Apple has finally broken the silence about its virtual and augmented reality plans by announcing new tools that will enable programmers to introduce augmented reality apps to iPads and iPhones.
Referred to as ARKit, these tools utilise data from the cameras and motion sensors in iOS products to enable apps to superimpose virtual features onto real life objects viewed through the camera, e.g. a three-dimensional cup of steaming hot chocolate on a table.
This technology will enable programmers to code AR apps that work with existing iPhones. This is a huge benefit over Google’s Tango AR platform, which forces phone producers to build hardware components, such as Tango-compatible sensors, into their products.
ARKit will make iOS devices the biggest AR platform on earth according to Craig Federighi, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software.
Speaking at WWDC yesterday, he said: “When you bring the software together with these devices, we actually have hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads that are going to be capable of AR.”
ARKit features that will delight developers include the capability to approximate lighting in the environment so that virtual objects can be authentically covered in shadows for maximum realism. Contrary to Pokemon Go, for example, a game character will remain fixed even if the camera is focused on another spot.
The first AR apps should make their appearance as soon as iOS 11 is launched in autumn 2017.
Apple also announced that Macs will soon boast virtual reality capabilities. This will happen next year when new Macs will be supported by SteamVR and will have the ability to connect to external graphics cards using Thunderbolt enclosures.
The WWDC also saw the announcement of iOS 11 as well as a new macOS version called High Sierra. Finally, the company hinted at the possibility of a $5,000 iMac Pro, while it also expanded its Mac range, released a new iPad Pro and revealed HomePod, its answer to Amazon Echo.