Right now, tech industry giants all have the burning desire to spearhead the next computing platform revolution of augmented reality (AR) headsets. The race to do so in this decade will look similar to the personal computing revolution and the mobile phone revolution, with billions being poured and heads being scratched in companies all struggling to stay afloat in an ever-accelerating industry.
But it’s not that simple.
Developing capable AR headsets might be the most complex technological challenge we’ve ever faced. They need an ultra-high-definition display, dozens of sensors, iris-tracking capabilities, advanced computer vision, a long-lasting battery, and high-speed connectivity, all packed into a form factor more restrictive than the slimmest modern smartphones.
As a result, only the companies with hefty R&D budgets and engineering teams can participate in this race: Meta, Microsoft, Apple, and Alphabet. I’ve already covered Meta’s hardware ambitions; now it’s time to take a look at Apple.
How Will Apple Break Into the Metaverse Industry?
Even though Apple has never officially announced an XR (extended reality, including VR, AR, and MR or mixed reality) project, its track record of being the first to provide consumer-friendly devices is unlikely to stop at mobile phones and smartwatches. The company has a lot of strengths in the space already, from implementing LiDAR on iPhones to ARKit and powerful processors. IEEE Spectrum contributor Matthew Smith points out that Apple doesn’t use the term ‘Metaverse’ to avoid adding gas to the fire behind its competitor, Meta, not because it can’t build headsets or doesn’t believe in an XR dominated future.
Evidence for this is plentiful. Apple has been filing patents related to XR and the 3D techniques behind creating augmented reality experiences for decades. It has also acquired several companies working in the space, including PrimeSense in 2013, Vrvana in 2017, Akonia Holographics in 2018, and others. Not to mention the countless XR experts and engineers that have been working at Apple for years.