At its yearly developer conference WWDC held last week in Silicon Valley Apple announce iOS 11 which includes a couple of important updates with regards to AR (and VR).

Native QR Code Reader in Camera App

I list this first because it’s important. For years iOS users had to install a third party app to be able to scan QR Codes. With iOS 11 QR codes will be scanned automatically by the pre-installed camera app. AR codes are hugely important when it comes to linking AR content to real-world surfaces and print materials.

ARKit Framework

The demo apple showed powered by Unreal Engine was impressive for the following reasons:

  • The app instantly tracked a table-top surface from a couple of meters away. The area was pretty large and was tracked solidly throughout the several minutes of show case.
  • The demo was powered by Unreal Engine, which allowed for impressive levels of detail and visual fidelity.

Apart from the demo there’s a couple of other nice features listed in the developer description of the framework:

  • ambient light estimation: AR content will be lit based on ambient lighting, which is important for realistic AR content (not too bright compared to the environment).
  • chipset supported AR algorithm which only takes a couple of milliseconds during each frame. Performance is hugely important. The better your AR algorithm performs the more CPU is available for rendering graphics, which allows for higher visual fidelity.

What it means

Of course you can argue, and I have read articles to that extent a lot in the past couple of days, that the tech Apple is showcasing is not new, that Google Tango has been doing more and better of the same for years, and that the tech is limited to the Apple ecosystem.

At Vuframe we are excited about it for a number of reasons:

Approval. Apple doesn’t do fads. Apple just gave the stamp of approval for AR and VR.
Reach. The last iphone sold around 75 million units on the first weekend. Over the past 3 years 4 tango devices have been released, with the latest one just available for shipping as of a couple of weeks ago. There’s no significant audience on tango yet and due to the fragmentation of Android I doubt there will be (unless next years Samsung Galaxy S9 or a similarily popular device features it).
Innovation. Apple tends to put the focus on features others neglect. Case and Point: Ambient Light Estimation, which has been thoroughly ignored by Vuforia and Wikitude ever since Metaio disappeared after being acquired by Apple. Adding features like this to an OS-level framework (which is included for free in the iOS SDK) will force commercial AR software vendors to step up their game.

What about VR

There’s new hardware coming which better enable VR developers and finally most VR tools and headsets are compatible to macOS.

Obviously, due to the lack of high-powered gaming graphics on Mac it will never become the primary VR gaming platform. However, for 360 media, training and professional VR Mac can be used equally well as a Windows PC. It has never made sense to use to exclude Mac from the VR ecosystem by default.

Long story short, we at Vuframe are very happy about where the XR ecosystem is going and that it’s now backed by Apple as well.