Apple merely jump-start head-first into augmented reality.
Following months of supposition about what exactly the specific characteristics of its aspirations for augmented reality are, the company announced it’s constructing an AR platform directly into iOS. With ARKit, Apple is for the first time offering developers a suite of tools to build dedicated augmented reality apps for iPhones and iPads.
Like other new iOS 11 features, it will be some time before we ascertain ARKit’s full potential, but Apple demoed a couple AR experiences created with the tech to present a little bit of what’s possible.
The flashier of the two demos was the Star Wars HoloChess demo, a callback to the iconic game( which, as any true-life Star Wars fan knows, is actually called Dejarik) from the original 1977 film( it was later shown in The Force Awakens and Rogue One, too ).
The game, which did appear to have some official Star Wars branding, let you to digitally place the “holographic” chessboard on a surface in front of you and move characters around the board.
The board stays in a fixed locating so you can get a closer look at the game by moving the iPad closer to the area of the table where the board has been “placed.”
Not even Apple can set enough spin on this kind of AR demo to make it actually seem exciting.
The second demo was a lot like one of the augmented reality demo we considered from Facebook at its F8 developer conference earlier this year. Place virtual objects a lamp, a vase, a beaker of coffee on a table and move them around.
For some reason “move digital objects around on a screen” has become the go-to AR demo whether you’re Apple, Facebook or Google. And not even Apple can set enough spin on this type of demo to make it actually seem exciting.
That told, there are a few noteworthy aspects to this. Apple invested a lot of hour hyping up the dynamic lighting features of ARKit and a little bit of that was on display: Tapping the lamp would turn on the illumination, allowing you to see how the darkness change in real time. It’s subtle for sure, but noticeable.
More realistic darkness may not sound especially exciting( because they’re not ), but it shows how ARKit stands to help developers create much better augmented reality experiences than what was possible before. Even Pokmon Go , the app that set augmented reality on the map last year, will get a lot better thanks to ARKit.
“The digital world will overlay the real world in most detailed and precise styles and you will be able to interact with Pokmon in a more immersive and life-like fashion, ” Niantic wrote in a blog post Monday.
Again, both of these demos were meant to show developers what’s possible, rather than represent fully fledged consumer-ready apps. What exactly developers will create, outside of games, is another matter.
Apple also talked about an app Ikea is constructing to help people visualize furniture in their homes before they buy it. Similarly, ARKit apps could be used to virtually try on clothes or makeup or just about anything else you may want to test-drive before bringing it home.
If that sounds familiar, that’s because it’s not that different than what we’ve heard before from Google, which has discussed similar use cases for its Tango engineering, so far only available in a couple of devices.
Of course, that’s the biggest advantage Apple has with ARKit: it will be available to all iPhones and iPads that can run iOS 11, which is why the company said Monday it stands to own the biggest AR platform in the world.
And that could make all the difference.