Apple’s betting big on AR. The company unveiled its ARKit at this year’s WWDC expo, giving developers the tools they need to create applications for the new, headline feature that is expected inside this year’s iPhone 8.
Augmented Reality is often talked about in the same breath as VR, but the two technologies are rather different. Virtual Reality is a fully immersive experience, one that lends itself to gaming and media, but not much else. AR, on the other hand, is kind of the opposite.
AR takes reality – what you see with your eyes – and then overlays information. The way it will work on a phone is simple: you point your phone at something and, via the camera, images and information will be overlaid on top of things.
“With iOS 11, we’re delivering the biggest AR platform in the world, and it’s available today for developers to begin building AR experiences using ARKit for hundreds of millions of iPhone and iPad users,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering. “iOS 11 gives iPad users the powerful app functionality they need to take advantage of everything iPad is capable of and brings hundreds of new features and incredible updates to the iOS apps iPhone and iPad users enjoy every day.”
Apple will lead the charge with AR in 2017/18, though Google’s Project Tango is definitely worthy of note, as it is essentially Apple’s only real competition. Plus, it has been around for a lot longer.
However, Google’s technology does have one major issue – it requires a lot of specific hardware to function properly, whereas Apple’s AR tech will work on ALL of the following devices from launch:
- iPhone SE
- iPhone 6s
- iPhone 6s Plus
- iPhone 7
- iPhone 7 Plus
- iPad Pro (all models)
- 9.7-inch iPad
This fact alone gives Apple a massive advantage over Google in the AR space. So much so that I can see Google going back to the drawing board on this one in order to make its tech more competitive.
As it stands right now, there are only two handsets that support Google’s Project Tango: the ZenFone AR and the Phab 2 Pro – and neither of those are what you’d call big sellers.
Apple’s AR will run on all modern iPads and iPhones, giving users rich, engaging AR experiences right out of the box. And when you’re launching something new, you need as many people as possible using it – this is how things catch on.
Apple will have millions of AR users from the moment it launches the new technology and that, at least for the foreseeable future, will give the company an enormous lead over everybody else in the technology space.