AR Plus Apple TV+ Sounds Like Something No One Wants

Photo: Noah Berger, Getty Images
Photo: Noah Berger, Getty Images

It’s clear that Apple is banking big on its streaming service TV+. The tech giant has made the service free for a year with new Apple devices; it’s introduced streaming bundles exclusively available to TV+ subscribers; it’s paying unfathomable sums of money to acquire visionary directors and talent; and now, it may even be exploring augmented reality applications.

Citing sources familiar with the project, Bloomberg reported Wednesday that Apple is planning to introduce an AR feature to its Apple TV+ service sometime next year, a kind of content bonus that would evidently be accessed through the Apple TV app on an iPhone or iPad. The way Bloomberg describes it, the feature would display objects or people central to a series on small virtual screens as if a part of a viewer’s physical world. Though the outlet noted that the company could still ditch the plan, it’s positioned to debut before Apple’s expected AR headset in 2022.

An Apple spokesperson did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment about the report.

The release schedule for an AR headset release reported by Bloomberg does appear to line up with a timeline reported last year by The Information, which cited an internal presentation presented to Apple employees during a packed Steve Jobs Theatre event. That report suggested that Apple had a “sizable team” contributing to the development of the company’s augmented and virtual reality technologies. According to Bloomberg, Apple’s AR feature for TV+ was originally slated for a release in late 2020 but was ultimately derailed by the pandemic.

The plan with AR here, per Bloomberg, is to draw in subscribers to Apple’s not-yet-exciting streaming service while also drumming up interest in emerging AR technology. And while certainly ambitious, I’ve yet to imagine a scenario in which bonus AR would come across as anything other than a very expensive gimmick. Sure, it would be neat to let your kid watch a series-featured vehicle zoom across the coffee table from an iPhone or iPad. But would this really, seriously do anything meaningful for Apple’s subscription numbers? At this point, my guess would be no.

Right now, people have more streaming services than they know what to do with, and even Apple’s dirt-cheap, $7-per-month subscription for TV+ adds up. Presumably by next year, given the resources and mountains of money that Apple is dumping into its tentpole streaming competitor, we will be looking at a far more enticing content lineup. Perhaps that will present some opportunities for mind-blowing AR applications — and honestly, I’d love to be surprised!

But short of shooting me into space while watching For All Mankind with real and solid VR — which remains a mystical unicorn at this point — this just sounds like another streaming novelty that nobody asked for. More importantly, this seems like something that nobody will really want.

Then again, nobody asked for a cornucopia of increasingly pricey Apple services either, but here we are.