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3 Key AR Building Blocks Announced at WWDC 2021

by David MacQueen | Jun 08, 2021

Given the number of AR related acquisitions that Apple has made so far, it's more than a rumor that Apple will at some point launch an AR device. But WWDC 2021 was not that event and the world will have to wait a little longer. Apple did, however, put a few more of the foundations of an AR ecosystem in place:
  • Updates to FaceTime included spacial audio. At best, this is a very minor improvement to the FaceTime experience, but spacial audio is much more relevant for rich AR experiences. I see this more as a building block for AR than an enhancement to FaceTime, but if the technology is in place why not put it in an existing app?
  • Apple Maps got a 3D upgrade. Now this is important for both for Apple Maps and any later AR products. The world does not exist in 2 dimensions, and for accurate placement of virtual objects in the real world, elevation data is critical. To some extent this is a catch-up move - Google Earth and Maps have had elevation data for some time, and last year integrated it into Live View last year.
  • 3D object capture is perhaps the most important of the announcements for AR. This will allow users to scan an object and create a virtual twin, and is also very relevant for object search. Understanding and recognizing real world objects is the first step to providing the data to overlay on objects to create an AR experience. Right now its ready for developers to start integrating this into their apps, so we can expect to see this reach the hands of users soon.
So while we didn't (yet) see an AR headset, spacial audio, 3D maps and object scanning are 3 critical technologies that show again that Apple is positioning itself for a successful entry to the AR space.
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