The key point, however, is that the integration of 3-D digital objects into our three-dimensional world is an incredibly powerful combination that will bring computing overall, and smartphones in particular, to a new level of capability, usefulness and, well, just plain coolness. It will also drive the creation of the first significant new product category that the tech world has seen in some time: Augmented-reality headsets.
To be fair, initial shipment numbers for these AR headsets will likely be very small, due to costs, bulky sizes and other limitations, but the degree of unique usefulness that they will offer will eventually make them a mainstream item.
The key technology that will enable this to happen are depth cameras. Intel was quick to recognize their importance, and built a line of RealSense cameras that were initially designed for notebooks to do facial recognition several years back. With Tango, Google brought these types of cameras to smartphones. And as mentioned, Apple is rumored to be bringing these to the next-generation iPhone in order to make its first stab at augmented reality.
The experience requires much more than just hardware, however, and that’s where the prospect of Apple doing some of its user-interface software magic with depth cameras and AR could prove to be very interesting.