Apple is doing cool things with Augmented Reality. Here's why you should care.

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 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.

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?

Apple's AR demos are impressive and fun, but for now it would be premature to compare what we've seen from ARKit to the 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.

Will my existing iPhone and iPad be able to use ARKit apps?

Absolutely! Anything running iOS 11 will be able to install and enjoy ARKit apps, according to Apple. It's a big part of what makes AR such a big deal for developers, knowing there will be so many people around to immediately enjoy these apps and games when the next version of iOS comes out.

That having been said, ARKit apps and games will not be exactly the same on what you have now and the next iPhone and iPad. Apple unveiled the new 10.5-inch and 12.5-inch iPads Pro during WWDC, and these new tablets have a feature which which will make a huge difference in enjoying more complex AR apps and games. The display refresh rate was bumped from 60hz to 120hz, which means what you see through the camera will be noticeably more true to life on this new iPad. The display has also been adjusted so it reflects less incoming light and has a much brighter backlight, which will also help everything AR look much nicer on this iPad.

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You can expect all of these improvements to make their way to the next iPhone as well, because having that killer display experience is everything when you're using that display for AR. Apple is going to make sure AR is best on iPhone, and this new display is going to be a big part of that experience.

How do I get started with ARKit?

Developers interested in building things for iOS 11 can head to the Apple Developer site today, where you'll find forums for building AR apps and beta downloads for everything you need to get started.

The rest of us have two choices in front of us. We can either rush out and buy a new iPad Pro right now and install the iOS 11 beta to try out some of the early demos for AR, or wait for iOS 11 to come out later this Fall when there will be lots of amazing new apps waiting in the App Store.

Which one are you going to do?