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How Apple TV+ is banking on augmented reality to woo fans to its streaming service

By Jacob Oller
Apple streaming Tim Cook TV

Apple TV+ has had a relatively underwhelming launch compared to the massive company behind it and the contemporary launches of streaming services like Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock. For all its ambiitous genre shows (current series like For All MankindServant, and See as well as upcoming fare like Foundation), it's still needed a little je ne sais quoi. So Apple, being a giant tech company after all, thinks this is to be found in augmented reality.

According to Bloomberg, the service will be looking to implement AR tech (seen in mobile games like Pokémon GO that add fictional, digital elements to the real world through the lens of your phone) in order to attract more viewers. Looking to debut next year in anticipation of a potential new Apple headset (set to add focused VR and AR functionality to Apple's product offerings in 2022), the added elements would aim to enhance the shows fans were already watching by bringing it into their living rooms.

The bonus content sounds a bit like a 3-D movie, with things jumping from the screen to the sofa. By using the Apple TV+ app on the iPhone or iPad, these elements would accompany whatever was being watched — though hopefully it wouldn't bring something like the creepy baby from M. Night Shyamalan's Servant into the home.

This gimmick is just one more point of differentiation the company has tried to push for its service after its launch gave a free year's subscription to those buying an Apple product. Podcasts, subscription bundles, discounts, and more look to make the service stand out as the streaming wars add more and more combatants. While the AR is the latest addition to this plan, it might not be set in stone: Bloomberg's sources say that though it was planned to launch at the end of the year before the pandemic, it's been delayed — and could be scrapped altogether.

But Apple is still leaning into the tech: its new iPhones will include AR-enhancing Lidar 3-D scanners while that 2022 headset will see 2023 AR glasses follow it up, if all goes according to plan. Apple's streaming service might not be the key place for its AR technology, but Apple is surely investing in realities that aren't our own.

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