phone that works and has a battery that lasts more than ten minutes please?

    I took a power bank with me on a stag weekend which I'm just back from, just in case I needed it for my Note 4, which I didn't. Seven out of the ten people on the trip were iphone users, and all their phones were dead by 8pm apart from one.

    All this AR crap will just eat more battery whilst providing nothing for the average phone user.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Whatever ....

      So if your phone lasted the day, why the urgent plea for bigger batteries? In Android world you can choose a phone with a bigger battery, or get a Moto with a battery pack Mod. Or as you did, use an external battery pack.

      iPhones have never had the longest battery life, but they're far from the worst either.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Whatever ....

        "So if your phone lasted the day, why the urgent plea for bigger batteries?"

        The bar is just that low.

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Whatever ....

      > All this AR crap will just eat more battery whilst providing nothing for the average phone user.

      No new hardware feature adds anything for the average phone user *until* devs write software for it. No Devs can or will write software for it until the hardware is there.

      If you don't use any AR feature, I'm not sure why you think the mere presence of some dedicated AR silicon will eat up your battery life.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Whatever ....

        Dedicated silicon is often a bid to *save* battery life, as well as improve performance on specific tasks.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Whatever ....

      You were supposed to be drinking continuously. What the hell were your friends using their phones for anyway? To ‘live tweet’ the event?

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Whatever ....

        I still can't follow Stardust's logic here. He goes on a stag do. His friends' phones run out of battery before his bigger phone with a bigger battery does (shocking). He attributes this to an AR co-processor that his friends' phones likely don't have (only the iPhone 8 and X do). He decries new features, but has a premium phone from Samsung who are notorious for throwing in every feature bar the kitchen just for the hell of it.

        Confused.

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Whatever ....

        Ah, it's a bit of a con you see. They've impoverished themselves in the Apple Store, so they pretend to be glued to their mobes in order to slow their drinking down thus avoiding a headache inducing bar bill. I do that all the time.

  3. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Developers noted that ARkit was battery hungry on iPhones before the release of the iPhone 8 and X. These latest phones have some dedicated silicon for environment mapping, presumably making the process more power efficient.

    MS too have dedicated DSPs in their HoloLens, and Google's Pixel has a DSP - not yet activated - for processing camera input.

    Qualcomm have been touting some Snapdragon co-processors for release in early 2018 phones, along with some active IR real-time 3D scanners.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      https://www.extremetech.com/mobile/254243-qualcomm-develops-active-depth-sensing-camera-android-phones

    2. DougS Silver badge

      @Dave 126 - Pixel DSP

      The Pixel's DSP has been active from day one - if you are using the standard camera app. Where it has yet to be activated is to make it available for third party apps to utilize.

      For some reason there has been a lot of confusion on this point, which some reviewers incorrectly claiming it isn't active yet, they must have been confused over what Google was telling them.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      MS too have dedicated DSPs in their HoloLens

      I'll bet their in-house design runs rings around the competition.

  4. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    Just wondering if folks are waiting for Facebook to sort out a generic device so they can all rant about how FB is taking over the world

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Seems redundant has Facebook has already taken over the world.

  5. DainB Bronze badge

    Magic Leap ?

    Or is it in a scam category now ?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Magic Leap ?

      I wouldn't invest in them, but it's hard to call either way. To be generous for a moment, they do seem to have a good idea of what they are trying to achieve, with research into to optics, silicon and 3D rendering, plus partnerships with authors and 3D studios. As such they appear to focused on a Gee Whizz entertainment experience, rather than industrial (MS) or shopping and social media applications (FB, Apple).

      I'm not expert enough to judge on how important their patent portfolio is - i.e whether they can be defended or not easily worked around.

      Tim Cook says that the technology for good AR glasses doesn't exist yet. Obviously that's just his view or a bluff, but Magic Leap are reportedly struggling to bring the size and weight of their glasses down (remember, we're being generous for the sake of argument here).

      Silicon and 3D frameworks are something Magic Leap are working on, but these are areas Apple have shown themselves to be good at in recent years.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Magic Leap ?

      Magic scam.

      As the article clearly shows, AR and VR are literally decades old technology. My personal experience is that AR and VR simply is not that hard. The TV industry has been doing it for decades. HP mastered it back in the last decade on the their iPaq. (remember the iPaq?)

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Magic Leap ?

        There's a huge difference between doing something and doing it well in a small lightweight package with good battery life.

        It's not always the core concept that holds things back, but rather advances in silicon process size and manufacturing tolerances etc.

  6. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    They make phones too?

    I didn't realize Apple made phones ... I thought they are a tax accounting company.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: They make phones too?

      To be fair, they are also a branding company.

  7. Lamont Cranston

    This all sounds very impressive,

    but what on earth are we going to use it for?

    1. StaudN
      Angel

      Re: This all sounds very impressive,

      Pr0n of course!! (The true driver of the interwebs)

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: This all sounds very impressive,

      Yep. pr0n.

      Then games.

      And last, instructional videos.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't say

    That Apple has actually done some innovation?

    Please... someone tell us that it ain't so.

    The world must be about to end.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Don't say

      Define innovation. Is it creating good quality raw ingredients, or is it cooking them together into something people will pay to eat? The reality is more nuanced - it's working with the suppliers of the raw ingredients - or buying them. . As noted above, Apple haven't been alone in developing silicon for AR applications. The difference is, iPhone users will inevitably end up with a phone that contains it even if they don't know what it is at the time - and then app developer might create some that works on millions of handsets. In the diverse world Android, not all handsets will feature AR features. (I'm an Android user with a 3D printer gathering dust... A 3D scanning phone appeals to me, but I'm a niche case. The mainstream SLAM use cases are likely to revolve around commerce and shopping as well as games)

  9. ecofeco Silver badge

    Did I read the article too fast?

    I saw no mention of HP's early AR efforts with the iPaq in the previous decade.

    https://www.fastcompany.com/1359459/what-ever-happened-hps-augmented-reality-game

    http://adage.com/article/digital/hp-s-autonomy-gave-augmented-reality-tech-brands/239268/

    While there is very little to be found on Google, I distinctly remember they were using AR for museum and city tours and some games.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Did I read the article too fast?

      From what I can make out from the link you posted, that HP-owned company merely made software that responded to a QR code on a print advert and then displayed a video within the 2D border of the advert.

      Scanning a QR code and then detecting the edges of a 2D rectangle is technically very easy. It's a different ball game to real time mapping of a 3D environment.

  10. johnnyblaze

    Pointless

    I can truly see why big companies want AR to be a success. Where before, they could slurp up details of what you typed and what sites you went to, now they'll be able to take it to the next level - massive data collection of everything you look at. Imagine watching TV, or looking at a web page or an old style catalog wearing 'AR' glasses.They'll be able to tell how long you spent looking at an item for, what you spent most time looking at etc. All that info will be invaluable to them monetizing the end user.

    My personal opinion is that VR will be moderately popular with hardened (not causal gamers) who are used to shelling out lots of cash on their rigs. AR will fall flat on it's arse though. It's too expensive, cumbersome and limited for the casual user, and pointless for the all-in gamer who want's the 'full' experience. Professional markets may make more use of it, but not the consumer.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Pointless

      Commerce. Selling people clothes online - this is a huge area. With a body scan of the buyer, more if the guess work is taken out of online clothes retail. It's actually common for people to buy three sizes of a garment and then return the two that don't fit. Seeing how a new sofa will fit into your lounge. Virtually repainting your walls before picking up a brush.

      For those of us who don't go for retail therapy in the same way, there's DIY and hobbyist applications. Wave your phone around a room and extract the data for a cutting list in CAD - a lot of local timber yards have a CNC router these days.

      The sheer amount of real estate taken up by B&Q and IKEA should give you a clue that there's money in these sectors.

      And this is even before we account for the next Pokémon Go-style craze. Or some social media silliness. In the entertainment sector, social board gaming is still a thing... it's easy to imagine a hybrid Games Workshop set up with AR assisting in the rules and game play.

      Well, you take your guess and I'll take mine. I might suggest that the answer doesn't lie in a single 'killer application' (eg buy a PC for a spreadsheet) but in dozens of handy applications (buy an ARM tablet to watch TV, read recipes, comics and sheet music, to control audio workstations etc etc). )

      Regards

      1. fidodogbreath Silver badge

        Re: Pointless

        With a body scan of the buyer, more if the guess work is taken out of online clothes retail.

        Facebook would seem to have an advantage, then, at least for people who have uploaded their naked selfies.

        Oh, but FB would never share that data with advertising partners. Right?

    2. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Pointless

      @johnnyblaze

      I may have misread you. I was taking AR to include an environment-aware phone or tablet. Rereading your comment, it seems by AR you meant AR goggles (which yes, would be an extra cost to a casual user, and as you say, cumbersome to boot). However, many of the sensors, silicon and software framework will be common to both.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pointless

      “massive data collection of everything you look at”

      Make that everyONE you look at. I tried a Google Glass, a wink was enough to get a picture. They were called glassholes imho not because they were wearing them, but because they failed to take them off during a visit to the pub.

      I use services from Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple. When I want, where I want. SLAM sounds cool, but when I’m down the pub and an AR droid shows up it will become SLAP post haste. As in Simultaneous Location And getting Punched in the face.

  11. juice Bronze badge

    AR, VR, 3D, 4K, Blu-ray, motion controls...

    Each one has arrived on a grand wave of publicity about how it's the next big thing... and have ended up serving a relatively niche market.

    When it came to 3D, people didn't want to wear clumsy glasses when sitting on the sofa, and even cinemas have pretty much given up on using it as a "premium" experience gimmick; my local Cineworld only has one 3D film at the minute (Thor:Ragnarok), and the 3D in that film was added post-production. Even Nintendo conceded that 3D added little to its games when it released the 2DS.

    Similarly, people don't want to wear a VR helmet, and the experience only really works for scenarios where you're in a vehicle.

    Blu-ray never caught on to the expected extent, partly thanks to the fact that (upscaled) DVD quality was generally Good Enough. And while 1080p has caught on pretty well, it's perhaps ironic to note that it's Good Enough for most people when compared to 4K screens.

    Motion controls never really caught on with the core gamer demographics, and quickly went the way of the dodo when the freshly arrived 'casual' gamer demographic got bored of Wii Sports and went back to whatever occupied their time before the Wii arrived. It's a bit of a shame that Microsoft didn't pay attention and insisted on bundling the Kinect v2 with the Xbox One!

    And now we have AR. Again - after all, it's something that Nintendo vaguely tried to push with the 3DS, and it's also shown up in other places, such as Google Tango or Ikea Place (an iOS app which lets you experiment with placing virtual furniture in your rooms). But fundamentally, the value-add for AR is just as low as it was for 3D and VR.

    Even Pokemon Go - the big success story mentioned in the article - has seen it's popularity dwindle drastically since launch. Admittedly, there's still millions of people playing it, but are they playing it because it's AR or because it's Pokemon? I suspect it's the latter - and that it would have been just as big a hit without the AR features.

    But hey. Engineers get to build fun toys, venture capitalists get to burn through large cash piles in hopes of riding the next Big Thing and some useful things do occasionally come out of all the R&D spend. So it's all good, right?

  12. Stuart Castle

    Personally, I think you are right in that VR will sell to gamers, particularly those with mid range and high end rigs (IE, probably the only people that would call their computers "rigs").

    The casual gamer is likely to be impressed should they see a decent VR system in action, but unlikely to be able to afford (or justify) the expense required for the headset and a PC powerful enough to do do it justice.

    It's also worth noting that beyond games and entertainment, it is difficult to see a use for VR outside those industries though. It's use in enterprise is also limited by the fact that by definition, someone using VR is unable to see anything outside the helmet.

    AR has the advantage that it can display objects as if they were in the real world. This means it's entirely feasible that, say, a field service engineer can use it it to view mantenance instructions while actually maintaining the machine. For instance, I've been told that ThyssenKrupp are looking at using the Hololens to enable their lift engineers to look up Life maintenance manuals while fixing the lift. It could also be feasibly used in conjunction with something like Skype, so enabling people to communicate and, Kingsman style, appear to be in the same room. If you have executives that spend most of their lives flying all over the world in Business class, then even the £3,000 or so Microsoft charge for an Enterprise Hololens suddenly starts to look cheap.

    For consumer AR, I suspect the Skype style virtual presence system I describe above could also be a selling point, but the main use is probably in gaming and entertainment.

    In both cases, there may be a potentially hefty cost to implement AR on a desktop or laptop computer.

    With regard to Apple's action, assuming the market does take off, including AR support by default in iOS 11 gives them a massive advantage. They already have a potential audience of millions, that they can sell apps to.

    Don't get me wrong. I have access to a Hololens at work, and the geek in me loves being able to wear it, and pin webpages to the wall as if they were posters. I am also actively looking for ways we can use it in our day to day work. I also have access to VR headsets (Gear VR, Vive and Rift) and love them. I'd also love to be able to buy my own Hololens and Rift for home use (although at home I'd get more use from the Rift), I just think the potentially expensive dedicated hardware will be over taken by phones that have AR support, as people can more easily justify spending hundreds of pounds on a phone (which has uses even if the VR and AR don't take off) than they can on a device that may be obsolete in a year.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Academics

    It will be great for the first 3 minutes and then the impossible-to-close pop-up ads and auto-playing html5 videos will start appearing.

  14. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    the soaring heights of Pokémon Go.

    The author appears to have ingested a double dose of Hyperboleum.

    And yes Virginia, they were glassholes.

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