“You’ll never get to the future if you never attempt the future! “– Futurist Jim Carroll
If you are into that type of thing you might have tuned into Apple’s WWDC event yesterday to get a first look at their new VR/AR headset – or, what they are calling their new spatial computing device. And if you are like me, you would have been pretty shocked by the price at $3,499 (or about $5,000 Canadian, my home country.) You would have been really disappointed in the tether wire necessary for longer-lasting battery power. And then you would have gone online to all the exciting but sometimes negative comments about the new device, but particularly the price.
As someone noted online, ‘That’s a lot of money to buy a bit of technology that lets you watch TV in a new way’.
But here’s a reminder that there were scathing reviews on the original first versions of the Apple iPhone, TV, Watch, and iMac. Keep in mind that companies that build the future, such as Apple, aren’t afraid to take on the big bold leaps of the imagination necessary to get to the future – because that’s the only way to build the future.
With that idea in mind, some perspective on yesterday’s announcement is helpful. The team over at CultofMac (which essentially reports on the cult that is fans of Apple – of which I am one), quickly put up a blog post to put things in perspective.
People might be squawking about the $3,499 price tag of Apple’s new Vision Pro headset, but let’s put things in perspective. When Apple introduced the Macintosh — the first computer with a graphical user interface — it cost an eye-watering $7,400 in today’s dollars.
The Apple II — the first truly “personal computer’ — proved even more expensive. In 1977, an Apple II with maxed-out memory (a whopping 48KB of RAM, yes kilobytes) cost the equivalent of $14,400.
Throughout its nearly 50-year history, Apple has successfully introduced a string of groundbreaking computing platforms. It started with the Apple II, the first personal computer for the masses (which coincidentally launched on this day in 1977), followed by the Mac’s graphical user interface, the iPod’s scroll wheel, and then the iPhone’s revolutionary multitouch input system.
In each case, the breakthrough was a new input method.
Even the iPhone, which introduced the world to finger-based computing, was initially predicted to be a failure when it launched in 2007, mostly based on its lack of a keyboard and its price.
Apple initially priced the iPhone at $499, at a time when most mobile phones came free with a carrier plan.
Pundits said no one would buy it. Steve Ballmer, then Microsoft’s CEO, famously predicted the iPhone would bomb.
“That is the most expensive phone in the world,” Ballmer said at the time.
Adjusted for inflation, it would cost about $720 today — slightly cheaper than the current iPhone 14, which starts at $799.
Apple’s always had pricing woes
In 1998, Steve Jobs launched the iMac, which went on sale for $1,299. Again, this price point was criticized as being way out of line with competing machines from rival PC-makers.
Jobs defended the price by saying: “No PCs are in the price range. But people are seeing the value at these prices, and our goal is to continue to lower prices on products like iMac. Part of it relates to how much of a necessity you think these devices are. And a lot of people are starting to feel that having a personal computer, especially one that is able to deliver as robust an internet experience as the iMac can in the home, is an essential utility. An iMac costs about as much as heating a New England home in the winter, a lot less than an automobile. We’re not in the sweet spot totally, but we’re getting there.”
Of course, the iMac went on to become Apple’s fastest-selling computer — and one of the best-selling computers of all time.
Even at $3,500, Apple’s Vision Pro headset looks like a relative bargain
CultofMac, June 5,2023
And then there is the fact that by finally jumping on board, Apple is establishing a foothold to define the trend – and their new world of ‘3D spatial computing’ will certainly do a lot to define the trend. Simply watch the introduction video to get an idea of the future that they see.
Want to dig into the potential trends that might play out here? Go back and re-read Trend #17 of my “23 Trends for 2023” series, where I wrote about “non-immersive VR/AR.” Part of what Apple was announcing yesterday with augmented reality (AR) fits into that trend analysis – even though it’s still a headset.
People made fun of the
“The iPhone will be a major disappointment.” Advertising Age
“The iPhone isn’t the future. It isn’t a revolutionary mobile device ushering in a new era.” TheStreet.com
“There is no likelihood that Apple can be successful in a business this competitive. These phones go in and out of style so fast that unless Apple has half a dozen variants in the pipeline, its phone, even if immediately successful, will be passé within 3 months.” Dow Jones’ MarketWatch
And famously, established phone pioneers like Motorola, Blackberry, and Nokia dismissed the iPhone. It was a threat.
23 Trends for 2023
Part of the art of figuring out the future is knowing this – you’ll often find the real trend by looking beyond the hype to what’s actually happening! The hype? Virtual headset virtual reality, best epitomized by the bold but somewhat doomed bet by Mark Zuckerberg with his Meta initiative. The reality? The return of Google Glass ideas with smart heads-up display based on accelerated augmented reality technology and concepts.
That’s the focus of trend #17 of my 23 Trends for 2023 – Non-Immeservice VR / AR.
Non-immersive, in that this isn’t a headset that you wear but the hardware you glance at that provides you detailed information about the space around you – the marriage of AR and HUD (augmented reality in heads-up displays). In 2023, a greater number of organizations are going to discover this is the real VR / AR opportunity, not the crazy headset idea being pushed by Facebook, er, Meta. That will always be a fascinating but niche-oriented bit of hardware that will provide much amusement and fun but not a lot of business applications.
I first became really excited about the mainstreaming of AR – augmented reality and HUD technology – when an Air Canada pilot that I follow on social media began to post an increasing number of photos from the cockpit of the Airbus A220, which features a sophisticated heads-up display screen, much like we might see in a modern fighter jet. That indicated to me that this was a technology that was finally going mainstream because it had practical applications – augmenting your world with valuable, up-to-date information; in this case, critical flight data, updated in real-time and available at a glance.
As I began seeing these photos some years ago, I realized that while Silicon Valley was hyping the clunky headset, practical people were involved in building real applications based on something that was not immersive.
That’s why, when considering a trend, you might often find the reality not in the thing that is hyped, but in the things happening around it. It’s not VR that is real -it’s AR. I posted this as a comment to Mastodon – a fast-emerging alternative to the hate bucket that Twitter has become – and received this response from ‘Ralph058’
@jimcarroll This has a ring of truth to it. The “Self Driving Car” is not the trend. It is the ubiquitous growth of autonomous systems because of it. Autonomy Engineering is a field. I’ve interviewed for making construction equipment, mining equipment, pleasure boats, airplanes, commercial trucks, and of course automobiles “self driving”
This echoes what I see happening. I own a Tesla with ‘self-driving’ technology. It’s not. Not self-driving nor ready for prime time everywhere, and so I have become quite skeptical about the mainstreaming of that technology as hyped by Tesla. But i do see self-driving emerging with road trains, trucks, mining equipment, and more. Look beyond the hype to discover the reality.
Back to HUD and AR.
The more I thought about it, I realized that what was really coming together was the marriage of several trends – data generated by digital twin technology, the increasing sophistication of HUD or heads-up display technology, and augmented reality concepts. These aren’t new trends – but they’ve come together at the right time to provide wonderful business opportunities. Think about it this way – we are seeing the emergence of a world of 3d visualization with data, and that has applications in building design, manufacturing, construction, healthcare … just about everywhere!
Digital Twin Technology
Let’s start with digital twin technology, something that hasn’t been terribly hyped but has become wonderfully significant, being implemented pretty much under the radar everywhere.
What is it? 3d visualization with data!
“In simple terms, a digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical asset or process. It is continually updated from real-time data, analyzing multiple scenarios at once to optimise decision making and generate performance insights. These insights enable manufacturers to improve overall business agility by responding to a range of ‘what if’ scenarios much more quickly.
How Digital Twin Tech Can Improve Cost Predictability
6 December 2022 Mondaq Business Briefing
Think about it this way: it’s intelligent geometry.
With a digital twin model, they can get a true sense of the scale of the rooms being created. The construction industry has been using computer-aided design for a long time, says Robinson, who refers to this as “dumb geometry.” For example, you draw a square and call it a window.
“Even if you do the same in 3D, I’d still call it dumb geometry,” she says.
Intelligent geometry is where the design of your building holds a lot more information. For example, in a digital twin model, the windows contain all the data, like warranty information, installation date, and materials, she says.
When you interact with a digital twin model, all this information comes up, so it’s much easier to access, and the model becomes a single source of truth for the building, she says. Why is it called a digital twin? If you’re designing a building using this technology, you’re creating a “digital twin of a physical asset,” says Robinson.
Digital twin tech aids intelligent building design; Models provide much more info than just a project’s appearance, expert says
1 December 2022 Trenton Trentonian
An important part of this trend has to do with the insight and data provided by digital twin technology, which has come into its own as a significant trend. What’s a digital twin? In basic terms, it’s a virtual representation of a physical object, asset, or process, constantly updated in real-time.
It might be a visualization of a robotic process, used to engineer a new manufacturing methodology, with this marriage of Smugino robotics and CENIT software for digital twin technology simulation for robotics
How might this work? Consider this:
Mars is creating ‘digital twins’ of all its manufacturing sites globally so it can simulate changes to production processes before committing to real-world tests.
These virtual representations of the sites – created with Accenture – are fed with real-time data and used to “predict and optimise” any tweaks.
Under a two-year agreement, these virtual versions will run across Mars’ facilities globally. Mars said it planned to apply them to dozens of use cases within the next three years. It is expected the move will make production sites “significantly more efficient and address essential sustainability goals such as water stewardship and reducing waste and total greenhouse gas emissions” Mars told The Grocer.
A digital twin is a virtual model that is designed using real-world data to accurately reflect a physical object, combining several core technologies such as AI, the Internet of Things, the cloud and extended reality, according to experts.
Mars creates ‘digital twin’ sites for tests
15 October 2022, The Grocer
It might be a virtual representation of an urban area:
Consider this example of how digital twin technology can be used for natural resource management as another example.
The “digital wings” is a digital twin system of the Shule River, a national pilot project launched by China’s Ministry of Water Resources in February this year. The project has created a virtual version of the Shule River in the digital world, which simulates all factors of the physical river and the whole process of water management based on the physical river basin, spatial-temporal data, mathematical models and water conservancy knowledge.
“To make it simple, it is a ‘twin’ of the river and water conservancy projects in the virtual world. The sensors deployed along the water course and on the bank slopes can ‘feel’ what’s happening like a neural network,” said Xia Tian, director of the cyber security office of the information center of Gansu province’s water resources department.
China’s Gansu province powers water conservancy with digital twin technology
10 December 2022, People’s Daily Online
Or a virtual – and 3D – representation of a farm with data. Watch this video to get a sense of what’s possible.
Digital twin technology provides a lot of real-time, intelligent insight into ‘things.’
Now imagine that data can be used for AR – taking the virtual digital twin data and presenting it within your real world as augmented information.
That’s not new – the idea and concept have been with us for quite some time. You can play with AR on your iPhone, for example:
Now imagine that you can take the insight generated by digital twin technology and see in an AR form. I’ll simply present some images to help you ‘see’ that.
I think you get the point!
That’s the concept of AR.
Heads up Display / Virtual glasses
Add to this the third element – increasingly sophisticated heads-up display technology – and you get future magic that is arriving today and early tomorrow. A few articles give you an idea of what’s possible.
“Recently, a display device such as augmented reality (AR) glasses or a head-up display (HUD) that displays augmented reality by displaying a virtual image such as various images or various information to be superimposed on a scene (real scene) that is actually being seen has been put into practice.
“The AR glasses are also called smart glasses.
AR-enabled smart glasses being tested at Keppel shipyards
4 August 2022. The Straits Times
Consider how this might be used in a mining operation:
On May 22, the underground optical waveguide AR glasses developed by Wuhai Energy Co., Ltd. under China Energy obtained the coal mine safety certificate from the National Center for Safety Standards, the first of its kind to pass the certification. The application of this equipment enables frontline workers to conduct remote failure diagnosis and treatment, remote accident rescue and relief command, intelligent risk screening, smart equipment patrolling, and remote operation instruction and training.
China’s First Coal Mine Certificated AR Glasses Put into Use in Wuhai Energy
2 June 2022, Contify Energy News
Or how they can assist from a medical and healthcare perspective:
* The XRAI Glass glasses use augmented reality to transform audio into captions * These are instantly projected in front of the wearer’s eyes
* Josh Feldman, 23, was born with profound hearing loss and described his experience testing the glasses as ‘quite extraordinary’
While smart glasses were once constrained to the world of science fiction, brands ranging from Snapchat to Facebook have released their own devices in recent years.
Now, a new pair of smart glasses has been launched for people who are deaf or suffer from hearing loss.
The glasses, called XRAI Glass, use augmented reality to transform audio into captions that are instantly projected in front of the wearer’s eyes.
‘We are so proud of the ability of this innovative technology to enrich the lives of people who are deaf and have hearing loss, so that they can maximise potential,’ said Dan Scarfe, XRAI Glass CEO.
‘Whether that means being able to have a conversation while continuing to make dinner or keeping a conversation going while walking with a friend.’
The smart glasses that let deaf people ‘SEE’ conversations: £400 augmented reality sunglasses transform audio into captions that are instantly projected in front of your eyes
29 July 2022, Mail Online
Now consider the hardware that is coming as the original idea of Google Glass – released in 2011 – returns as a valid concept, such as promoted by the planned release of Oppo AR glasses.
To understand the space that Oppo’s Air Glass fills in the world of smart eyewear, let’s first consider what it is not. The Air Glass is not a pair of VR glasses, cutting you off from real-world surroundings, nor does it attempt to beam you into the metaverse or any other virtual world. Oppo says that it strives to assist reality rather than augment it.
And consider what might come next from Apple:
Or with Google with Glasses 2.0.
This leads to a world in which a factory or maintenance worker can ‘see’ schematics:
or pull up critical information that is displayed — all without a clunky headset.
As with anything, timing is the big issue. The future is coming at us – it’s just a matter of when.
Apple’s AR glasses could be pushed back to 2025 or 2026 amid ‘design issues’, says analyst; Apple CEO Tim Cook has called augmented reality a “profound technology” that will affect everything
5 November 2022, MarketWatch
But I am convinced that this is a real trend to watch, and we will see both continued developments and a greater number of practical applications into 2023 and beyond.
Timing is the big issue.