The Apple Table is Set

The big meal is about to come. We’ve been waiting for years for Apple to reveal its mixed reality products, including visors and glasses. We’ve been seeing the potential coming in other products like the Oculus Quest, the Magic Leap 1, or Microsoft’s Hololens. For years we’ve dreamed about an augmented world. Steve Jobs called them “bicycles for the mind.”

Yesterday it announced a bunch of things to developers and a few of these “human helpers.” Techmeme has all the reports here:

The most interesting was that, as of yesterday, Apple Music now is available in Spatial Audio. In a way, its headphones that enable that feature are the first to use its new philosophy: “how many ways can we improve lives by including more AI and 3D visualization in products?”

Apple knows that great audio is the foundation of great experiences in visual apps, like video games, entertainment, virtual shopping, education, and concerts. So it makes sense to upgrade all audio, which Apple is in the middle of doing. Another major upgrade comes next year when audio gets locked to the real world.

Apple is confusing people with all the new audio terms. Lossless and Spatial Audio are two I hear a lot, but Apple hasn’t been clear about why we want either, or both. By this time next year it’ll be clear, or, rather, it won’t matter. Most new media will be available in the better of the two formats, Spatial Audio. That format gives you infinite surround sound and, coming next year, it will be locked to the real world. Really these announcements are about moving us toward the experiential world.

When I say “experiential world” what do I mean? Well, going to a concert or a sporting event is experiential. You experience these things by being immersed in the event you are attending. What Apple is heading toward is shipping a “Holodeck” that will let you attend virtual concerts. Or go virtual shopping. Or attend a virtual school. Among other things. 

Apple will, before the end of the year, I hear, announce two products: a brand new iPod that we haven’t yet seen and a new “Holodeck” which is basically a high-end headphone and visor for experiencing mixed reality.

That said, I was expecting a little more about the 3D map. The fact that they showed us a new 3D map, but didn’t give developers a bunch of new capabilities, is interesting to note. That tells me that Apple will be more muted that I was expecting. That signals to me that it will do a “Viewmaster” product approach where the announcement of the product might not need, or have an affordance for, a lot of third-party apps. 

Look at Apple Music. To me that’s where Apple is setting the strongest tone about what is to come. It just upgraded a good chunk of its catalog to support Spatial Audio. No external developers needed. In fact, most people who work at music companies have no idea what Apple just did to the music industry. Let’s put it this way: I just cancelled my Tidal and Spotify accounts. 

Because of this trend toward experiential services and away from tons of new developer efforts, Apple has continued the course set by Steve Jobs. Apple knows the consumer electronics industry better than anyone. The iPhone was launched directly against the Consumer Electronics Show, held every January in Las Vegas. That wasn’t an accident.

Anyway, now I’ll turn my efforts to the business impact of the moves now that Apple is coming after owning your home. Both on its competitors and on developers that rely on Apple’s ecosystems for their business.

The “Holodeck” (there’s a rumor that Apple calls it “Apple View” but I’ll call it the Holodeck until Apple officially announces) will be aimed at our family/living rooms, entertainment context. I’m not expecting people to wear it a lot outside. I’m counseling entrepreneurs to focus on family time. Playing games, watching TV/movies, reading books, listening to music, etc. Entrepreneurs who have a strong showing for what people will do in their family rooms have a shot at building significant businesses.

Entrepreneurs who I’m working with are finding it challenging to raise money at the moment. That will change over the next few months, particularly after Apple announces. This isn’t the first time investors will change their attitude. Back when AltSpaceVR started up the founders told me that no one would invest in it. Then Mark Zuckerberg bought Oculus and several of those investors they visited called back.

Same will happen here. So, have an investment plan for before the Holodeck gets announced, and a different one for after. Same for your PR plan and your go-to-market plan. 

I’ve been talking to a bunch of companies who are aiming to where the puck will be, to use a hockey metaphor. One entrepreneur, Robert Adams, stands out as a good example of an entrepreneur that is building technology that Apple will need in the future. His business, Global edentity, builds a variety of sensors and AI that sees biomedical identity, among other things.

Now, that usually sounds dystopian, but Apple is already showing us how to thread that needle: stay focused on delivering products that help humans and minimize the consequences (and with this new genre of technology there are many). The things it showed us yesterday will improve our lives. Spatial Audio, for instance, makes music that sounds way better. That doesn’t sound dystopian now, does it? Nope.

Adams has shown me many new technologies that companies like Apple could add to future products and services. 

For instance, one of his inventions looks at the vascular and/or skeletal system of the user. This is something that a camera can do that your human eye can’t. Can you see the blood flowing through people’s faces? Nope but his system can. What does that lead to? All sorts of things, from earlier sensing of disease, to much better identity systems. If Apple wanted to make users much more secure and healthier it could, but it would need to invest in companies like the one Adams is building before a big company as Google or Apple buys them. This is what Apple was doing the past decade: buying a bunch of little companies that you don’t know much about that now are becoming important parts of Apple’s tech stack (like the 3D sensor in the latest iPhones, which came from a small company in Israel, Primesense).

Another of his has ways to make our health better and even further add identity capabilities by adding a smell sensor to a future phone or glasses. Such a sensor and associated AI could even smell that you are experiencing troubling emotions like anxiety, or, even, a health problem. I’ve seen dogs that can smell those, along with other things, on humans and sensors that can “smell” are coming along. They say even a blind dog knows its owner! So why not your phone? Imagine the possibilities.

Anyway, I’m seeing an explosion in entrepreneurial activity as Apple, Facebook, Snap, Google, all spend billions of dollars readying products that will ship over the next few years. So, I’m expecting to talk with a lot more people like Adams. Am available at +1-425-205-1921.