September 15, 2017
Apple ARKit for iOS 11, which enables developers to create augmented reality apps, has caught the attention of developers. With the new iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, those same developers now have the best hardware and software for creating new AR apps. IKEA quickly jumped on board, and Apple also showed a multiplayer game using iPhones. Apple ARKit does have drawbacks: it doesn’t detect vertical surfaces, such as walls, and although it works on iPhones as old at the 6s, it really shines on the latest iPhone hardware.
Forbes reports that, at IKEA, the company’s head of digital transformation Michael Valdsgaard said 70 employees “spent nine and half weeks toiling day and night” to create IKEA Place, which “allows customers to place digital versions of IKEA furniture in their homes before spending money on something that doesn’t work outside of a store setting.”
“We never had the vehicle or platform to make AR really good,” said Valdsgaard. “This is what ARKit does.” At the Apple unveiling, Directive Games demonstrated “The Machines,” a multiplayer strategy game that “places a battle field in the real world in which players direct combat by moving their iPhones.”
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will offer Apple’s latest chip, the A11 Bionic, and a six-core central processing unit (made up of two high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores) that is Apple’s first custom graphics processing unit, as well as an image signal processor. “The CPU core will handle the world tracking, the ISP will do real-time lighting estimation, and the GPU will generate digital images,” explains Forbes.
The iPhone X, Apple’s top-tier device, will use the A11 chip as well as a processor for neural network computing, which will enable better AR experiences. “It’s clear Apple is focused on AR as a platform and is building their phones with the hardware needed to enable great experiences,” said Scope AR cofounder/chief executive Scott Montgomerie.
Google’s Tango never got much traction, and the Apple rival is now offering ARCore for Android, but, at its launch, “only Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S8 will support” it. Valdsgaard says that, for now, IKEA is just using Apple ARKit because, “we need to focus on the biggest AR platform in the world.”
ZDNet reports that, “Apple’s iOS 11 will be rolled out broadly with [the] new iPhone and the company doesn’t have the fragmentation that has hampered previous AR efforts.” It also notes that the “combined install base” for Apple phones from the 6s through the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X “creates a ready-made AR audience for new applications on the consumer and business fronts,” especially since the AR apps won’t require headsets or any hardware beyond the iPhone.
“Apple just started the real AR race,” it concludes.