Apple has yet to add support for web-based AR to the iPhone’s Safari browser — an omission that has severely hampered adoption of augmented reality, according to industry insiders.
“Apple has been a drag on innovation in WebAR,” immersive computing specialist Christopher Lepkowski, tells protocol.
WebAR is short for Web-based Augmented Reality, and it’s a relatively new technology that does not require a mobile application to function. Users can access AR experiences directly from their smartphone using the native camera and mobile web browser. This seamless user experience is one of the main reasons WebAR is rapidly growing in popularity.
Google’s Chrome browser for Android began supporting WebXR in beta in 2018; Samsung and Opera added support to their respective mobile browsers in 2020. Apple, on the other hand, has yet to add WebXR support to Safari on iOS.
WebXR is a Web application programming interface that describes support for accessing augmented reality and virtual reality devices, such as the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, HoloLens, Magic Leap or Open Source Virtual Reality, in a web browser.
Protocol notes that, at the same time, there is no avenue for other browser-makers to bring WebXR to the iPhone, as Apple forces them to use Safari’s WebKit rendering engine to build iOS versions of their browsers.
The article says that, as a result of Apple’s lack of commitment, the web is playing a relatively minor role in AR these days. In a recent survey, only 15% of respondents said they had used a web-based AR experience, while more than 50% had used AR in an app like Snapchat or Instagram.
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