What Apple’s new push into AR means for your business

Apple's new iPhone 8 and its ARKit could usher in a new AR age.

What Apple’s new push into AR means for your business
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I clicked on a 3D desk and placed it into my real office. The colors were not quite right, so I tried a different one. Eventually, everything looked perfect.

I was using the new IKEA Place app running on an iPhone 8 Plus. The phones use a new A11 Bionic processor that is powerful enough to handle the real-time 3D graphics overlays on top of a real-time photo, and it works remarkably well for imaging an office layout.

As is usually the case for me, I started thinking about how augmented reality (AR) on the iPhone could be used in other ways. The phone is fast and popular — it’s a massive footprint. (Apple will likely sell many millions of iPhone 8 and 8 Plus phones in the next few months.) AR is catching on finally, mostly with people who want the tech to work smoothly and without any goggles, add-ons or fuss.

[ Also on Computerworld: 10+ ARKit apps you’ll want to use today ]

That’s a perfect match for many businesses. I could see AR apps that show you what a car will look like in your garage or in the driveway. AR could help you plan a vacation. The tech works so fast on the iPhone 8 I’m testing that the adoption rates will likely be quite fast.

AR in the enterprise

In the enterprise, AR has many implications for envisioning an office layout, creating a networking plan, doing training with employees, learning complex subjects, and even videoconferencing.

I could see a company using the iPhone 8 as a primary meeting platform. You tap in with Facetime AR (which doesn’t actually exist yet). And everyone in the room is able to look at a 3D diagram on a table, pointing to objects that need adjusting.

For training, I could see sending an IT intern out to the data center and, holding up an iPhone, he or she would know exactly what is in the cabinets. For troubleshooting, an AR app could be tied into a backend system to show exactly which network cable is unplugged.

Another major use case — real estate sales. iPhone users could walk around a house and see pop-ups that show the age of appliances, the last repair, and the cost for upgrades. They could load up all of their own furniture as simple 3D renders (possibly from the manufacturer) and see how the rooms would look with their furniture. Buyers could see room dimensions, overall square footage, and many other factors that could influence the sale.

Most important — this is an ease-of-use issue. The iPhone can be a catalyst to make AR go mainstream because the phone uses a camera and a fast processor that makes it possible. (An Apple rep told me the 3D rendering in particular is much faster on the new phones.) Today, there are just too many clunky apps, gadgets that don’t quite work for AR, games meant for kids, and competing technologies that have made AR (not to mention VR) a confusing mess.

If the iPhone 8 ushers in a new AR age, I would not be surprised.

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