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AR Kit 2 - Apple Doubles Down on Augmented Reality

Jul 16, 2018 9:05:00 AM

augmented reality medDo you suffer from any of these symptoms?

  • Thinking that augmented reality (AR) is a fad with no practical application
  • Thinking that AR is for kids and gamers only, not for solving real-world business problems
  • Thinking “What’s AR?”

If you experience one or more of these devastating symptoms, it’s time for an intervention. The simple fact is that AR is not going away, and thanks to Apple’s newly released ARKit 2, it’s easier than ever for developers to apply AR technology in innovative ways to address many kinds of business problems.

Welcome ARKit 2

ARKit 2 was released at the same time that the developer beta of the new iOS 12 operating system was made public, so that developers could get to work on AR apps for the new iOS version (slated for release later this summer). Apps built with ARKit 2 will be supported on iPhones 6s and later and on 5th- and 6th-generation iPads running iOS 12.

Although the ARKit tool suite is less than a year old, it has undergone steady enhancement by Apple’s AR team and now includes some eye-opening new features:

  • The Measure app. An iOS 12 standalone utility app based on ARKit 2 technology, Measure does just what the name implies: It measures things. Point your device’s camera at an object, and with a single tap Measure shows you the (approximate) length, width, height, area (for 2D objects) and volume (3D objects) in both metric and U.S. units. It works only on rectangular-shaped objects at present.
  • Multi-user AR. The big leap forward for ARKit 2 is its multi-user capability. Two or more users, each with a supported device, can view the same virtual object from different angles and distances. Aside from the obvious use case (games), this feature could, for example, enable human-factors engineers and interior designers to simultaneously view and evaluate workspaces for ergonomics, efficiency, and safety from different perspectives.
  • Persistent AR. ARKit 2 also introduces persistent AR, which enables users to leave an AR scene and come back to it later, perhaps from a different angle, and all the virtual objects in the scene will be exactly as they were when the user last saw them.
  • The usdz file format. Another significant new feature is this introduction of an AR-specific file format, called usdz. This file format enables third-party tools to specify the properties of a virtual object. You no longer have to be a developer to design objects for AR apps. Adobe, Autodesk, and Sketchfab, among others, will include support for the open usdz format in their design products.
  • Quick Look. Another new iOS 12 app, Quick Look takes an object specified in the usdz file format (which can be shared using messages, email, web pages, and other apps, just like any other file) and places it in the real world as seen through the device camera. Want to see if that Ikea table will fit in your apartment? Just download its usdz file and arrange it to your heart’s content.

What’s the Use?

“So,” you may rightly be wondering, “all this is well and good, but what’s the practical application for this stuff? How is it going to help me?”

The short answer is that no one knows, yet. ARKit is not a solution in itself; it provides the tools for innovative developers and forward-thinking end users to come up with compelling solutions to real problems. The innovation lab here at AndPlus is super excited about the new tool set because it makes development of AR apps easier than ever. Many of the tricky details of rendering 3D virtual objects and placing them in a real scene in a realistic way are handled in the background, leaving developers free to focus on satisfying actual user requirements.

It’s fair to say that AR for mobile today is where JavaScript was 20 years ago: Still in its infancy, but sufficiently mature for clever developers to use it in ways that no one ever thought of before and bring exciting new capabilities to an existing platform (the web, in the case of JavaScript, and mobile devices in the case of ARKit). With a sufficient amount of “I wish I could,” “What if,” and “I have an idea,” anything is possible.

If you have an idea or a problem that could be addressed through AR on mobile devices, get in touch with AndPlus today to see how the new AR-for-mobile tools can help.

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Brian Geary

Written by Brian Geary

Brian is a true believer in the Agile process. He often assists the development process by performing the product owner role. In addition to his technical background, he is an experienced account manager with a background in design and marketing.

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