Apple (Finally) Announces Its AR Platform at WWDC

June 8, 2017 - 2 minutes read

Everyone in tech seems to agree that the future is in augmented reality, but a clear AR leader has yet to emerge. Google and Facebook have a head start on the competition, but Apple threw its hat in the ring at this week’s WWDC with ARKit, its new AR platform. Apple can now claim that it has “the largest AR platform in the world.” This is great news for iPhone app developers looking to break into AR and its seemingly endless possibilities.

The ARKit makes the imaging and tracking built into iPhones and iPads available to developers instead of forcing them to create their own from scratch. It utilizes something Apple is calling “world tracking,” a form of machine learning that maps out various points in an environment and tracks those points so that perspective and scale change accordingly as users move their device around. It’s impressive, but it’s not quite the AR breakthrough iPhone app developers have been craving — at least not yet. Unlike Google Lens or the AR ambitions Facebook unveiled at this year’s F8, Apple hasn’t emphasized the camera as a sort of automatic search function, which seems to be one of the most potentially revolutionary aspects of AR. Overall the WWDC announcement was surprisingly light on prophetic speechifying about the ways AR and machine learning are going to change the world.

But maybe Apple knows that kind of talk ultimately doesn’t matter, especially if it has its long game in place. As soon as iOS 11 hits, Boston iPhone app developers will be able to deliver their AR creations to iPhone and iPad users. People won’t need to buy a new device akin to Google Glass or Snap Spectacles — their AR device is already in the palm of their hands. Google’s Tango project is not on every Android device, and developers working on AR for Facebook are exclusively tied to the Camera app. ARKit will be on every iPhone or iPad running iOS 11, and developers will be able to incorporate its features into independent apps. All of this bodes well for Apple in the chess game that is the AR field.

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