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Apple quietly builds the business case for AR

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Apple has quietly introduced new AR features that should help the company push adoption of the technologies more into the mainstream, particularly for retailers, animation houses and educators – and you can access these using QuickLook.

What Apple is doing

Apple’s QuickLook supports 3D models that use the USDZ file format the company built in collaboration with Pixar. This works in the apps you use every day, including Safari, Messages, Mail, the Finder and more – so you don’t need an additional app to run AR experiences.

When you tap one of these 3D models, Apple’s ARKit renders it in as realistic way as possible, with lighting and shadows. You can move the object around, examine it from different angles and more.

What’s new is that Apple is now adding Apple Pay support to this feature, which means you can explore an item in virtual space and then, if you wish, pay for it.

The growing business case for AR

This isn’t confined to Apple Pay, as the support comes in the form of a button developers can customize for different uses. So, for example, an educator may use that button to direct you to additional related multimedia content, while  a components supplier may want to initiate a customer support chat, for example.

The idea is that you can share an AR preview of an item within the body of a Messages chat, Mail message, online, within an app or anywhere else on Apple’s platforms USDZ is supported.

These new features were previewed at WWDC 2019, as reported by TechCrunch, but are now being switched on by major retailers, including Home Depot, Wayfair, 1-800 Flowers, and Bang & Olufsen.

Animators seem excited

Privately, in a recent conversation with an animation studio that creates works for corporate clients and games developers, I learned the file format is also being supported by key applications, such as Maya. Developers were thrilled, as it lets them preview objects they work with in more or less real time; they also hinted that we’ll see more of such AR action.

Support for spatial audio is also in development.

This means the virtual objects you are working with can emit sounds, and also means the spatial audio in your Macs (I’m looking at you, 16-in. MacBook Pro!) can make the object’s sound appear as if it is coming from wherever you choose to situate it in your room.

What problems does this solve?

We know Apple is big on AR, but making big things happen isn’t about technology alone. It also requires viable business models.

This means that if the company wants AR to break out from specific usage cases and hobbyists into the mainstream Apple knows it must enable viable businesses to grow.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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