In general the rumored Apple AR headset, as I’ve heard it discussed thus far, has not interested me much. Hardly at all. Today while walking the trail it finally clicked.
I enjoy listening and watching birds and whatever other wildlife might be around. This is especially true when I’m out trail walking. That said, at 52 years, I’ve just bought my first pair of binoculars and took them out on my walk today. As I paused numerous times on the trail to look off into the distant woods I wondered, what would Apple do were they to decide to make a pair of binoculars. Now, to be clear, binoculars are a very specific tool and not necessarilly the sort of thing one might think of Apple making. It’s certainly not a computery device or mass market in the way we might think of a typical Apple product. But with all of the speculation that Apple is making some sort of AR or VR headset, how might such a thing actually be useful?
Tech pundits surprisingly have had a very limited scope when discussing this sort of thing. I’ve heard the topic brought up countless times over the past year but generally speaking it seems that most of the discussion is a question of what such a technology might be used for and thus far the discussion seems to focus on typical nerdy, computery sort of things. Generally, how might the tech be an extension of computer interaction for video games or FaceTime or maps and directions. All pretty typical stuff one might think of and nothing that really interested me. As I recall when it came up in the latest episode of MPU both Stephen and David also seemed unsure.
But as I used my binoculars this morning and pondered Apple and AR and this suggested headset form factor I began to wonder about the potential applications that arise when Apple’s technology is combined for the specific purpose of increasing, in a supplementary way, optical abilities and adding knowledge and context at the same time. In that context, an AR optical device begins to take on a whole new meaning with amazing potential and I do find that very interesting.
Here’s a scenario: I’m in the field with a headset that has as it’s foundation Apple optics and Apple’s powerful silicon. It’s also camera that can record as video or still images. Considering what Apple can do with a device as thin as an iPhone I have to wonder what they could do if they were free to operate in other dimensions. What kind of magnification might this new device be capable of? Whether magnifying the viewing of distant objects or a close-up macro mode. Add to this the machine learning we now see emerging in the Photos app for identification of birds, plants, etc. So, in this context and considering binoculars in outdoors experiences, an Apple AR device begins to sound much more useful.
Another scenario. Take as the base of this next experience that with a current iPhone I can look up into the night sky and take an excellent photo of the Milky Way galaxy. The new iPhones are fantastic at photographing the night sky but of course, no magnification. What might this new device do for an amateur astronomer? Using my $60 binoculars I can see the Andromeda Galaxy. Though I’ve not yet tried it I’m sure I could get a decent view of the Orion Nebula or comparably large, bright “deep sky” objects. Better binoculars will provide views of globular clusters and comets. And of course, a view of the moon with almost any pair of binoculars is spectacular. What might an AR device from Apple be capable of for anyone interested in the night sky? Want to look at the above mentioned Andromeda Galaxy? Ask Siri and be directed which way to look. Interested in learning some of the primary features of the lunar surface? Hey Siri, take me on a tour of the moon or Hey Siri, show me the Sea of Tranquility on the moon. Obviously there would be limits to such a device but again, with binoculars as the base technology, what might be possible?
I’m very much wishcasting here but why not? I’d guess there are many, many other possibilities for how such a headset, used out in the world, might start to be incredibly useful.