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Apple ARKit vs Google ARCore: Can the new iPhones redefine Augmented Reality?

Can the iPhone 8 help make Augmented Reality truly mainstream?

tech Updated: Sep 12, 2017 11:36 IST
Kul Bhushan
Kul Bhushan
Hindustan Times
iPhone 8,Apple iPhone,iPhone 8 launch
Augmented Reality is here.(Apple)

Apple on September 12 will unveil its new iPhones, including an anniversary special edition dubbed as the iPhone X. The new iPhone is expected to have a huge emphasis on the Augmented Reality (AR). While Apple has already forayed into the segment with its ARKit, Google is also aggressively pushing its ARCore. Can the new iPhones set a new benchmark for the AR for mobile devices?

There have been tons of leaks around the new smartphone and we already have a good idea about what to expect from the new special edition of the iPhone. From ultra-slim bezels, radical design changes to major under-the-hood upgrades, iPhone 8 appears to be a huge leap from the last three generations of iPhones. But there’s one thing more (pun intended) that is going to be a killer feature on the phone everybody’s waiting to get their hands on: Augmented Reality (AR).

If you have been living in a cave for long, you’ll be surprised to see how Augmented Reality is already a hug part of our digital lives. Courtesy Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram, we have already grown accustomed to small dosages of AR. But, make no mistake, Facebook and Instagram Stories are just elementary forms of AR.

The bigger deals have always been Google’s Project Tango and Microsoft’s HoloLens. The problem with these two platforms has been lack of affordable partner hardware to actually get users, especially end users, started with Augmented Reality. Asus’ ZenFone AR, which is based on Project Tango, is an exception. I spent some time recently with the ZenFone AR and was left impressed with the kind AR works it could do. The problem, however, is not just affordable devices. The absence of a comprehensive ecosystem is as much an issue that needs to be addressed than anything else.

This is where iPhone 8 and Apple’s much-hyped ARKit come into the picture. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has been very vocal about the company’s interest in the AR. “The first step in making it a mainstream kind of experience is to put it in the operating system. We’re building it into iOS 11, opening it to ­developers—and unleashing the creativity of millions of people. Even we can’t predict what’s going to come out,” DailyMail quoted Tim Cook as saying.

“The smart phone is becoming even more important to people because it’s going across so much of your life and you can tell by some of the things we did at WWDC that that will only continue,” Cook told CNBC. “And with things like AR… I think it becomes even more essential than it currently is. I know it’s hard to believe, but I think that’s the case.”

At its developer conference in June this year, Apple showcased ARKit, a platform that allows developers to build Augmented Reality apps for iPhones. The platform uses the existing sensors in the iPhone to measure the surrounding and project virtual objects onto the real world. The company said popular AR games such as Pokemon Go will also use ARkit in the future.

Months later, a few developers have been able to showcase some early versions of applications using the kit. An app called MeasureKit uses the platform to determine precise measurement of things. Though it’s certainly not the only one-of-its-kind app, but the MeasureKit appears to be much one of the most advanced AR-based apps thus far. Check out the video below that should impress you. 9to5Mac has an extensive list of the first wave of ARKit apps that will come with iOS 11.

Even leading multi-national furniture company IKEA is embracing the platform. The company recently launched an Ikea Place app that could project virtual furniture in your home.

While ARKit in itself is a huge leap in the field of consumer-focused Augmented Reality, iPhone 8 could be THE go-to platform for the technology. According to reports, the smartphone is expected to come with a dedicated sensor that would determine 3D depth. The sensor will be very well integrated with the rumoured dual-rear camera setup on the back. Industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities claims the new camera system on the iPhone 8 could be used for a variety of purposes, such as 3D gaming or just taking 3D selfies.

For Apple, 2017 is most probably the right time to invest in the AR segment. Research company Global Market Insight has forecast that the global market for AR devices will increase by an impressive 80% to the tune of $165 billion by 2024, Forbes reports. The surge, however, is unlikely to come from VR headsets, which have remained at nascent stage for a very long time. This is mainly because it took a very long time for companies to launch standalone VR devices, which are not dependent on the secondary devices such as smartphones or PCs. Mobile devices, on the other hand, give the quickest access to the futuristic technology.

Rival Google has just revamped its strategy for the AR segment and launched its own ARCore platform. Google will be building on the expertise it gained through the experience of the Project Tango. Google may succeed due to its massive presence in the mobile space. Apple, however, has an edge over the competition because of its closed and better managed iOS ecosystem.

First Published: Sep 08, 2017 18:31 IST