The soon-to-be-released iOS 11 will unlock a huge amount of possibilities for Augmented Reality (AR). But what is Augmented Reality? Not to be confused with Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality takes the existing environment and overlays digital information over it. For example, Pokémon Go utilises this. However, the rest of the market for Augmented Reality applications hasn’t been such a success, up until now. VR on the other hand has been more popular, with both developers and users. VR immerses the user fully in a specifically designed, entirely virtual environment. For example, Oculus Rift has shown what VR can do and how popular it can be. While VR has been popular, Apple are looking to involve Augmented Reality into their future iOS updates even more, having seen its huge potential.
The launch of iOS 11 and the new iPhone 8
Recently Apple announced the release of iOS 11 for September 13, one day after the release of the iPhone 8, with a big focus on Augmented Reality app development and support. One of the standout new features of iOS 11 is ARKit. ARKit simplifies the development of AR apps by optimising the interface of the operating system for the developer. Therefore, developing AR apps becomes a lot quicker and easier. Furthermore, ARKit is open to anyone. Over the past few years, Apple have acquired a few AR-specialised companies (i.e. Prime Sense, Flyby Media, Metaio). Metaio for instance had a working platform that served as a basis for Apple’s recent push for AR. With this new technology, the potential of AR increases significantly. By comparison, Google have introduced ARCore. However, its implementation across multiple devices works as a disadvantage against it.
There are rumours that Apple will also introduce AR glasses, to further take advantage of the potential of AR. However, Apple first wants to be sure that consumers will take interest in it with the introduction of the iPhone 8. Google tried this before with Google Glass, which didn’t live up to high expectations. That said, the ARKit may solve many of the problems that restricted previous Augmented Reality app potential.
ARKit will be available for the iPhone 6S onwards and the iPad 2017 onwards.
Capabilities, uses and examples of Augmented Reality
Many companies and developers have utilised ARKit already. The results have been hugely impressive, even in the first stages of development. The examples include:
- IKEA: Customers will be able to place furniture virtually in their home before purchasing.
- Minecraft: Players will be able to blend physical surroundings with the virtual world of Minecraft.
- AR Measure: Users can measure their physical surroundings using a highly accurate virtual tape measure.
- Navigation using AR: Users can see directions to their destination right in front of them.
Other examples include AR tattoos, demonstrative instructions for any kind of household appliances, and restaurant menus. Even an augmented version of your newly built house and real-time google translation of texts on your phone. Also an already familiar and popular example of this is Snapchat, with Snapchat Filters.
The benefits to the customer
These examples are products of the first steps of the ARKit in use. As ARKit becomes more popular, users will see more and more Augmented Reality apps with more innovative features. These will greatly improve the user experience. As Apple CEO Tim Cook stated, Augmented Reality could be as revolutionary as the smartphone itself. The possibilities are limitless. It can be used to compare prices of brands in the supermarket and can also recognise places and even people. However, with new technology comes new problems with rules and regulations.
For example, while new Augmented Reality technology could recognise people’s faces, this would likely be a violation of regulation. Also, while Pokémon Go was hugely popular, questions around people’s behaviour while playing the game were raised. That said, Augmented Reality pushes boundaries. If utilised by companies correctly, consumers could see great benefits. The IKEA app shows the power of Augmented Reality and the great value it provides the customer.
How companies can benefit from Augmented Reality combined with iOS
Augmented Reality will add value to what a company offers. Most companies have apps on many platforms already. However, now the use of Augmented Reality within these apps, or even the development of new Augmented Reality apps, will become much easier. With ARKit, Augmented Reality apps will potentially be cheaper to develop. More developers will have access to a more efficient and easy-to-use Augmented Reality app developing interface.
For example, for personalised products, customers will be able to view an example before they buy. They can then fine-tune what they want, ensuring a quality product. Therefore, companies will be able to add value to their offering by improving the customer experience. As more Augmented Reality apps are produced, thanks to ARKit, the overall use of Augmented Reality apps will increase. It is increasingly important for companies to consider Augmented Reality, regardless of their market.
The Future for Augmented Reality
The importance of this is backed up by the statistics. The revenue generated by Augmented Reality is predicted to increase year on year. When iOS 11 is released, it may become the largest Augmented Reality app platform in the world. For consumers, it will be as simple as installing an update for their iPhone or iPad. While it could be as significant as the introduction of the smartphone itself, before the smartphone there was still some uncertainty about whether it would succeed. The same could be said for Augmented Reality, however if it does succeed, it is likely to be one of the most important new technologies of the 21st century.