ARKit 2 ex­tends Ap­ple’s lead in mo­bile AR

Ja­son Cross looks at what’s new

iPad&iPhone user - - CONTENTS -

Ap­ple is se­ri­ous about aug­mented re­al­ity. Tim Cook has been clear about how im­por­tant it is, say­ing it will “change the way we use tech­nol­ogy for­ever”. With ARKit in iOS 11, Ap­ple brought AR ca­pa­bil­i­ties to hun­dreds of mil­lions of phones. With iOS 12, it brings devel­op­ers ARKit 2 with en­hanced ca­pa­bil­i­ties like 3D ob­ject de­tec­tion, per­sis­tent ex­pe­ri­ences, and shared AR spa­ces.

It’s a ro­bust im­prove­ment on what is ar­guably the best set of AR tools for mo­bile de­vices any­where.

What’s new in ARKit 2

When ARKit de­buted with iOS 11 last Septem­ber it im­me­di­ately made waves, but the lim­i­ta­tions were ob­vi­ous. With iOS 11.3, the ARKit de­vel­oper tools got more pow­er­ful, adding the abil­ity to track ver­ti­cal sur­faces and non‑flat sur­faces. Now, just one year later, Ap­ple is up­dat­ing to ARKit 2. Here’s what Ap­ple says is new.

Im­proved face track­ing: Ap­ple didn’t dive into this, but the name is self-ex­plana­tory.

Re­al­is­tic ren­der­ing: The ren­der­ing of aug­mented re­al­ity ob­jects is al­ready quite good. Ap­ple didn’t say ex­actly how ren­der­ing has im­proved, but we ex­pect more ac­cu­rate light­ing is key.

3D ob­ject de­tec­tion: ARKit de­tects flat rec­tan­gle ob­jects like posters or book cov­ers, but ARKit 2 al­lows devel­op­ers to de­tect fully 3D ob­jects. That’s go­ing to be huge.

Per­sis­tent ex­pe­ri­ences: You can save AR spa­ces and ob­jects that are linked to phys­i­cal ob­jects (such as toys) or phys­i­cal spa­ces (like class­rooms), so you can pick up where you left off later.

Shared ex­pe­ri­ences: Mul­ti­ple users can use their iOS de­vices to view the same vir­tual en­vi­ron­ment, each from their own view. Ap­ple is re­leas­ing a block‑break­ing mul­ti­player game as a code demo, and Lego showed off a vir­tual plays pace where up

to four play­ers can in­ter­act with a com­bined vir­tual and real play space all at once.

Mea­sure app

When ARKit launched, it was quickly fol­lowed by a flood of mea­sure­ment apps. Apps to take vir­tual mea­sure­ments of lengths, vol­umes, room sizes, you name it. Ap­ple is get­ting in on the game with its own mea­sure­ment app, aptly named Mea­sure.

Mea­sure looks like a sim­ple, re­li­able ver­sion of the many AR mea­sure­ment apps out there. You can make lin­ear mea­sure­ments, even of 3D ob­jects to quickly

com­pute vol­ume. It even rec­og­nizes rec­tan­gu­lar ob­jects au­to­mat­i­cally, so you just point at a poster, photo, or rec­tan­gu­lar ta­ble, tap, and get a full set of mea­sure­ments. This is one of Ap­ple’s sim­pler apps, such as the Cal­cu­la­tor, Com­pass, or the built-in Flash­light. And like those apps, it’s an ap­pro­pri­ate thing to have built into your phone, but not the sort of ground­break­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that will make peo­ple switch to iPhone.

USDZ for­mat

Ap­ple worked to­gether with Pixar to de­velop a new file for­mat for aug­mented re­al­ity ob­jects called USDZ. It’s go­ing to be sup­ported by third‑party apps, in­clud­ing ones by Au­todesk, Adobe, Sketch­fab, and more. Adobe CTO Ab­hay Paras­nis took to the stage to say that Cre­ative Cloud will sup­port the for­mat, and that their tools will even al­low what-you-see-is-whatyou-get edit­ing of VR ob­jects with iOS de­vices. Does this mean that USDZ will be­come a widely sup­ported for­mat, even beyond Ap­ple de­vices? Ap­ple wasn’t clear, but it looks like the odds are good that USDZ could be­comes the next HEIC.

Sup­ported de­vices

Ac­cord­ing to Ap­ple, “ARKit 2 and USDZ sup­port will be avail­able this fall as part of a free soft­ware up­date for iPhone 6s and later, all iPad Pro mod­els, iPad fifth gen­er­a­tion and iPad sixth gen­er­a­tion.” That’s pretty much ev­ery de­vice that sup­ported the orig­i­nal ARKit re­lease.

LEGO showed an im­pres­sive demo that used nearly all of ARKit 2’s new ca­pa­bil­i­ties: 3D ob­ject de­tec­tion, mul­ti­player, and per­sis­tence

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