Augmented Reality isn't a new technology, but as our phones and tablets become more powerful, the limits to what is possible have started to melt away. With Apple jumping into AR, there are a few additional reasons to get excited. Our FAQ will walk you through everything you need to know right now, and how to prepare for your AR future!

What's new with ARKit?

January 24, 2018: ARKit adds wall detection!

Apple is updating ARKit to version 1.5 to include the following:

  • 2D image recognition
  • Vertical surface detection
  • 1080p AR graphics

These features will enable developers to detect walls and use them in AR environments, make the AR graphics look nicer when you lean in close, and make it possible for artwork on a wall or table to trigger an AR activity. Each of these things offer a lot of flexibility to developers, but combined it could make a lot of existing ARKit apps feel way more real.

ARKit 1.5 will appear in iOS 11.3, which is available in consumer beta starting today.

What is Augmented Reality?

Where VR replaces everything you see by completely immersing you in another world, AR takes the world around you and adds to it. For Apple, this means looking through the camera on your phone and seeing new things in addition to the real world.

The applications for this kind of technology are nearly endless. You could point your camera at a painting and have details about the artist appear nearby, or see how furniture would look in your office before buying and moving it. And, of course, AR opens the door to a lot of interesting and fun games.

What does Apple want to do with AR?

Basically, everything. Apple is betting on developers wanting to build AR experiences for the millions of iOS users out there and offered plenty of demos during its WWDC keynote and demo areas to prove it. Through ARKit, Apple's new toolkit for AR apps, we've seen demos where the table in front of us has been completely overrun by something virtual and interactive.

For Apple, this is an entirely new category of apps that would all run on every iPhone. Long-term, it's possible Apple has plans to build special displays you wear like prescription glasses that make the Augmented world a part of your everyday experience.

Check out our full review of ARKit for iOS

Where did ARKit come from?

Apple doesn't usually talk about the origins of its technology and frameworks, but an educated guess would be Mataio, and AR company Apple aquired a couple of years ago.

Mataio's technology looked solid and it had an API that, according to reports, was already very good.

How does this compare to the other stuff out there right now?

ARKit is apps are undeniably impressive and fun, but clearly limited when compared to Microsoft's Hololens or Google's Tango AR kits. Hololens and Tango are designed to be aware of multiple physical spaces and all of the shapes contained within, like a glass on a table or the distance between where you are standing and the wall on the other side of the room. ARKit as it exists right now is able to find flat surfaces and draw on those flat surfaces, but is otherwise limited.

The best thing to compare ARKit to right now is the Facebook Camera app. ARKit is a more capable version of the AR capabilities contained within Facebook's app right now, with the potential to continue improving as we move closer to the launch of iOS 11. Apple is able to use the whole phone, which means systems like Unity and Unreal Engine will allow for much more dynamic and interactive experiences once developers have had time to explore.

How do I get started with ARKit?

The only think you need to do to get started with ARKit is open any app using this technology. This is meant to be a largely invisible force full of new ways to use your phone. Apple views ARKit as something to be deeply integrated into your phone, eventually becoming a part of your phone you can't imagine not having. The best example of this is the iPhone camera, specifically the Portrait Lighting and Animoji features. There are also healthy number of apps which are entirely Augmented Reality, and a lot of them end up being a lot of fun games or social media additions.

Check out our favorite ARKit apps!

WWDC 2017


WWDC 2017