Apple's ARKit needs a CMS to reach its potential

I spoke with a developer of content management systems (CMS) for AR to learn why ARKit developers will need to find one.

Apple, ARKit Marxent, iOS, iPhone, iPad, virtual reality, augmented reality
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As it evolves, ARKit will eventually pose bandwidth demands on mobile networks as these next-generation apps seek to download additional content they need. I spoke with Marxent's CEO and co-founder, Beck Besecker, to get some sense of the importance of ARKit to his industry and the need for a content management system (CMS) for augmented reality (AR).

‘ARKit is a big deal’

Noting that the introduction of these tools has incentivized developers, Besecker says, “ARKit is a big deal. Apple rarely is first to market, but they always aim for great over good enough — and it’s fair to say that they took their time with Augmented Reality (AR).

“They watched Google flail with Google Glass, then acquired Metaio in 2014, and have probably had the basic capabilities since then. Of course, they wanted to make sure that the developer community was ready and that the hardware/graphics processing/speed/battery life would be advanced enough to support AR experiences without inconveniencing consumers."

The Apple feature triangle

"That is to say, they waited until the entire ecosystem, or what they like to call the “Apple feature triangle” was in place — developer community readiness, consumer readiness, hardware readiness,” Besecker adds.

When Apple releases iOS 11 next month, it will be making AR experiences available to tens of millions of people — a huge leap ahead of most of its competition.

“Their AR push is being made in true Apple fashion,”Besecker says. “It has existed, but it has been limited in its usefulness and acceptance to a core group of early adopters. As when Apple launched the iPod, this is the beginning of readiness for AR as a part of daily interaction and communication for the mass market. Apple intends to change the way that we interact with both digital content and the world.”

+ Related: Apple’s ARKit is accelerating AR development +

We know that the rate of development of these apps is rapid.

“ARKit makes it easy and cost effective for developers to publish AR content without specialized skills and gives consumers a reason to switch or update their device,” explains Besecker.

Extending the limits with AR

Developers are building some fantastic apps, ranging from games and gimmicks to enterprise solutions.

Marxent has a home design app that lets users design their room by adding and adjusting furniture in virtual space. The app integrates with Marxent’s VisualCommerce 3D cloud platform, which acts as a CMS for the app’s content, enabling the app to access a wide tranche of virtual objects.

“The one thing that will hold developers back will be 3D content creation and management. It’s one thing to produce a beer pong app, or to place a few objects into a scene, and another to actually create realistic-looking 3D models. 

The user experience remains incredibly important. While first-generation apps may be able to get away with it, ARKit users will become increasingly demanding for more realism in virtual reality.

“In our many years of working on AR and VR projects, with 3D content, realism has become increasingly important,” Besecker explains. “It may not matter much for games, but for products and services, it matters. Realism is what upholds the suspension of disbelief that makes AR magical and makes it fun to use — but it is also what makes 3D products effectively representational of their real counterparts.”

We know there will be apps of all kinds, but retail-focused apps may be one of the biggest genres straight out the gate, he predicts: “There haven’t been any true ARKit retail apps released yet, but there certainly will be — and soon.

"There’s a reason WWDC led with an IKEA demo.”

The need for an ARKit CMS

Besecker says ARKit will need an effective CMS in order to scale to offer apps that use more than a few hundred models. Think of this like video on the web, or as in any data-driven application.

"Apple doesn’t provide any services for content management, creation, storage or anything like that,” he says. “Embedding content into an app, unless it’s a game, means that if you ever need to update the content, or fix an error in one of the models, you’d have to release a whole new version of the app. With a networked content management system, you can update the content separate from the app.”

Besecker further explains: “Keep in mind that beyond realism and various configurations of products, enterprise retailers and manufacturers can have up to hundreds of thousands of SKUs and product variations. Developers will still have to write the program to manage the content all by themselves. And content teams will need a pipeline or workflow that produces ARKit-ready models."

The industry is watching what happens with ARKit

ARKit opens up the potential for new ad products and opportunities, new revenue streams for Apple and new immersive, non-interruptive media buying opportunities.

“We are curious to see how Google, Amazon and Microsoft respond [to ARKit],” Besecker says. “We haven't seen anything with the instant scale of ARKit quite yet.” 

ARKit works only on iOS, so it’s no great surprise that Besecker also wanted to stress that his company offers a solution for Android he claims is "close to parity with ARKit.” 

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