Cook grows apples in the Metaverse

Redefine once again?

“Technology should enhance the efficiency and experience of human life, rather than isolating people and providing a window for people to escape from reality.” Cook has a unique view when it comes to the Metaverse.

Starting in 2021, many of the world’s top technology manufacturers, including Meta (formerly FaceBook), Microsoft, and Google, are doubling their efforts to promote and develop the “Metaverse”, and Apple CEO Tim Cook talks about this topic. Answering with “AR,” as in an interview with The New York Times in November.

Even in early January of this year, Mark Gurman, a well-known Bloomberg whistleblower, also revealed, “If Apple said the word ‘Metaverse’ when it released its first headset, I would be very shocked. An insider told me directly that a user A fully virtual world to escape, as Meta’s vision for the future shows, is off-limits for Apple.”

But the dramatic thing is that Cook can’t escape the role of “businessman” after all, and changed his view on the Metaverse during Apple’s earnings call in late January:

“The Metaverse is a very interesting area. We have 14,000 ARKit apps on the App Store, and they are now providing incredible AR experiences to millions of people. We see a lot of potential in this area and are working on it. appropriate investment.”

In fact, by observing the financial report data, we can draw a conclusion that Apple’s revenue sources are not rich, even similar to those of more than 10 years ago. Nearly 60% of the revenue comes from the iPhone series, and the rest includes personal computers, tablet computers, Wearables and accessories.

With the popularization of global intelligent communication equipment and electronic products, the market space has become smaller and smaller. Smartphones and tablet computers have long become products that people are accustomed to, and it is difficult for related technologies to make revolutionary progress in a short period of time.

This also means that if Apple does not make changes and enter a new field, the final outcome may be abandoned by the times, just like Microsoft’s stagnation in the PC computer market.

Therefore, even if Cook still retains his attachment to the existing equipment system, he must break this comfortable protective shell when XR (VR/AR/MR, etc.) and the Metaverse are about to take off.

01Hardware  has come first

On September 1, 2014, a press conference called “Leaving the Earth Two Hours” was held in Beijing. As the organizer, Baofeng Group released a VR glasses called “Storm Magic Mirror”.

As an experiential product in the early stage of VR, “Storm Mirror” is essentially a VR box with a very low technical threshold. With just a pair of lenses and a plastic box, Google’s Cardboard SDK (software development kit) can do it, and the price of a complete set of simple devices is even less than 10 yuan.

Cook grows apples in the Metaverse

The low price and almost zero technical threshold allow all kinds of VR boxes to popularize the concept of VR, but also bring poor initial experience to consumers.

Although some giants such as Sony and HTC were also making VR devices in the true sense, these products were all aimed at the mid-to-high-end market, and the price of thousands of dollars was beyond the reach of ordinary consumers.

In 2016, the VR boom that failed to attract enough C-end users gradually faded away, a group of start-ups scattered, consumers’ perception of AR/VR became more rational, and the mainstream hardware devices on the market also changed from primary to primary. The staged VR box transitioned to an external head-mounted display and an all-in-one VR machine.

Until 2021, the VR/AR industry has ushered in highlights for the second time. The Oculus Quest2 has sold over 10 million units since its launch. This also means that XR hardware has completed the breakthrough from the B-side to the C-side, officially opening the road to the consumer market.

And the VR headsets based on the Oculus Quest2 technology path and form are emerging one after another. At present, the XR2 chip has become the main chip of consumer-grade VR, and the CV head-hand 6DOF interaction has become the core method and technical path of VR all-in-one interaction. Thousands of yuan machine, eye tracking function and other products were released one by one.

An important reason for the rapid development of VR all-in-one machines in recent years is the gradual maturity of various hardware technologies. The industry chain of VR hardware actually has a certain degree of overlap with the industry chain of mobile phone hardware.

Its core components include chips and display screens. It can be said that the rapid development of VR equipment in just a few years is actually enjoying the dividends of the mobile phone industry. There is no need to re-build the wheels from 0 to 1, and many technological accumulations can be reused.

At present, the mainstream XR2 chip in XR equipment is a derivative of the mobile phone chip Snapdragon 865; in optical components, the Fresnel lens scheme is widely used, and the Fresnel lens scheme is very mature, but its volume is relatively large. In terms of display technology, 4K for both eyes has become standard, and the screen is also developing on LCD to better display screens such as Micro-OLED and Mini-LED.

As the most influential technology company in the world, Apple, although there is no major movement in AR/VR hardware devices, has already been making arrangements. The technology required for XR devices has been quietly used by Apple in other devices.

Taking camera technology as an example, as early as 2020, Apple installed a LiDAR sensor on the back of the new iPad Pro at that time, which actively acquired depth information to model and calculate the surrounding environment, thereby improving AR. effect of effect.

The AR development component ARKit, which is matched with LiDAR, has also implemented functions such as position tracking, plane modeling, ambient lighting rendering, and real-time rendering.

According to the revelations, Apple is likely to release a VR/MR machine this year, or next year at the latest. It is an all-in-one machine in the form of a VR headset, with about 10 cameras, and the resolution may be above 4k, and the chip is likely to Also self-study.

As far as the current situation is concerned, the most advantageous point of Apple’s VR equipment lies in its self-developed chips. Once Apple can develop a chip with higher performance than the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2, the current equipment equipped with the XR2 chip will no longer have a competitive advantage.

The same is true for AR. According to Ming-Chi Kuo’s report at the end of 2021, Apple’s AR glasses will adopt a dual-processor architecture. The performance part is a PC-level processor of the same level as M1, with a sub-processor responsible for 6 to 8 optical modules and A large number of sensors are used to transmit huge amounts of data.

It is undeniable that Apple’s M-series chips have demonstrated strong self-research capabilities. Assuming that they are transplanted to AR devices, the computing power is indeed not a problem, but the problems of lightweighting the whole machine and modularization of components still need to be improved.

Cook grows apples in the Metaverse

Under the background that the cloud computing solution has not yet been realized, Apple wants to launch a thin and short AR/VR glasses, then iPhone, iPad, MacBook may become the computing carrier for the operation of glasses, which may be the biggest AR/VR glasses of Apple. point of difference.

In terms of the overall equipment or the nature of this generation of platforms, VR and AR are essentially the same thing, and the technical means of the two are not much different, but AR will be lighter in the future and can do more interaction with reality .

But whether it is Apple or other manufacturers, the control of XR hardware manufacturing technology is fully mature, and the main point that can open the gap is the size of chips and hardware, but with the increase in shipments, related solutions The plan will gradually mature, and the problem will come to the software ecological construction.

02  Ecology is the decisive battle

The XR track is crowded. For users, the final user experience of hardware products is the focus of attention, and the content ecology is inseparable from it.

However, the weak XR content ecology has always been criticized by the outside world. Although the explosion of the Metaverse has brought the imagination of the scene, the construction of the domestic consumer-level XR content ecology is still in its infancy.

If we learn from the situation of smartphones, one of the two current ecosystems is the iOS ecosystem, and the other is the Android native and third-party ecosystems. The same is true for XR. There will be a third-party content ecological platform in the Android ecosystem to create new content, such as the current mainstream Oculus ecosystem; and Apple is likely to fully adopt its own ecosystem in the XR ecosystem, just like mobile phones. .

Cook grows apples in the Metaverse

Frankly speaking, if there are content manufacturers behind XR hardware manufacturers, there may be some exclusive content in the content, but in general, other manufacturers cannot live without content.

Because the typical feature of the Android ecosystem is the industry chain extending from the hardware industry chain and the equipment industry chain to the content industry chain, in fact, there is a high degree of division of labor within the industry chain or within the ecosystem.

Therefore, there will be a third-party content ecological platform to help you popularize the content ecology in the overall market, including the unification of standards.

The public’s expectation of Apple, or Apple’s appeal, comes from Apple’s control over the hardware industry chain on the one hand, and its potential to promote the XR industry to build a complete content ecosystem.

In recent years, Apple has accelerated its layout, both in terms of content and patents. In 2020, Apple has acquired VR live broadcast company NextVR and VR startup Spaces. According to incomplete statistics, Apple has obtained 11 patents related to AR headsets in 2021 alone.

And as early as WWDC in 2017, Apple released ARKit, an AR software development tool that supports Unity and Unreal engines. At WWDC in 2021, Apple has updated this tool to ARKit 5, and also released new features such as AR Maps, Object Capture, and RealityKit 2.

Apple officially stated that there are currently more than 10,000 iOS applications that support AR, and the types of these applications are very rich, covering various software such as utilities, games, and efficiency.

The XR ecosystem itself is in the early stage of development. How to attract high-quality developers to develop related content is the biggest problem facing the industry at this stage. Secondly, because each brand uses a completely independent OS platform, the SDK and tools related to developers need to be built separately, which is more difficult.

Compared with Meta, Apple will be more capable of calling developers into the ecological construction camp, because the APP Store can bring considerable continuous income to developers and form positive incentives. And Meta’s Oculus, because it does not have a huge ecosystem like Apple, it is difficult to make breakthroughs in the software ecosystem.

Focusing on the ecological status and development trend of the XR industry, we will find that the application scenarios that the AR and VR industries focus on are different, and the ecological development will also be different.

AR products are positioned as To B as a whole, and most of them adopt a customized solution of hardware plus software, that is, manufacturers will not only sell their own hardware, but also customize software according to customer requirements. For example, in scenarios such as scenic spots, manufacturers will provide a set of overall tour guide product solutions.

In terms of To C, AR products still lack applications, and the content supply is limited, making it difficult for ordinary consumers to contact them. Scenarios such as games, medical care, and education are all areas to be developed, and they are also the big cakes that major manufacturers can compete for in the future.

Cook grows apples in the Metaverse

VR products are currently the opposite of AR as a whole. They belong to the positioning of To C. Consumers can easily access general content on the products of various manufacturers, and because the size of VR devices has advantages over AR devices, so in the ecosystem The construction aspect is also simpler for developers.

An industry insider said, “VR equipment is expected to show a trend of light weight, so as to reduce the weight of users when wearing them. On this basis, optimizing ecological construction and bringing consumers an immersive audio-visual experience is the future direction of development. “

Just like the development of smartphones, the technical accumulation on the hardware in the early stage may only be the entry ticket to the industry. If you want to really stay on the poker table, you need to fight for ecological construction.

In fact, in the early stage of XR development, the commonality of content is very important. After the emergence of a content platform that can be shared, it can play a certain incentive role for the entire industry, and more hardware manufacturers will be willing to join the ecosystem.

Because these hardware manufacturers can see that making products is guaranteed, and based on rich content resources, users will be more willing to use XR products.

Although XR products, including Pico Neo3, iQiyi Qiyu 3, etc., have made great progress in content supply in recent years, as mentioned above, Apple has already launched on the premise of no hardware release. There are 10,000 iOS applications that support AR, which means that the accumulation of Apple XR ecological developers is far more than any current ecological platform.

With Apple’s brand influence and ability to build products, once related XR products (Apple glasses, etc.) come out, it is not difficult to replicate the success of Meta on Quest 2, and even replicating the story of iPhone 4 on AR headsets is not difficult. It’s difficult.

Apple’s cleverness is to let others try first and rule the market itself, because most of the technologies Apple adopts can become mainstream in the future.

Therefore, for some XR equipment companies that have not yet broken through the sales bottleneck, before Apple has entered the market in a big way, they should strive to rush up and accumulate more users, so that they may survive in the future.

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:
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