Apple’s push into AR reminds us of the 2010s 3D TV bubble – Digitalmunition

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Published on August 27th, 2020 📆 | 3673 Views ⚑


Apple’s push into AR reminds us of the 2010s 3D TV bubble

  • Apple is reportedly developing AR content for Apple TV+ to bolster its rumored 2022 release of AR glasses.
  • And while we see shades of the 3D TV bubble in the AR entertainment phenomenon, Apple has an otherwise successful history of popularizing tech.

Apple is developing augmented reality (AR) content for its Apple TV+ streaming service, which will enable viewers to overlay media on their surroundings through an iPhone or iPad, according to a Bloomberg report based on anonymous sources familiar with the matter. Bloomberg noted that the AR content would supplement the viewing experience on the TV, and that viewers would access the AR add-ons through the Apple TV iOS app. The AR content is expected to come to Apple TV+ in 2021.

Apple TV

Apple is reportedly developing AR content for Apple TV+.

Eric Risberg/AP

By developing AR content, Apple will help usher in the anticipated arrival of their AR glasses in 2022. Apple’s expansion into wearables with the Airpods and Apple Watch has been a resounding success — as of the company’s Q2 2020 earnings, Apple’s Wearables segment alone was the size of a Fortune 140 company.

The Cupertino-based tech giant is expected to make another big bet within the segment with the anticipated release of AR glasses in 2022. In a 2017 interview with The Independent, Apple CEO Tim Cook said he views AR as an idea that could be as big as the smartphone. Since then, Apple has steadily developed the functionality of its AR platform, both through its AR developer toolkit ARKit and the iOS-embedded AR platform Quick Look. These initiatives will help ensure that Apple has a vibrant AR developer base ahead of the anticipated launch of AR glasses. 

We see parallels between the AR TV push and the 3D TV bubble, but Apple also has a strong track record of popularizing nascent technology form factors. Before consumers even had time to scrub off their blue body paint from Avatar showings, the TV industry seemed to have made up its mind that the future of home entertainment was 3D. Just about every flagship TV in the early 2010s came with 3D functionality and a few pairs of glasses, but by 2015, the phase had all but died out. Like the 3D TV phenomenon, the push for AR entertainment appears to be rooted in a desire to make media engaging through form, without consideration for whether that form ultimately enhances substance: It turns out that 3D effects couldn’t make terrible movies good, and good movies were as well-off without 3D.

This is to say, in essence, that AR entertainment is at risk of becoming a gimmick rather than an altogether new form of storytelling. Still, Apple became the $2-trillion behemoth that it is today by popularizing forms of technology that once seemed futureless. (Touchscreen tablets were around for more than a decade before Apple released the iPad and essentially created the device category as we know it.) It is important to note that Apple’s reported ambitions for AR glasses extend beyond home entertainment, but a failure to gain traction in this realm would still represent a significant setback. 

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