The iOS Developer Community Survey

Is Augmented Reality going to happen?

This page contains analysis and opinion by Dave Verwer.

If you’ve been paying any attention to where Apple has been heading over the last few years, or if you’ve listened to Tim Cook recently, you’ll know they’re serious about Augmented Reality (AR). ARKit has been a headline feature of every release of iOS since iOS 11 in 2017, and I’m curious to see where they take it next.

It’s clear that Apple has big plans for AR, but how do developers feel about it? From the survey results, I’d say… lukewarm.

The story is even worse when it comes to businesses, where interest is even lower:

It’s worth noting that while interest for AR is higher in personal projects than business apps, more companies have shipped apps that include AR. Even though that may seem strange, I think it’s easy to explain. It seems to me that many of the AR features in business apps are small experiments or gimmicks inside a larger app. Larger companies, with bigger development teams, are more likely to be able to assign resources to build a quick AR feature, where small companies would find that much harder.

I sliced the data for Question 64 to see if this rang true and even though the numbers didn’t change much, there was a slight drop in the average interest down from 3.3 to 3 for companies with less than a hundred employees, which makes sense.

Unfortunately, the level of interest in the future in business-related apps is reducing:

While all of this probably isn’t what Apple hopes to see, I can’t say I’m surprised by these results. Like the majority of people who answered the survey, I’m not particularly interested in AR right now with current technology. But I do think AR has a much brighter future for AR in a world where you don’t need to view it through a tiny screen at arm’s length.

What I was shocked about though was the last question in the section:

I think that’s a remarkable result, and I was quite shocked to see interest so low. I hope that if/when Apple does choose to ship AR eyewear, that they pair it with real-world, practical software that instantly answers the question of why you’d want to strap something to your face. I also hope I never have to place another virtual POÄNG armchair in my living room. 😂

I’ll wrap up with one final point: When you picture AR, you probably imagine a virtual 3D model projected onto a table. Or if you’re thinking into the future, maybe walking directions overlaid onto a real-world street? But what about Snapchat/Instagram filters? What about audio instructions through your headphones to augment your daily life? Are those things AR? I’d say they most definitely are. It’s hard to imagine where AR could go when all we have seen so far are minimal use cases, and I’d say that developer opinion could flip around really quickly if a use case starts to take off. Especially if Apple get the software story right, as well as making some incredible hardware.

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