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Chapter 1

The Apple XR Device: Is Apple Mixed Reality Good Enough?

This guidebook was produced to prepare you for the introduction of Apple’s AR glasses. While Apple isn’t always the first to the market, it does know how to create well-designed devices that are user-friendly. Apple makes tech feel non-techie so that even your grandma uses a smartphone!

In this guidebook, we envision a future post-smartphone, powered by AR glasses even though we realize we’re not there yet. The stories, introducing some chapters, are projections of what will be natural in at least ten years' time. This seems inordinately far away for those who have been in the immersive industry for a long time.

As early as 2016, there were debates among virtual reality experts about when we would finally see augmented reality, especially in a consumer-friendly way. Even then, it was a common belief that AR would eventually overtake VR.

In a 2017 blog post, I wrote that we’ve been thinking about AR/VR all wrong. [5] It was widely reported then that augmented and virtual reality are on a spectrum (which is why you might hear phrases like mixed reality, XR-extended reality, or passthrough AR).

In 1994, a group of researchers published a paper called Augmented Reality: A class of displays on the reality-virtuality continuum. [6] In the paper, the authors argue that there are seven examples of mixed reality (where real objects and virtual objects are juxtaposed).

They shared their thoughts on mixed reality called the Reality-Virtuality (RV) Continuum (as shown in this graphic). We don’t use the term RV today but we do still think of AR/VR as layers of digital immersion. Instead of separate devices for virtual reality and augmented reality, we’ll eventually have one XR device that lets us choose how immersed we want to be. Do we want to project digital objects into our physical space or do we want to completely immerse ourselves in a virtual environment? There are digital layers in between those two spectrums and that is what passthrough technology is starting to give us.

 Reality-Virtuality (RV) Continuum

Caption: Reality-Virtuality (RV) Continuum. Milgram, P., Takemura, H., Utsumi, A., & Kishino, F

Apple has been building its AR capabilities for years. They introduced ARKit in 2017. They invested in LiDAR scanning on their devices and integrated AR quick look from Safari, Messages, and Mail. For years, people have been anticipating the announcement of Apple AR glasses.

But what if this isn’t the year?

Apple may not announce AR glasses but rather a VR device with passthrough AR. And that’s OK. This is an evolution of technology. Mini increments turn into new devices and new ways of interacting. After all, people have been anticipating VR since the 1960s and mixed reality since the 90s!

What is Passthrough AR?

Meta describes passthrough as “a feature that allows you to step outside your view in VR to see a real-time view of your surroundings.” [7] Passthrough AR uses virtual reality technology to show people an augmented reality experience. That’s most likely what we’ll see from Apple– another VR headset with built-in mixed-reality technology.

The difference for Apple will be how they use the technology. Meta is on a mission to build the Metaverse, and Quest 2 is their gateway. Apple seems to be more interested in building a personal-use device. One that doesn’t necessarily transport you to virtual worlds, but rather, enhances the world we’re in. Apple is an OS first - they don’t have a dedicated social media platform. That means their XR device should be one focused on helping us achieve the things we want to do every day - not just share all our moments on a social media 2.0 platform.

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Chapter 2: Hardware is the Hard Part

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