Apple releases ARKit 1.5 to developers

Apple on Wednesday will release ARKit 1.5 to developers, giving them the latest tools to make augmented reality apps for iPhone and iPad users.

With the release of ARKit just six months ago, iOS became the largest augmented reality platform in the world, rolling out to hundreds of millions of iPhone and iPad users. The latest version will make the next-generation apps even more powerful and useful for the average user.

The new version has a better understanding of the scene and space around you, allowing it to place virtual objects on vertical surfaces like walls and doors. For instance, in one demo Apple showed me, a developer can make a game that requires the player to bounce a ball on the floor and hit a virtual target hung on the wall. ARKit 1.5 makes the target on the wall possible. If you miss the target, ARKit will recognize that and bounce the ball off the wall.

ARKit can now also map irregularly shaped surfaces like circular tables, allowing the entire experience of an AR scene to be more realistic. The resolution of the camera view in the latest version offers 50 percent greater resolution and supports auto-focus for an even sharper perspective.

In speaking with Apple about the release, one of the new features that impressed me the most is ARKit’s ability to find and recognize 2D images such as signs, posters, and artwork.

Think about this for a minute. You walk into a museum and see an image of the Apollo moon landing. When you hold up your iPhone, it recognizes the image and allows you to tap on it, which instantly takes you to the surface of the moon with the Apollo vehicle landing beside you.

While these are just example apps, it was an incredible demo to see. It really makes you think about the possibilities of what developers can do with this technology.

One of the main questions I have about augmented reality is when will it become important to the average, mainstream user. The game demos I’ve seen at Apple keynotes are great, but I’m not a gamer, so they don’t matter much to me.

One thing to remember is how new this technology is and how far it has to go. There are currently about 2,000 AR apps, but that number is only going to grow, as will the categories of apps developers will make. The same thing happened when Apple opened the original iOS App Store—as time went on the apps became more sophisticated and useful for everyone. The same thing should happen with AR apps.

ARKit 1.5 is a big step to making augmented reality a cool technology that average users will use even more than they do now.