Apple will make an announcement on augmented reality at WWDC 2021

The most anticipated WWDC 2021 announcements from Apple for iPhone, Mac, and more

Apple has never confirmed plans to release augmented reality hardware, but could reportedly announce a headset as soon as this year. Facebook, Snap, and Microsoft are also working on devices that can understand the world around them and display information in front of the user’s eyes.

Apple released several new augmented reality tools and technologies for software makers during its annual WWDC conference this week. These technologies could be vital if Apple in fact releases an augmented reality headset or glasses in coming years.

In order to succeed with an augmented reality device, Apple will have to come up with strong reasons for people to use it — and that comes down to useful software, just as apps like Maps, Mail, YouTube, and the mobile Safari browser helped spur adoption of the original iPhone. Getting developers on board to build augmented reality software now increases the chance of one or more “killer apps” being available at launch.

Apple did not spend much time on augmented reality at its WWDC launch keynote on Monday, but announced several updates during the conference’s more technical parts shows that it remains an important long-term initiative for Apple. CEO Tim Cook has said AR is the “next big thing.”

“From a high level, this year, and maybe even next year’s WWDC event, will amount to a calm before an Apple innovation storm,” Loup Ventures founder and longtime Apple analyst Gene Munster wrote in an email this week. “Out of view today is Apple’s intense ongoing development related to new product categories around augmented reality wearables and transportation.”

What Apple announced
During the week-long conference, Apple briefed its developers on its rapidly improving tools that can make 3D models, use a device’s camera to understand hand gestures and body language, add quick AR experiences on the web, a heavily Apple-backed standard for 3D content, and an intriguing new sound technology that’s like surround sound for music or other audio.

Here are some of the AR announcements Apple made and how they are paving the road for its larger ambitions:

Object Capture. Apple has introduced application programming interfaces, or software tools, that will enable apps to create 3D models. 3D models are essential for AR, because they’re what the software places in the real world. If an app doesn’t have an accurately detailed file for a shoe, then it can’t use Apple’s machine vision software to place it on a table.

Object Capture isn’t an app. Instead, it’s a technology that allows a camera, like the iPhone’s camera, to take several photographs of an object, then stitch them together into a 3D model that can be used inside software in minutes. Previously, precise and pricey camera setups were required for detailed object scanning. Eventually, third party developers like Unity, a top AR engine maker, will include it in their software. For now, it will likely be used heavily in e-commerce.

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