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"Apple’s VR Self-Driving Car Cockpit Announced at WWDC 2016" in Humanizing Technology

Concept image for Mercedes Benz self-driving car cockpit. Essentially an open area to manipulate 3D hologram space for entertainment on road trips and work for commutes.

Every news outlet even remotely interested in technology is talking about the WWDC announcements. But what about the subtext of the things that weren’t? That’s what this letter is about.

I. Platform of Introductions

The most important message from WWDC is that Apple is opening their core, most engaging apps up to 3rd party developers. After all, WWDC stands for World Wide Developer Conference. It just turned into a consumer marketing effort as the iPhone became more popular over the years and the media began picking through it for clues.

The 3 most critical apps that they’re outsiders API access to are:

  1. Messages: a communication medium
  2. Siri: an intelligence medium
  3. Maps: a transportation medium

Note that even though Apple has marketed these things as apps, they’re not. At least not anymore. They’re now platforms.

Messages is a platform for communication that started with short snippets of text, then expanded to media: photos, videos, emojis, and voice messages. It’s now expanding even further to stickers and yes, apps.

The moment software moves from an app to a platform is the moment the app gets an app store.

Siri is a platform for intelligence that started with your voice. You talked to “her”. But it was a product because it put you at the center. Remember why the iPhone became so popular? It was because it was a selfish product. You were at the center of everything. Every app you curated. Every email, phone call, and text message was directed solely at you. And now, your artificial intelligence API is being opened up. Because training data. But the real problem that must be solved is none of this. It’s a feeling:

Is Artificial Intelligence Human?

We’ve been here before:

StoryApp from 2013: record your voice over multiple photos and talk to an AI friend named K.I.I.Y.
KIIY reacted to your voice and sense of self privately, learning more about you. You can choose to share your story with the Universe if you so chose.

But that’s the past. We understood where the world would eventually head. It’s just not ready yet. I’ve said this multiple times, but people aren’t ready to hear their own voice recorded or speak to a machine in public. We’re self-conscious about our own voice. Humans don’t change. But if you are by yourself or with friends inside a car, then everything changes. You will talk to your car.

Maps is a platform for transportation. At first you need the app so you know where you’re going. But once it becomes a platform, you need the app so the computer knows where it’s going. You need all the layers of data: zoom in and out, roads, traffic, hazards, construction, and smart routing. Every layer is built on top the the last. Most people think that the car needs a good camera in order to see, and good road markings. But if you remove the traffic and people, you don’t need any of those things. Because a computer can just follow a line from A to B from the map’s data. The camera is only so you don’t run into something not on the map.

A map’s data could theoretically get so good that you no longer need a LIDAR camera.
Velodyne’s new LiDAR puck camera for self-driving cars.

Remember though that maps needs data. And wouldn’t it be nice if it helped you get to where you’re going once you step outside of a car, and go inside a building. Apple is also building that. You may not have heard or seen this, but Apple is quietly working on data collection for places, businesses, and indoor venues. Check it out at Apple Maps Connect:

Apple’s quietly public Maps Connect web app, for adding details about your business, including indoor meta data.

II. Apple Car

Also known as Project Titan to insiders. Elon says it’s the grave yard for folks who couldn’t cut it at Tesla. I don’t buy that. Apple has a large number of incredible engineers. And way more cash on hand than Tesla. Besides, Tesla’s first roadster started on the Mercedes CLS chasis anyways so it’s not like they’re without bumming from other car manufacturers to get started. Everything, everything, is borrowed.

So lets talk about CarPlay. It isn’t made to just test the waters of iOS inside a car, it’s actually to start getting integrations and biz dev partnership conversations happening without giving away the goose of their own car.

Interestingly here, Apple is starting with the integrations first and the product second (in normal tech lifecycles you start with the product first and then enable integrations). This is genius if you ask me. I thought CarPlay was a gimick until I unexpectedly demo’d it during an impromptu rental road trip:

A Product Person’s Review of Apple CarPlay

Apple already has 100 models to choose from (and just announced that it’s coming to BMW M-class performance vehicles in 2017).

So lets review:

  • Messages is how you gather a group of friends for a trip
  • Siri is how you plan it and talk to the car
  • Maps is how you get there

Got it.

III. Virtual Reality

The Apple Watch and the upcoming iPhone 7’s dual camera is primed for one very specific product. Virtual Reality goggles. Otherwise why would you have two “eyes” on the back of the phone to detect 3 dimensions? Below are some relevant Apple Patent filings to prove this isn’t just some pie in the sky wishful thinking:

Two Apple VR Patent filings: one “3D Glasses” as an entry level model and one for “VR Pro” goggles for the high-end model.

There’s also a curious item buried in the newly released dev documentation that I found related to the Apple Watch, which is what I believe is going to be used to help manipulate 3D space. Want proof? Here it is straight from the docs:

3D spatial audio updated for Apple Watch: playAudioSource:waitForCompletion: or the WatchKit sound or haptic APIs.

Now, all Apple’s missing is the Wireless Earpods for spatial audio and to talk to Siri without the wires or the hands. Of course, that’s no secret either.

Imagine using the gyroscope in the Apple Watch to determine minority report style orientation to manipulate digital 3D objects, then have them appear in a 2D iPhone space. Look at Facebook’s just released 3D images in the feed (move your iPhone around and see the entire 3D environment; neat effect).

IV. Table Stakes

The entire WWDC left me wanting this year. It was the first year this has ever happened. There’s an old product management term that I found myself keep repeating: “table stakes”. Because it felt like they were very much playing catch up this year, filling in all the competitive holes before they leap forward, doubling down on the innovation announcements in the next year.

I remember when the iPhone first launched. They were 5 years ahead of the competition. It was the same with the iPad. But now they’re playing catch up when it comes to messaging features. China has been ahead for years with apps inside apps. Snapchat has pushed the millennial needle forward with geofilters, video stories, and 3D video lenses. Messenger for Facebook launched months ago with their app store inside Messenger launched over a year ago. Google announced at their dev conference a few weeks back many of the same features Apple just announced. But Apple is dead last in this race.

Let’s take another example.

Apple was years ahead with Siri. But never did much with it. And then Amazon Alexa, and then Google Now, and then Microsoft Cortana. The voice wars are upon us, as well as Artificial Intelligence. Apple is talking about it for the first time and opening a single framework for training Neural Networks. Finally, in 2016.

And what about electric, self-driving cars? Elon and company at Tesla already have them on the roads in customer hands.

Apple went from being years ahead to being years behind.

So how is this possible? How does Apple go from being the market leader, flush with cash, literally inventing the industrial designs and technologies and then get lapped by competitors?

Because we’re human and we all have bias we can’t see past. We only see what they tell us to see. And so we miss what else is being worked on because Apple doesn’t do previews or talk about it before it’s ready, like competitors do.

The other reason? They have their smartest minds focused on their most important future products. And you need the best people on it. You can have many other teams execute on iPhone version 10 but if you want VR Glasses version 1 or Car version 1, you need the best and the brightest. Because going from zero version one is always the hardest step.

Apple’s no idiot.

Finally, they quietly mentioned another item that didn’t feature during the keynote. It’s a brand new file system that will work consistently across all their operating systems: iOS, macOS, watchOS, tvOS. And eventually, carOS and glassesOS. That’s the underlying framework upon which the future will be built. And they buried it from the public (so they don’t get wind of it), but not from the developers (who they need to adopt it).

V. Google[X] Interview 3 Years Ago About Self-Driving Cars

Three years ago when we shut down StoryApp, I interviewed for a product management position at Google.

I’ll keep the nature of my conversations private for the respect of the products they’re building, but one of the interviews focused on the UX of a car for the future. And I’ll talk about this because it’s no secret they’ve been working on this for awhile, plus it’s been 3 years so the statute of limitations is likely up. Google asked me a very pointed question.

The question was, “Imagine you weren’t driving the car. What would the car need to make that possible, and what would you need if you were inside it?”

That’s how the S Curve of Innovation begins.

— Sean


Apple’s VR Self-Driving Car Cockpit Announced at WWDC 2016 was originally published in Humanizing Technology on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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from Sean Everett on Medium http://ift.tt/1tulj0a