For years, Apple’s WWDC developer conference has primarily focused on software and developers. This year’s conference was quite different with the company announcing Siri-powered HomePod speaker, new iPads and iMacs featuring superior specifications. Apple also announced the annual update to its tvOS, watchOS, macOS and iOS. Among all the announcements, one thing that blew everyone’s minds was the ARkit – yes, Augmented Reality is finally coming to iPhones and iPads.
Obviously, Apple isn’t the first to get into the AR space. Google has its Project Tango whereas Microsoft offers HoloLens and Mixed Reality. Facebook has also started stepping up its game in this space. That being said, Apple in the recent years hasn’t been the first in a lot of segments, be it wearables or phablets. The company isn’t known for delivering half-baked products, so I don’t doubt Apple’s long-term focus on the augmented reality. If we have to go by the ARKit demos, it’s not just a boost to the AR segment in general but to Apple’s iPhones and iPads as well.
What is ARKit?
To keep it simple, the ARKit platform will help developers to bring high-quality AR experiences to iPhone and iPad users. It will take advantage of the built-in cameras, motion sensors, CPU and GPU in iOS devices. And using latest computer vision technologies, developers can build compelling virtual content for interactive gaming, industrial design, and immersive shopping experience. ALSO READ: WWDC 2017: Here are the top features of iOS 11
Demonstration – As real as it gets
Craig Faderighi demonstrated the working of ARKit which uses an iPhone camera. Using computer vision, it can identify surfaces of the table, and allow you to add objects. He added a cup of hot tea and even the steam was clearly visible. Next, he also added a lamp and turned the light on, and as he moved along the lamp, the dynamic shadow of cup also moved along in the direction, yes that insane level of detailing is possible. ALSO READ: WWDC 2017: What the hell was Apple’s weird ‘Apocalypse’ introduction video?
Faderighi also touched upon the core aspects of ARKit. It enables fast and stable motion tracking, estimates planes with basic boundaries using all the sensors on your smartphone camera, and it also estimates ambient lighting which helps in rendering. ARKit also integrates third-party framework support for rendering – including Unity, Unreal and SceneKit. ALSO READ: WWDC 2017: Social media reacts to iOS 11, Apple HomePod and more
Apple also demonstrated Batman Lego AR game on iPad, and you can even explode the vehicle, something that cannot do in the real world. You can even pan around it, interact with the Batman, looked awesome. Even games like Pokémon GO gets more interactive like it’s happening in real world. ALSO READ: Apple HomePod vs Amazon Echo vs Google Home: Which one is coming to your home?
Wingnut AR’s creative director Alasdair Coull also took the stage to offer a sneak peek at AR based app on iPad that renders things in real-time using Unreal Engine 4. When invaders attacked, it looked like its actually happening in real world. Well, the demo actually took airship battle to the living room. ALSO READ: WWDC 2017: Monument Valley 2 for iOS launched for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
Why do Apple’s rivals need to be worried?
What is so special about ARKit? Unlike Google’s Project Tango that requires special hardware – multiple camera setup for depth sensing and other information – the ARKit does away with it. The same goes with Microsoft’s HoloLens too. With ARKit, even apps with standard 2D images can be transformed into immersive ones by overlaying digital world into the real world.
For companies like Microsoft and Google, they need to make the hardware or let their partners build it. And then, the next major task is to excite users into buying them, which also costs premium. But that is not the same in the case of Apple, considering it has a huge install base of iOS in iPhones and iPads in customers’ hands already. And bringing ARKit as a part of iOS 11 update will make iPhones and iPads the biggest platforms for Augmented Reality in the world. Plus, Apple also gets the benefit of not requiring to sell any additional hardware. ALSO READ: WWDC 2017: Here’s what you need to know about the new Apple HomePod
With Apple’s big push in augmented reality, things are just about to get a lot more interesting, and I can’t wait to get my hands on ARKit based apps. Are you excited about Augmented Reality coming to your iPhones and iPads? Do let us know what you feel in the comments below. ALSO READ: It feels so cool to live in the age of augmented reality and virtual reality