Apple’s ARKit is accelerating AR development

All the AR chatter is about to matter

Apple, ARKit, developers
Apple

I appear to be slightly obsessed with ARKit. You see, what Apple has unleashed with this new augmented reality (AR) platform is an opportunity for developers of all stripes to get really creative with what these technologies may actually mean.

More than Pokemon

Think about reactions shortly after WWDC in June. Adam Fingerman, Chief Experience Officer at ArcTouch, noted the platform's potential: “With App Store distribution and in-app purchases, it’s a much more attractive platform for brands and businesses looking to create augmented experiences.”

Forrester analyst Michael Facemire also said at the time, While we’re still very early in the maturity of AR, this is a good first step to get people thinking and using the technology.”

“Unlike the more common 'AR' experiences where objects sit in an arbitrary space in front of the user, ARKit enables developers to create highly interactive experiences where objects can detect and sit flat on tables, counters and other surfaces to make them feel truly life-like,” wrote Y Media Labs Senior Product Manager Steven McMurray.

Developers seem pretty busy

It has been only a few weeks since ARKit was announced, but developers are already engaging with the technology in a way that hints at new ideas in virtual reality (VR) product design. You can look at some early ideas, including clever room measurement tools at the MadeWithARKit site.

Even in the last few weeks I’ve been intrigued by emerging ARKit developments. Here are a few I’ve come across:

Pixie

The Pixie location tracker uses Bluetooth hardware trackers and AR to help you find things. The idea is that any tracked item can be found just by pointing your iPhone in its direction.

JigSpace

JigSpace has used ARKit to create a proof of concept for AR-based product manuals. It may become the "go-to" hub for AR support manuals.

Dance Reality

Dance Reality is using ARKit to build fund interactive videos to teach people how to dance.

Not to mention opportunities in 3D printing.

Beyond Apple’s reality distortion

Apple is just the latest firm to engage with AR.

Look outside of its bubble, and you will find plenty of ideas that may show how AR may help realize all-new solutions and experiences.

The Osterhout Group (ODG) and Citrix announced a collaboration in which ODG glasses could be used to access virtual desktops, digital workspaces and virtualized business apps and data using Citrix Receiver and XenApp and XenDesktop.

This kind of solution has implications in distribution, logistics, technical repair and support, and emergency response. VR and AR is already being used in these sectors.

Travel is another obvious sector.

Writing in the recent "Does Virtual Reality Have a Place in Travel?" report, Alex Hadwick, head of research at Eye for Travel, said:

“I would advise travel brands that can see a way in which they can get VR face to face with the consumer to get engaged with this medium straight away. This shows real returns on investment today. Similarly, if travel brands can see a cost-effective way to make VR content, they should also experiment.”

That cost-effective route arrives with iOS 11 simply because tens of millions of devices will immediately be able to access AR once the OS ships in fall.

This means ideas that people have been working on outside the Apple ecosystem for years can now gain the kind of access to a mass market they need.

Augmenting the real

There are several more tech steps to take for the technology to truly deliver on its promise.

We know Apple is working to improve face, place and object recognition in Photos—why else can you ask Siri to find all the images you have in Photos on your iPhone that happen to include trees?

This neat feature may be fun for you today, but combined with ARKit it could unlock so many new tools.

Digimarc focuses on making product info available to consumers through mobile devices. It says Apple should make ARKit better at identifying and reacting appropriately to external objects.

They see these solutions enabling us to, for example, point our iPhone at a medicine to get dosage information or at a food item on a supermarket shelf to view the ingredients list at a size we can read.

“The real value is empowering the Apple user to discover the world around them, by providing a wealth of actionable information,” wrote Digimarc CTO Tony Rodriguez.

The more I look at ARKit, the more I see its value as a tool for digital transformation across multiple industries, one that may eventually enter experiential awareness and everyday reality.

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