Will Harvey is Innovation Lead at VCCP and Director at Innovation Social. Here he explains why ARKit by Apple is a game changer in the world of AR.
Early in June Apple hosted its annual developer conference WWDC. It was the usual jam packed two and a half hour keynote with updates across their Mac and iOS software systems. Alongside the typical “one more thing” surprise of the Apple Home pod (a contender with the Amazon Echo and Google Home) was another big piece of news - one of the biggest enablers in the Augmented Reality space in current years - Apple ARKit.
Now I'm not going to go full geek here but i think this could be a fundamental shift in what will be possible on mobile devices for the next couple of years.
Augmented Reality isn't something new, its been around for a number of years enabling people to use their mobile devices to see digital objects in the physical world. We have seen a spike in a wider knowledge of AR in popular culture following last summers Pokemon Go craze, and AR has made its way into many agency presentations on future Tech to watch out for!
A number of big players have been experimenting in this space beyond the mobile device with some impressive outcomes. Such as Google's experimental Project Tango back in 2014 looking to pick a device with a number of cameras and sensors to hep it get content of its environment. We have also seen Microsoft make a play in this space with the head mounted computer Hololens that recently went down the enterprise route.
As well as the usual tech giants we have also seen a number of smaller key players in this space, all of whom I feel will be fundamentally shaken up by the introduction of ARKit. Check out this great article from The Memo on the upcoming AR bloodbath .
You may be asking what is ARKit?
Think back to when when Apple brought out a development platform for iOS giving tools to developers to build experiences easily for iPhone. Well ARKit is the same idea - ARKit will enable developers to build the next level of Augmented Reality experiences for mobile devises without the advance knowledge that has been required in the past to do this.
There are a number of key ways ARKit changes the game:
1. Ease of development - Apple is looking to make it as easy as possible for people to develop AR experiences with existing Unity and Unreal engine knowledge, thereby making the barrier to entry a whole lot lower.
2. No specialist equipment - A great deal of the more advanced AR experiences require you to have special equipment for your device to map the physical space and depth of the environment. ARKit will allow developers to use there exiting mobile cameras.
3. No trackers - With alot of AR experiences you require a trigger or a visual image for the Digital object to track in the physical space. ARKit doesn’t, just drag and drop digital objects into your physical space.
4. Spacial Awareness - Using an existing iPhone device ARKit can recognise the physical space you are in from tabletops, Walls, Buildings
ARKit is due to be the Largest AR platform in the world for developers, its only been in the wild for a few weeks and there has been some truly impressive examples from smaller indie developers, Check out Made with AR Twitter account, in particular this blew my mind being able to step into a digital world in a physical space.
AR and VR have a tendency to be lumped together although their applications and capabilities are drastically different. VR creates immersive and emotional experiences that allow the storyteller to transport you to another place. It's scale has been limited due to the cost of equipment, scale of reach and as it is an isolating experience for the end user.
AR has a greater breadth of applications due to its ability to be experienced by the many: from turning your coffee table into a battle zone like Peter Jacks new company Wingnut demo; to measuring up your room to place a new piece of furniture; to even creating a digital treasure hunt in a physical space like the guys at Nexus interactive did for the Gruffalo.
My personal opinion is we are just starting to scratch the surface with real world possibility AR will be capable of, this is being super charged by Apple ARKit for Developers, Storytellers and brands bring it to the masses via the cameras on hundreds and millions of existing iPhone and iPads.
Apple new software ios11 will roll out in September along with expected new phones and will make full use of ARKit. Watch this space.