Apple’s next-generation iPhone, presumably called the iPhone 8, will be the most advanced iPhone yet — with a price tag to match: Analysts are pegging the iPhone 8’s starting price around or over $US1,000.
But the iPhone 8 will need some really desirable features to justify that price. So aside from the new OLED screen, which is said to take up almost the whole face of the iPhone 8, what else is Apple planning?
As it turns out, augmented reality may be the signature feature of the iPhone 8. According to Fast Company, a “source with knowledge of the situation” says Apple is working on a 3D laser system that works off the back of the new iPhones to capture more depth information about what’s in front of the phone, which is necessary to enable more convincing augmented-reality experiences.
Augmented reality, for those unfamiliar, is a technology that lets you see virtual objects in the real world. Popular examples include Snapchat’s face filters, and the augmented-reality mode in “Pokémon Go” that lets you see the adorable pocket monsters wherever you are, thanks to your phone’s camera. The GIF below is a good idea of what augmented reality can do — it was made by Magic Leap, a company working on a pair of glasses that promise to let you see augmented reality wherever you go. (Apple is reportedly working on smart eye glasses that can do this as well.)
In the case of the iPhone 8, Fast Company’s source suggests Apple will use what’s called a VCSEL laser system, which costs about $US2 per phone: It can calculate the distance that light travels from the source of the laser, to the target, and back to the sensor. This ought to also help the iPhone’s already-impressive camera be much quicker and more accurate, but augmented reality will almost certainly be the special use case for the tech’s inclusion in the iPhone 8.
Apple has been not-so-subtly hinting that augmented reality is a big part of its overall strategy moving forward. The company announced its ARKit toolkit in June, which lets developers make augmented-reality apps and experiences for the iPhone and iPad; in just one short month, we’ve already seen some really clever examples of ARKit being put to good use.
Apple CEO Tim Cook isn’t hiding his affinity for AR, either. He told Bloomberg in June that he is absolutely ecstatic about augmented reality. “We’re building it into iOS 11, opening it to developers — and unleashing the creativity of millions of people. Even we can’t predict what’s going to come out,” Cook said. “I am so excited about it, I just want to yell out and scream.”
Apple’s ARKit already works pretty well — just check out this recent convincing example below, which lets you place a portal to another dimension anywhere in the real world — but an iPhone specifically built for augmented reality could be much more powerful and capable of supporting these futuristic applications.
In addition to a rear-facing laser system, reliable KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo believes the iPhone 8’s front-facing camera will also have a laser system. This could help people take better selfies, or selfies with 3D augmented-reality effects (think Snapchat and Facebook’s filters and masks). Apple could even borrow an idea from Samsung and use this laser tech for a facial recognition authentication system to supplement or even replace Apple’s current Touch ID fingerprint system, which Apple is reportedly struggling to implement in the iPhone 8.
You can learn more about the rumoured rear-facing laser system for the iPhone 8 over at Fast Company.
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