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31 July 2017

Apple’s New ARKit

Blog Post – Joe Lawrence
APPLE’S NEW ARKIT – WHAT IS IT AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE WORLD OF VR?

In what seems like a predominantly android dominated virtual reality environment, Apple has finally responded with its own spin on this corner of the market with the announcement of its ARKit. This reinforces early theories of Apple creating ‘smart-glasses’ and excites Apple fans and the like with new promising prospects of these glasses utilising augmented reality.

What is Augmented Reality and where has it been used before?
AR differs from VR in the sense that instead of transporting the wearer to a totally pre-designed, pre-rendered virtual environment and omitting the user’s surroundings from the new environment the user having to wear a headset that covers their eyes, ARKit will attempt to give the user new experiences by using the real world as a starting point, utilising cutting edge motion tracking technology to render computer generated objects for a variety of purposes in real time and adapting to the user’s movements.

To get a better sense of what AR is, watch this video of AR implementation using the music video for ’Take On Me’ as inspiration.

Companies such as Snapchat and PokemonGO have already used augmented reality and both instances have been met with overwhelming positive response. PokemonGO’s implementation of augmented reality allowing you to battle Pokemon in your bedroom, garden, street you name it gave it the edge over competition that sky-rocketed downloads and made it an enormous social interest. In recent weeks, Snapchat’s hugely popular ‘dancing hotdog’ filter which allows a dancing hotdog to appear to stand on your desk has flooded social media.

When can we expect to see Apple’s ARKit be released to the public?
ARKit (Augmented Reality Kit) will arrive with major software updates and new features that come along with the iOS 11 update that will be released this autumn. Rumours have circulated that the iPhone 8 (release date still unknown) will be optimised for AR use, however this will be undermined if the theories of new Apple glasses bespoke for augmented reality are true as this will revolutionise the current scarcely explored AR universe.

This feature was announced early June this year along with a demo that demonstrated a small part of what AR is capable of using but an iPad Pro and a table in front of a live audience.

What are its possible uses?
With the exception of simulators for professions such as piloting aircraft, VR has mostly been for the entertainment industry: including games and videos. AR has already proven to be much more flexible as adapting the already existing environment naturally is more useful. For example a VR headset at a stretch could help train a doctor or soldier for their environment and probable situations, however as AR adapts to reality, it would most likely be used in the actual situation. For example as a HUD for a soldier or doctor assisting them in their purpose.

More commonly, it could be used for navigation. From it being implemented completely on a car windscreen to allow signs/directions/alerts to be rendered real time allowing the driver to not take their eyes off the road, to it being on your phone screen to allow an easier navigation experience.
Although AR will incorporate entertainment, a safe assumption could be that VR will continue to dominate the gaming sector whereas AR could completely change the industry and service sector and everyday tasks for the better.

Either way, AR is definitely deserving of the excitement it is getting at the moment and a future world optimised for augmented reality is looking more and more likely with every passing development.

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