Apple has announced a tool it calls ARKit, which will provide advanced augmented reality capabilities on iOS. It’s supposed to allow for “fast and stable motion tracking” that makes objects look like they’re actually being placed in real space, instead of simply hovering over it. And yes, this will make Pokémon Go look better.
On stage, Apple showed off a very basic implementation of ARKit: you can map the flat surface of a table and place a teacup on it with realistic perspective, drawing information from an iPhone or iPad’s sensors and cameras. But you can theoretically make much more complex experiences. Sir Peter Jackson’s studio Wingnut AR appeared with a complex augmented reality landscape made in Unreal Engine, which ARKit supports alongside Unity and SceneKit. The demo is supposed to be released as a game “later this year.”
Apple has so far kept a low profile in the augmented reality space, although CEO Tim Cook said last year that the company was investing in it, and that it could be “huge.” Popular third-party iOS apps (like Pokémon Go and Snapchat) incorporated AR capabilities, but Apple’s hardware and software hasn’t been specifically built to enable it, until now.
To some extent, Apple is playing catchup with competitor Google, which already has its Tango augmented reality platform. But Tango is only available on a few Android devices, while Apple’s Craig Federighi boasts that because ARKit will be available across the iOS ecosystem, it’s “the largest AR platform in the world.”