At the beginning of June, the Apple World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) dominated the tech news cycle and kicked off with the announcement of Apple's new augmented reality (AR) apps and features, as well as a new version of its ARKit. None of this was groundbreaking in itself, but the takeaway is that the largest technology company in the world is going all in on augmented reality. It's one of the best indications we've seen that mixed reality -- including augmented and virtual -- is on its way to mass adoption. Similar to the sudden and rapid adoption of smartphones that took off around 2007, mixed reality (MR) -- also known as extended reality (XR) -- is poised to make its way into our homes and onto our devices over the next three to five years. Smartphones changed our lives because they gave us access to the internet in a small, convenient device.
First-mover advantage in augmented reality technology is a prize that is so valued that every large technology company is making significant investments in it today. Ultimately, AR technology may replace the smartphone as the primary connected device that users carry around with them. In theory, Apple, the world's most profitable smartphone maker, is the most vulnerable. Enterprises are starting to recognise the benefits of AR in training, maintenance and repair, customer support, and product design. Healthcare, logistics, manufacturing, and the military are early adopters of AR, while Microsoft (with HoloLens 2), Vuzix (with Blade smart glasses), Lenovo (with New Glass C200), Magic Leap (with Magic Leap One), and Google (with Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2) are all targeting the enterprise market.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has nothing but praise for augmented reality, saying it's a technology that's potentially as important as the iPhone. It turns out he may have big plans for virtual reality too. The company is working on a headset capable of running both AR and VR technology, according to a person familiar with Apple's plans. Plans so far call for an 8K display for each eye -- higher resolution than today's best TVs -- that would be untethered from a computer or smartphone, the person said. The project, codenamed T288, is still in its early stages but is slated for release in 2020.