After Apple’s reveal of the iPhone X Tuesday, the CEO of Pokémon Go‘s development studio wrote a blog post saying the demo of the phone’s augmented reality capabilities was just a step toward what AR is capable of.
During Apple’s presentation Tuesday, the company showed off a demo of the ARKit and the iPhone X’s AR capabilities, which seamlessly generated a persistent digital landscape on a table for a game called The Machines. Sure, it’s visually impressive, but to Niantic CEO John Hanke, the visual-only focus of AR advancement can make AR feel gimmicky.
Pokémon Go is an example of this visual-only gimmick, as the app makes Pokémon appear on your screen in whatever environment you’re pointing your phone at. But AR can be so much more than that, Hanke wrote in his blog post.
“Yes, AR can transform the mundane into something more colorful and fun and can provide a useful nudge to go off and see new places and do new things,” he wrote. “It can also enhance the everyday — walking through a complicated subway terminal (imagine a dotted line map leading the way), shopping (imagine a glance at an item showing you an image of you wearing the item with information about where it was made and its ecological impact), travel (picture heads-up translation and guides to history and art as you stroll through an historic site), and so much more.”
“Apps that merely place a digital object on your kitchen table don’t really qualify as ‘AR’ in our view”
Hanke acknowledges that what Apple showed off was still impressive and an important step toward making AR a much more useful tool, but it didn’t exactly line up with Apple’s tagline for the day: The future is here.
“Did we just see the future today?” Hanke asked in his blog post. “Yes and no.”
Yes it was impressive that the iPhone X could produce the visuals that it did, but that’s not exactly that new or exciting or helpful. The game The Eye of Judgement already did this in 2007.
The future of AR isn’t here yet, and just focusing on AR as a digital overlay on phone screens ignores a lot of potential for AR, Hanke wrote.
“What AR really means is connecting digital information, objects and experiences with the physical world in situ as you experience them,” Hanke wrote. “It’s the part about connecting information to the world that’s important.”
Hanke imagined a future of AR where a device could speak to you about which direction you need to walk in to get somewhere, or tell you historical facts about a landmark or building when you’re near it, or consist of a pair of fancy glasses (better than Google Glass) with useful overlays.
“The point is that the AR camera view is a cool step forward, but it’s only part of what is going to make AR so important and powerful,” he wrote. “But apps that merely place a digital object on your kitchen table don’t really qualify as ‘AR’ in our view.”