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Apple Boosts iOS Augmented Reality Development with ARKit 2

Apple updated its augmented reality (AR) programming functionality with ARKit 2, unveiled during the ongoing 2018 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference.

Competing with Google's ARCore for AR programming on the Android platform and boosted by artificial intelligence (AI), ARKit 2 is part of the iOS 12 developer preview also announced at WWDC.

Running the AR SDK on the new iOS 12 opens up new possibilities for Apple-centric mobile development for iPhones and iPads.

"ARKit 2 enables developers to create the most innovative AR apps for the world’s largest AR platform, with new tools to integrate shared experiences, persistent AR experiences tied to a specific location, object detection and image tracking, making AR apps even more dynamic," the company said in an announcement post.

Here's a look at the primary new features:

  • Shared experiences -- This, among other things, lets multiple users play games together or collaborate on projects, such as home renovations. "Developers can also add a spectator mode, giving friends and family the best views of AR gameplay from a different iOS device," Apple said.
  • Persistent AR -- Apple said this provides another way in which consumers can interact with AR apps. Basically, it allows developers to create apps in which users can leave virtual objects in the real world that users can return to. "They can start a puzzle on a table and come back to it later in the same state or create an art project over the course of a few weeks without starting over each time," the company said.
  • Object detection and image tracking -- This is improved in ARKit 2, allowing the detection of 3D objects such as toys or sculptures while providing the ability to automatically apply real-world reflections onto AR objects. "This makes the AR experience an even more realistic mix of the virtual and real world," Apple said.
  • Measure -- Akin to those home renovation projects mentioned above, this is a new iOS 12 app that leverages AR to gauge the size of real-world objects, similar to a tape measure that gives the app its name. "The new app automatically provides the dimensions of objects like picture frames, posters and signs, and can also show diagonal measurements, compute area and allow users to take a photo and share it with accurate dimensions right from their iPhone or iPad," Apple said.

The company also introduced a new file format called usdz, which eases the use of AR in other iOS apps such as Messages, Safari, Mail, Files and News, while providing graphics/animation and other features. It was developed with partner Pixar, and Apple said: "Using usdz, Quick Look for AR also allows users to place 3D objects into the real world to see how something would work in a space."

While ARKit 2 and the usdz can be used immediately by members of the company's for-pay Apple Developer Program, ARKit 2 and usdz support will be available to others this fall in a free software update for iPhone 6s and later, all iPad Pro models, iPad 5th generation and iPad 6th generation.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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