User Experience

What comes tomorrow

June 04, 2023

Apple is speculated to announce some form of augmented reality (AR) device (it may also have virtual reality (VR) through some sort of pass-through lens). The rumours sound like it will be fairly clunky, and to me, it sounds like a dev kit designed to see if Apple can cultivate a new App Store. All fair enough in the corporate world.

What strikes me is how the pundits think Apple can make AR/VR great because they made the smartphone great.

I find this a flawed idea as the opportunity Apple capitalised on was a set of ideas handhelds had been trying to do for ages

1. The Internet with you wherever and everywhere
2. An interface and interaction model that took full advantage of fingers and thumbs, humans distinguishing advantage (multi-touch was a huge marketing driver)

The latest AR/VR devices are trying to achieve point one, but they are still bulky and obtrusive. While smartphone usage can be antisocial, they are easily slipped away into a purse/pocket, headsets less so.

I would also add the discrete nature of a phone has helped it be ubiquitous. You can look up personal medical info while in a room full of people

The interaction model still hasn’t been realised with augmented devices. Virtual devices fall back to game controllers; they work due to the same digit factor as touch screens but fail the portability point. Without some sort of feedback, I can’t see AR getting past that problem.

You can argue that the App Store is what really drove adoption, developers filling the phone with unrealised features — but look at the top download charts, the apps are utility, convenience and entertainment (and most of them could be websites) with a few taps and you bring that world to you, rather than have that world layered on top of it.

Still, I am hoping to be wowed.

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