iOS became one of the largest AR-capable platforms in the world overnight thanks to ARKit


iOS 11 arrived yesterday, and apart from the multitude of major and incremental touch-ups to the interface, it also introduced a potentially game-breaking new feature for all compatible devices that easily makes Apple's iPhones the current leading AR-capable devices on a global basis. This happened overnight, and both users and developers are still beginning to realize the potential of openly-available and easily-approachable augmented reality that's available for the masses right now.

Unveiled back at WWDC '17 a few months ago, ARKit is a sophisticated framework that allows users to indulge into augmented reality experiences as simple as pie, without the need of getting any auxiliary gadgets or accessories or additional software. The only thing needed to enjoy ARKit-based iOS apps is to have an iPhone/iPad with an Apple A9 or newer chipset running iOS 11 - that would mean that iPhone SE, 6s, 6s Plus, iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, iPhone 8 and Plus, and the new iPhone X, as well as the iPad Pro 12.9" & 9.7",  iPad 9.7", and iPad Pro 10.5-inch are all good to go.

That's huge due to the scope of devices that overnight became full-fledged AR-capable machines - although it's difficult to measure the correct and ever-fluctuating amount of iPhone 5s and newer units being used around the globe right now, we are definitely looking at a figure that's easily several hundreds of millions. That's an enormous pool of millions of potential users that are ready to experience augmented reality on their devices without having to bother getting a new device for the sole purpose of experiencing one of the latest new trends on the block.

Sure, a single-camera no-depth-sensors AR might not be as sophisticated or as accurate as a dedicated AR system like Google's Tango, but it's way more available and consumer-friendly. App developers know and already take advantage of that.

What is ARKit exactly and how does it work?


Despite that it will be most often using the data captured by a single camera, ARKit is quite capable. It utilizes Visual Inertial Odometry in order to accurately track and map the environment thanks to CoreMotion data that captures info from all on-board accelerometers, gyroscopes, pedometers, magnetometers, and even barometers. Thanks to these, your iPhone or iPad is capable of having a sense where it's positioned in a specific room and how movements affect its location quite accurately. In the meantime, the main camera of the device identifies the horizontal planes in the room, but not only the ceiling and the floor - others, like flat tables, desks, and other planes are also identified. This allows the user to place a certain predefined dynamic object onto these and interact with it. The camera is also capable of measuring the lighting and reporting it back to ARKit, which then applies the necessary amount of artificial lighting so that the augmented object looks natural and not out of place.

What are some notable implementations of AR?


One of the first apps that implements ARKit and actually adds a ton of benefit thanks to is... IKEA's dedicated IKEA Place app intended for home decoration that lets you choose among the furniture giant's vast product portfolio and see how a certain bed, sofa, or a shelf fit in the room you're decorating. It allows you to view and inspect the items you've placed from multiple angles, which sounds logical, intuitive, and quite nice overall. Now the only thing left to do is make an AR-capable furniture assembly app and we're set!


Another neat implementation would likely prove to be quite useful to medical students and other curious individuals as it allows them to explore different parts of the human body in augmented reality and better understand its intricacies. As morbid as it sounds, Human Anatomy Atlas 2018 allows users to place human bodies or organs on any flat surface and an iPhone or an iPad can be used as a sort of a "viewing window" and any room can be literally transformed into a well-fitted anatomy lab. With Apple’s devices and the Visible Body app, any room can be turned into a completely outfitted anatomy lab with thousands of virtual specimens.


Of course, regular users would most likely find other apps like real-world rulers much more useful in their everyday endeavors.

What's Google's answer to that?


Of course, Apple's main rival in terms of software is not an idle observant to Apple's AR shenanigans. A few weeks ago, the ARCore SDK got announced, promising a similar user-friendly and openly-approachable AR framework for the Android folks out there. Just like ARKit, ARCore doesn't require any fancy hardware or sophisticated accessories - it works just as fine on singe-camera phones as it would work on dual-camera ones. One of the highlights of ARCore is the simple fact that it uses sophisticated algorithms to emulate environmental lighting on the augmented object as well as make the latter cast a realistic shadow on the ground, which is definitely amping up the 'believability' factor to 11. ARCore is still in beta, but it shouldn't take Google long to bring it to the vast majority of compatible Android devices on the market.

What about Microsoft?


Microsoft has been dabbing into AR for a few years now, but we are yet to see a solution that will allow users to make use of the dedicated software without the HoloLens glasses. Let's be frank - no matter how cool HoloLens is, simply using your phone to experience AR is way easier than having to put these glasses on. 

Finally, who's the real winner here?


Simple. We, the users. 

While it doesn't really matter who did it first, it wouldn't take long before almost any smartphone-flaunting individual holds in their pockets an AR-capable device, be it an iPhone or an Android counterpart. That's a whole new market for apps and games based on AR that are already slated to become the next big thing in mobile software. This amount of benefits this relatively novel and intriguing technology are countless and it's certain that a great deal of exciting new apps and services will rely heavily on augmented reality in the near future. 

With 2017 being the year of phones with small bezels, one of the main candidates for being the tech-shaping trends for 2018 is easily augmented reality, with Apple and Google up front to lead the way.

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12 Comments

1. f_u_006

Posts: 121; Member since: Mar 19, 2014

Innovation, eh.

2. Michigan

Posts: 246; Member since: Nov 19, 2016

Thanks to iphonexarena, garbage article.

3. PhoneCritic

Posts: 1354; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

AR is going to be useful for sure in certain situation like when you don't have a tape measure and need to measure something quickly or like envisioning how furniture would look in a room as the IKEA app shows. However, pass these practical applications I see it not really being a ground shaking feature. Like the Pokemon and ingress games the majority of people use it a couple of times and get tired of it. That just mu opinion maybe some one else here see something really earth shattering that I am not? I would like to hear what others think the potentials might be because to me again my subjective opinion "its gimmicky" on both platforms.

6. Well-Manicured-Man

Posts: 690; Member since: Jun 16, 2015

There are many other great applications in the field of entertainment and professional usage. Imagine architects or designers using AR to visualize and simulate buildings. I see applications in engineering and advertising. If Apple does AR right, AR alone will enable Apple to dominate the premium market. The potential behind AR is basically unlimited.

8. PhoneCritic

Posts: 1354; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

"Imagine architects or designers using AR to visualize and simulate buildings. I see applications in engineering and advertising. " I guess those are some potentials. I don't disagree AR can be something big but it just seem right now that it is a feature ( answer) looking for a need(question) that know one has. But I guess time will tell at least developers have time to work on some practical needs.

10. Xilam unregistered

I see entertainment industry taking first jab at it, and in one years time much more sophisticated tools will be available. Look at Apple Watch already being certified/used as medical devices now.

4. cmdacos

Posts: 4216; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

The few that I tried worked ok, others were horrible. Can only get better.

5. Rampage_Taco

Posts: 1061; Member since: Jan 17, 2017

That Ikea app reminds me of the old Home Depot paint app that implemented colors over your walls. So it's not all that amazing. HoloLens needs to get into high gear. Then Microsoft can shut up both Apple and Sony

7. Mikele

Posts: 165; Member since: Nov 19, 2013

All is geometry on 3D formation ask Autodesk - Autocad apps it's been ages!!

11. MarvzIsFallen

Posts: 646; Member since: Aug 11, 2017

More android butthurt coming ye! AR has been in android for billion years ago but how many of them were capable and they need a headset that cost so s$$t. Now that iphone has stepped into the game, its been in the wild! Android idiots has these features many years ago, why don’t you be happy for us iphone users who never tried ever since we are using iphone 4ever. And we don’t care about android s**t!

12. Xilam unregistered

What are you talking about? Both iOS and android had these basic AR and VR apps and videos you can watch for ages. It’s only now with ARKit and enabled hardware that it has substance, proper shadows and ambient lighting that matches the environment. Scaling is automatic, jitter is reduced to nearly non, and with ARKit you don’t need a placeholder like you did before on ios and android. I’ve been playing with this all day today on my iPad 9.7. And I already see the ability to use this for work - I left an x on one side of the wall, and walked all the way around the house to the outside and the X is still there letting me know within 2 inch area where I marked that x inside the house on same wall. I’ve been leaving secret trails for my kids and have them find secret objects around the house by placing dotted line trials in mid air that they can follow using a phone. ARKit (unlike old AR apps) can remember where you left an object or a line, even if you went outside, came back - still there. This is awesome!

13. osterrich21

Posts: 186; Member since: Apr 14, 2017

iOS became one of the largest AR-capable platforms in the world overnight thanks to IPhonearena

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