AR and ARKit: What you need to know for iPhone and iPad!

Apple is doing cool things with Augmented Reality. Here’s why you should care.

Augmented Reality isn’t a new technology, but as our phones and tablets become more powerful, the limits to what is possible have started to melt away. With Apple jumping into AR, there are a few additional reasons to get excited. Our FAQ will walk you through everything you need to know right now, and how to prepare for your AR future!

What’s new with ARKit?

September 29, 2017: ARKit is here and HUGE

As predicted, developers have taken huge steps into Augmented Reality with new apps and new ideas and lots of new features. Some of these new ARKit features are subtle and not obvious to find, but many also exist as entirely Augmented Reality apps to take you on a new adventure.

Since not every app is easy to find, we’ve got a list of everything we’ve found so far!

Here’s every ARKit app you can install right now

August 30, 2017: Apple shares ARKit Human interface guidelines

Apple has updated its Human Interface Guidelines to include a section for designing ARKit apps. The augmented reality guidelines outline the optimal way for users to interact with virtual objects, how such objects should be placed, and the language developers should use when trying to guide users in performing a task.

August 29, 2017: Developers show off their ARKit projects to Apple

Apple recently invited a group of developers to its Cupertino campus to show off the projects that they’ve created using ARKit. As noted by The Verge, developers were on hand from Ikea, AMC, Giphy, and more.

But it’s sometimes the fun, toy-like technologies that give way to more serious use cases, which is probably why Apple seems to determined to show off other demonstrations of AR apps that will roll out with iOS 11 next month. Half a dozen app developers gathered on Apple’s campus in Cupertino, Calif. yesterday to demo their upcoming AR apps and talk about their development processes, including big brand names like Ikea, The Food Network, AMC TV, Giphy, and more.

CNET, as part of its preview, went into some of the aspcts of how exactly ARKit works, including some of its current limitations. For instance, ARKit, at least right now, can only detect flat horizontal services, and cannon detect walls.

But ARKit can’t currently detect complex surfaces like curved couch cushions, or even vertical surfaces like walls. You might be able to place a virtual IKEA futon in your room, but you won’t be able to hang a virtual flat-screen TV. Not yet, anyhow.

What is Augmented Reality?

Where VR replaces everything you see by completely immersing you in another world, AR takes the world around you and adds to it. For Apple, this means looking through the camera on your phone and seeing new things in addition to the real world.

The applications for this kind of technology are nearly endless. You could point your camera at a painting and have details about the artist appear nearby, or see how furniture would look in your office before buying and moving it. And, of course, AR opens the door to a lot of interesting and fun games.

What does Apple want to do with AR?

Basically, everything. Apple is betting on developers wanting to build AR experiences for the millions of iOS users out there and offered plenty of demos during its WWDC keynote and demo areas to prove it. Through ARKit, Apple’s new toolkit for AR apps, we’ve seen demos where the table in front of us has been completely overrun by something virtual and interactive.

For Apple, this is an entirely new category of apps that would all run on every iPhone. Long-term, it’s possible Apple has plans to build special displays you wear like prescription glasses that make the Augmented world a part of your everyday experience.

Check out our full review of ARKit for iOS

Where did ARKit come from?

Apple doesn’t usually talk about the origins of its technology and frameworks, but an educated guess would be Mataio, and AR company Apple aquired a couple of years ago.

Mataio’s technology looked solid and it had an API that, according to reports, was already very good.

How does this compare to the other stuff out there right now?

ARKit is apps are undeniably impressive and fun, but clearly limited when compared to Microsoft’s Hololens or Google’s Tango AR kits. Hololens and Tango are designed to be aware of multiple physical spaces and all of the shapes contained within, like a glass on a table or the distance between where you are standing and the wall on the other side of the room. ARKit as it exists right now is able to find flat surfaces and draw on those flat surfaces, but is otherwise limited.

The best thing to compare ARKit to right now is the Facebook Camera app. ARKit is a more capable version of the AR capabilities contained within Facebook’s app right now, with the potential to continue improving as we move closer to the launch of iOS 11. Apple is able to use the whole phone, which means systems like Unity and Unreal Engine will allow for much more dynamic and interactive experiences once developers have had time to explore.

How do I get started with ARKit?

The only think you need to do to get started with ARKit is open any app using this technology. This is meant to be a largely invisible force full of new ways to use your phone. Apple views ARKit as something to be deeply integrated into your phone, eventually becoming a part of your phone you can’t imagine not having. The best example of this is the iPhone camera, specifically the Portrait Lighting and Animoji features. There are also healthy number of apps which are entirely Augmented Reality, and a lot of them end up being a lot of fun games or social media additions.

Check out our favorite ARKit apps!

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