Market Reality: Apple Funds Its AR Device Production Future, the Snapchat vs. Facebook War Heats Up & Airbnb Goes AR

Apple Funds Its AR Device Production Future, the Snapchat vs. Facebook War Heats Up & Airbnb Goes AR

With an eye toward future iPhone X-focused augmented reality functions, Apple's new investment in one of its components vendors will increase production capacity for the technology behind its TrueDepth camera, but could also apply to its future AR ambitions.

On the software side, Snapchat and Facebook both made moves to open up their AR platforms to creators, releasing software that enables developers to publish their own AR content.

And in the world of real estate, Airbnb is exploring augmented reality as a means to improve the overall guest experience.

Apple Funds Present & Future AR Hardware with $390M Award to Finisar

In a move that will increase production capacity for its TrueDepth camera system, Apple has awarded vendor Finisar with $390 million from its Advanced Manufacturing Fund.

The Texas-based company makes the vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) used in the iPhone X for its Face ID, Animoji, and Portrait mode features. VCSELs also power the proximity detection capabilities in Apple's AirPods.

The funding will enable Finisar to expand to a 700,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Sherman, Texas and add 500 jobs for high-skilled roles such as engineers and technicians. All of the VCSELs purchased by Apple will be made at the new Sherman plant, which will begin shipping components in the second half of 2018, or at Finisar's existing plant in nearby Allen, Texas.

While the implications on the present (iPhone X) are clear, read on to find how what this might mean for future AR hardware...

Image via Apple

REALITY BITES: Magic Leap founder and CEO Rony Abovitz took to Twitter to tease his followers with a cryptic yet titillating message. "(In a quiet whisper) we may share some fun and cool stuff with all of you (maybe next week)," he tweeted on Tuesday. "I think you will be happy," he told one skeptic who responded to his initial tweet. Is Christmas arriving early for AR fans?

Snapchat Follows Facebook with AR Creation Tool

On Thursday, Snapchat opened up its walled garden of World Lenses to the masses of creators with the launch of Lens Studio.

Available as a free application for PCs and Macs, Lens Studio is billed as powerful enough for experienced developers to import their own 3D animations, but simple enough for amateurs to load 2D content.

While Snap previously disclosed during its third-quarter earnings call that the company was testing Lens Studio with select partners, the timing of its release this week elicits a certain feeling of déjà vu. That's because Facebook made its own AR Studio available to developers earlier this week. Now, in a strange twist, Snapchat is playing catch-up with Facebook, after the latter spent the past couple of years mimicking the former's AR features.

To understand how this changes the social media AR cold war between the two companies, read on...

Image by Lens Studio/YouTube

REALITY BITES: Cosmetics maker Estee Lauder has expanded its AR makeup education program with augmented reality app developer Perfect Corp. The YouCam Makeup app for iOS and Android enables the cosmetic maker's training personnel to conduct live tutorials and product briefings.

Airbnb Working on AR Features for Its App

Just as the modern travel experience has improved thanks to the internet, Airbnb wants to make your stay in a stranger's home easier by way of augmented and virtual reality.

On Monday, the company revealed that it's working on augmented reality features that, in the future, may provide guests with navigation to amenities within their host's home. In addition, the updated app might also enable hosts to provide instructions on how to operate appliances within the home, with language translations integrated into the app.

Is this the fuel Airbnb needs to keep up its mission for global home-sharing app dominance? Check out the other future app features mentioned and decide for yourself...

A product designer's concept of AR in Airbnb. Image by Isil Uzum/Dribbble

Every Friday, Next Reality reviews the latest headlines from the financial side of augmented and mixed reality. This weekly Market Reality column covers funding announcements, mergers and acquisitions, market analysis, and the like. Check out previous editions of Market Reality for more news you may have missed.

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Cover image via Apple

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