I cancelled my order three times. No-one needs a phone as expensive as the iPhone X. And yet, once you start using it – the cost seems less extreme (but, really, it is). Part of this is down to the same reason my Series 1 Apple Watch didn’t seem like a crazy extravagance – the materials used make it seem like jewellery (granted, easily breakable jewellery). It feels special.
The other reason is the future potential of Apple’s TrueDepth Camera and what it may mean for AR. The Kinect technology, which Apple miniaturised, paired with Augmented Reality opens up new experiences that developers have only just been able to start figuring out.
FaceID feels so seamless that you can barely tell that it’s there, especially when launching into apps that would have usually required you to use your fingers on TouchID. As many others have commented on, Apple hasn’t broken the experience in apps that use biometric verification – they’ve simply made it work.
And it is the TrueDepth used for FaceID where developers can really start creating compelling new experiences.
Since ARkit was announced, I’ve been fascinated by all of the new experiences developers were creating. From tape measures to portals into alternative realities, to games and even the world’s fastest way to see the answers to Suduko puzzles; AR excites me.
And yet, actually playing with AR apps when they actually came out and it’s clear that apps that require you to constantly move around, or hold your phone up for prolonged periods start to show the weakness of a handheld device for augmenting the world in front of us.
But then I tried the updated Apple Clips app.
I’ve been a fan of Clips since it first came out. The ability to create fun, quick videos that can be easily shared has been enjoyable. But with the TrueDepth camera, Apple was – for the first time – able to show the potential for what can be done with AR. Importantly, Clips is an early example of how AR should function, within the confines of a smartphone.
Sure, at the moment, that just extends to transporting yourself into different scenes, but it starts to give you an idea of what game developers could start doing.
Already, we’ve seen what developers like Vivid Games have been able to do with the standard front-facing camera, as far back as 2011 with Real Boxing.
If you also consider many of the games developed for Kinect and other experiences that can happen when you use depth, matched with AR – new possibilities open up.
Taking examples like Insight Heart, which are able to use health data from a heart rate monitor to show what happened during a recent workout – but using the front camera, could indicate exciting advances for healthcare.
Sure, there will be gimmicks and face masks, but the true potential lies in how developers utilise the TrueDepth camera.
Take the following example, showing how Indie or even major game studios could save millions in animating characters – or even involve the player in the game as a character. Imagine games that respond to the expressions you make, or to use TrueDepth for looking around in a game – with 3DTouch used to control forward or backward movement.
The iPhone X is Apple’s foundation for the next 10 years of smartphones. While Apple has shown off some interesting AR demos, and developers have been busy creating and experimenting; the true benefits of the new technologies are still being worked out. Whether or not the materials and technological advances that make the iPhone X possible are worth the money or not; it’s the potential that interests me the most.
I did cancel my pre-order three times. Yet, having the phone (in a protective case and with insurance), it feels like the start of a raft of new opportunities to find new, or better ways to both interact with our devices, but also augment our environment.