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AR/VR Weekly: Augmented reality needs our patience

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Apple launched iOS 11 today, and this means that anyone with an iPhone or iPad that supports the new software can now jump into augmented reality. And we’re not talking about the pseudo-AR of Pokémon Go — this means, to paraphrase Obi-Wan Kenobi, games and apps which take the first steps into a larger world.

It’s also an important step if Apple and Facebook are to lead AR to becoming a $60 billion-a-year industry with 1 billion users by 2021, as tech adviser Digi-Capital projects.

But what does this mean to you or me, folks who might consider themselves as early adopters but aren’t sure what to make of AR taking its next step on iOS? Well, the first thing you’re going to need is … patience. Remember, iOS 11 is new, and I’d caution against updating it until Apple works out the bugs.

Yet this message of patience goes beyond just waiting for Apple to work out issues with iOS 11. In 2015 and 2016, we saw a great deal of excitement — and one could argue overinvestment — in consumer virtual reality. 2017 brought about the so-called “trough of disappointment,” as we’re seeing few breakout hits for VR games and experiences. I sense impatience with this sector, frustration and fear that it’s not growing faster.

But people — investors, developers and designers, and fans — should be more patient. And I’m hoping that same sense of impatience doesn’t crop up with AR. Sure, some may argue that it stands a better chance just because billions of iPhones and Android devices are in the market. People don’t need to add costly VR PCs, because most of us already have AR in our pockets thanks to our smartphones.

Please, though, be patient. Give developers and designers time to craft these experiences, the visors and headsets to enhance them, and the breathing room to work on them once they’re out. Otherwise, we may be talking about AR’s trough of disappointment in 2018.

For AR/VR coverage, send news tips to Dean Takahashi and Jeff Grubb (for those that cross over into PC gaming). Please send guest post submissions to Rowan Kaiser. Please be sure to visit our AR/VR Channel.

—Jason Wilson, GamesBeat managing editor

P.S. The Ready at Dawn studio’s Lone Echo shows off a deft touch when it comes to storytelling in VR.

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