If you want to know where technology is heading, imagine a tape measure. You can drag it across the floor, or run it along the frame of a doorway. Except this tape measure is virtual — it exists solely on the screen of an iPhone — and it’s about as accurate as the real thing.
A handful of developers are working on apps just like this one, and you’ll be able to try them in the coming days. It may sound mundane, but that’s precisely what makes it great. It’s a sign that augmented reality — the layering of digital information onto a person’s view of the physical world — is getting both good enough and accessible enough to be useful day-to-day.
It’s also why, over the next few months you’ll see two tech giants — Apple and Google — fighting to finally propel AR into the mainstream.
On Tuesday, at an event in its new Cupertino, Calif., office, Apple explained how it plans to come out on top.
The company’s new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus phones include a new camera and image processor that it says has been specifically calibrated for augmented reality experiences. It’s paired with new motion sensors — a gyroscope and an accelerometer — that the company says will make tracking the phone’s position and movement space even more accurate.
On the company’s new high-end iPhone X, Apple says a front-facing depth sensor designed to let users unlock their phones with a glance will also improve the accuracy of augmented reality face-tracking — like the kind that Snapchat uses for its filters.
And its new mobile operating system, iOS 11, will be released to the public on September 19 — and expose a massive mainstream audience of new and recent iPhone owners, hundreds of millions strong, to a varied new collection of augmented reality apps.
“Apple has always believed that technology infused wth humanity could improve people’s lives and change the world,” said CEO Tim Cook on stage inside Apple Park’s Steve Jobs Theatre.
Apple is trying to show that augmented reality on a smartphone can do a lot more than what we’ve seen so far from Snapchat or Pokemon Go. But it’s too early to say whether these experiences will actually lead to a whole new way of interacting with the world and with our devices, as the tech industry hopes.
“It depends on one thing and — to be…