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New Apple software could be 'huge' for taking augmented reality mainstream

  • Augmented reality development software, like Apple's ARKit, will play a big role in taking the technology mainstream, Robert Scoble told CNBC at SWITCH
  • Expensive, clunky headsets were one reason why virtual reality has yet to be adopted by the mainstream, Scoble said

New augmented reality software from Apple and Google will be "huge" in taking the technology to the mainstream, a prominent tech evangelist told CNBC on Monday.

"I think it's huge because it lets developers start to learn how to build this kind of software," Robert Scoble, a partner at Transformation Group, told CNBC on the sidelines of the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology.

Apple's ARKit technology is one of the features on the company's iOS 11 that will be released on Sept. 19. The new platform will take "apps beyond the screen" by letting users of the software create AR experiences for iPhones and iPads, according to the company. Google's ARCore is a similar software development platform for Android phones.

The reason why those platforms are needed, Scoble explained, is if smartglasses eventually become lighter and more widely adopted, there needs to be enough interesting software.

"We need developers to learn how to build that kind of software using sensor fusion, using the new 3D sensor, using the new kinds of ways to see the world ... We need them to build a lot of software so when the glasses world does arrive, there's lots of things to do," Scoble said.

The uses of augmented and virtual reality software aren't limited to just fun and games, either — Scoble pointed to computer-aided design as a segment that provided growth opportunities.

"People who are building cars or buildings are using Autodesk or AutoCAD ... and that's a huge market. That market is [worth,] I think, around $20 billion. If those people start needing augmented reality to see their models in new ways, that's going to be a huge change," he explained, pointing to how Shanghai Disneyland was designed using VR.

Robert Scoble, partner at Transformation Group
Dan Taylor | Heisenberg Media | Getty Images
Robert Scoble, partner at Transformation Group

Scoble, who is known in part for his Scobleizer blog, also weighed in on why he thought virtual reality hasn't been widely adopted despite the hype surrounding the technology. Unlike AR, which mixes the real and virtual worlds, VR simulates an environment in which users immerse themselves through headsets, such as the HTC Vive and Facebook's Oculus Rift.

"The headsets are expensive and they're dorky," Scoble pointed out.

He added: "You need to hook them up to a PC. I just spent $2,000 on my PC, which has a ... big GPU [graphics processing unit,] which is what you need to spray the kinds of polygons around you to give you a really nice experience. So that's $2,500 right there to get started ... It's way too nerdy, way too dorky."

Another reason why mass market adoption hasn't caught on, he said, is the difficulty in getting people to experience the technology for themselves.

"It's hard for people to try it. Out of a thousand people walking around the show floor here, how many have actually had more than five minutes in a headset? Very, very few," said Scoble. "So it's going to be a slow burn."