Apple sees an important future field in augmented reality (AR): from the development department to CEO Tim Cook, the managers of the iPhone group sing the praises of the technology. In addition, iPhones and iPads are now equipped with LIDAR technology, which allows AR elements to be placed more precisely in space. Nevertheless, there is now criticism of Apple’s previous approach: the useful AR web technology Web XR is still not supported by Apple’s standard browser Safari.
Chrome has been able to do WebXR since 2018
As the IT service Protocol reports, Apple’s approach represents a “big hurdle for the entire industry”. Apple is slowing down innovations in the field of augmented reality on the web, says Christopher Lepkowski, an expert in immersive computing from the AR start-up Pretty big monsters Currently, there is no more widespread AR device than people’s mobile phones. Companies like Google, Samsung, Meta, Magic Leap or the Firefox makers from Mozilla have therefore focused on the WebXR standard agreed. Apple stays here though so far outsiderelies on its own AR APIs in Safari instead.
WebXR is already sufficiently mature, critics say – it has been available in Chrome for Android since 2018, and competitors such as Opera or the Samsung browser followed suit two years ago. Since Apple completely controls the market for browser engines on the iPhone and iPad and only prescribes WebKit for alternative programs such as Chrome or Firefox, they cannot follow suit with WebXR. The absence of WebXR loses so many users. If the technology is used, iPhone users are out.
Gimmick instead of standard application
AR experts like Lepkowski also see the problem that AR use on smartphones is not progressing as a result. In fact, it still has something gadget-like about it at the moment. Apple uses its own technology in the browser for small, “walk-in” graphics on the respective landing pages of its keynote events. These can only be seen on iPhone and iPad. According to recent research, only 15 percent of smartphone users have ever stumbled upon AR on the web. The technology is much better known in programs like Snapchat. “We would have a lot more everyday AR usage on the web if it wasn’t for this reluctance [Apples] would give,” says Lepkowski.
Meanwhile, Apple continues to work on its own AR glasses, which will probably not be launched until next year. Meanwhile, little is heard of “killer apps” for augmented reality on the iPhone. Companies that want to use AR in WebKit without always having to completely adapt their code to Apple technology are now using a workaround. This comes from the Niantic subsidiary 8th Wall, which uses existing browser APIs to bring AR experiences to Safari as well. However, the tight hardware integration that Apple’s ARKIt is used to is missing. It is unclear when and whether Apple will support WebXR – the iPhone group is currently not commenting on the topic.