For Apple, The Metaverse Is The “Shmetaverse”

At the recent Augmented World Expo (AWE) event in November 2021 in Santa Clara, CA, Ori Inbar, Co-Founder, and CEO of AugmentedReality.org introduced in his opening keynote, the term “Shmetaverse” to his audience. It was a play on words about the Metaverse suggesting that the term is so overused and misunderstood that it has lost any real meaning.

Augmented World Expo took place a few weeks after Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta / Facebook, introduced his VR-centric concept of the Metaverse. AWE is more focused on AR than VR. Yet the term, meta verse was thrown about liberally by the vendors and speakers at the show with just about everyone having their meaning of what and how the Metaverse impacted their products or presentations.

While Zuckerberg, Meta, and others continue to tout the Metaverse vision and its VR-focused implementation, you may have noticed that Apple executives have purposely stayed away from stating their view of any VR-focused vision. They pretty much keep away from even using the term Metaverse in any commentary on how Apple thinks about virtual worlds.

Indeed, since 2017, when Apple introduced the AR Kit at their June WWDC developers ‘conference, Apple and their software partners’ focus has been on AR, not VR. I had a chance to have a one-on-one with Apple CEO Tim Cook a few hours after his keynote and we discussed his AR vision. As expected he was excited about this focus for Apple and told me that he believed, “it will be one of Apple’s biggest contributions in the future.” That is quite a statement given how world-changing the iPhone has been over the last 15 years.

In one specific way, Apple will be quite effective in an area where they have excelled since the introduction of the Mac in 2001. That is in the area of ​​advancing man-to-machine interfaces. With the Mac, they introduced the graphical user interface and the mouse that dominates UI’s in PC, laptops, and tablets today. With CD ROM’s they added multimedia user interfaces and new graphics UI’s, and with the iPhone, they introduced touch UI’s. With Siri, they popularized UI’s voice.

Given their prowess in UI design, Apple will most likely bring gestures and visually driven UI’s to the mainstream users, and man-to-machine interfaces once they enter this market with their AR / XR glasses sometime in the future.

Meta’s vision for the Metaverse is more 3D and immersive driven using VR googles such as their Oculus 2 headsets. Apple’s approach, at least as we have seen demonstrated so far, leans more towards AR-based experiences where data is superimposed on the lenses of some type of glasses that allow the user to see both the real world and virtual data and images simultaneously.

Apple recently took to adding the term mixed reality when talking about their AR program and I expect we will get more definition about their additional ideas of how AR and XR play out in their developer programs at their WWDC in June 2022.

Apple is still pretty quiet about its actual plans for any type of AR / XR headsets and their final approach for delivering their version of a virtual world experience to Apple’s customers. But from their current approach that focuses more on AR than VR, for Apple, Zuckerberg’s Metaverse vision is more Shmetaverse to them for now.

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